Land on My Planet

Come Land on My Planet

I remember back in the late late moments of last century (yes, that would be the 1990's), I worked at a Financial Services firm with a particularly unique and inspiring executive.

I had left my job at a large consulting firm to try and stay off airplanes for a while, and I was excited about the new management challenge I was taking on. On day one, arriving at my new office, I had just set my briefcase down on my desk and suddenly, Bill, the Senior Vice President who was three levels above me organizationally, was at my door. He was interested in the work that my fledgling Data Warehouse group was undertaking and wanted to meet me personally. It was my first experience with Bill's Land on My Planet events.

You see, Bill really did believe in getting out of his own office and landing on people's planets a lot.  I think it was his way of connecting with people, but also it clearly was the way that he maintained perspective on people's work situations. He expected that other people take this same sort of approach or at least understand this perspective, and he used to continually say "why don't you come land on my planet." And we would all smile and laugh a bit, but, honestly, it made sense and made a difference: everyone who worked with Bill spoke highly of his leadership skills and seemed to believe they had an intimate knowledge of his objectives and their role in meeting those objectives.

The problem is Bill is unable to provide any additional insight on why he did what he did, and why it mattered. In the year 2000, Bill died of cancer at (I believe) the age of 56. How unbelievably sad it was for all of us who worked with him, and yet I think we all understood the many gifts he gave us are still with us.

Let's Get Personal. I  Want to Get Personal.

So what does it mean to bring a kind of personal touch -- like Bill did -- into our work relationships? This is business, right? Yes, that is the point: we need to have authentic personal relationships with those with whom we work. Otherwise, our collective work seems to suffer. We are humans, remember, not robots.  This becomes even more critical when a lot of the technology that we use while professing the value of relationships and "friends," tends to pull us away from authentic relationships.

As Daniel Goleman writes in Put Back the Chemistry in Your Connections, an authentic personal interaction "...combines physical presence with mutual attention. The result is rapport." It seems "there are three ingredients of rapport:

  1. full attention by both people
  2. a nonverbal, automatic synchrony of movements
  3. a feeling of mild pleasure. In rapport, whatever we’re doing goes smoothly, feels good, and has a special power."

Mr. Goleman further elaborates that "the social circuitry of the brain was designed for face-to-face interactions, in person. Those circuits track a multitude of signals about the other person’s emotions, intentions, and the like – which gives us an immediate, unconscious but powerful, sense of what’s happening with them, and what best to say and do next. There is a steady loss of these signals as we move to phone calls (good but not best) to email, where there is zero emotional signal – just words. "

So, won't you please please please Come Land on My Planet? You know what I mean.