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It’s The Little Things

From Korn Ferry:

It was the last thing I expected to hear from a billionaire who, at the time, was the world’s wealthiest person.

This story begins a few years ago—as a colleague and I were traveling through a very remote airport where we passed a boot shop. In the window, a pair of bright red cowboy boots caught my eye and made me smile.

So, imagine my surprise when my colleague brought a box on the plane—yep, the cowboy boots. The next day, as I got ready to give a speech and then attend meetings, I decided to wear those boots. Not my usual business attire, mind you—but I knew my colleague would notice and be pleased.

Later that day, when we walked into the billionaire’s cluttered, book-filled office, he was reading a thick report. Distracted, he did not seem to pay attention to us as we sat down. Then, at the end of our two-hour meeting, he gave me a sly smile …

“So, where’s your horse?”

We all laughed. But what was truly amazing was that this leader—so seemingly unaware at first—had actually noticed! Nothing was beyond his line of sight—no doubt an attribute that has contributed to his success.

From a person’s intention to another person’s attention—noticing is caring. And it’s all about seeing the unseen.

I can remember watching from my office window in Los Angeles as a building rose from below-ground to a skyscraper. It was a few years ago, but I can recall how very visible the work was at first—the girders went up right away. Every time I looked out the window, it seemed another floor was added.

One day, work appeared to stop, even though the crews were there. The incremental progress being made—wiring, plumbing, heating, ventilation—was happening behind the scenes. Yet, this unseen work was what would make the building safe and livable.

Then suddenly, what seemed like only days later, when I glanced out the window, I did a double take: The building was open for business.

In the same way, we are all works in progress—and not everything that happens may be visible. But just because it’s not immediately noticeable, doesn’t mean it’s not notable.

No matter our roles or responsibilities, we all contribute to an organization’s atmosphere. And success is only through the sum of our strengths, which overcome our individual weaknesses.

This calls to mind what Albert Einstein famously wrote on his chalkboard—a favorite quote he had taken to heart: “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted, counts.” Or, as others have said, “What is unseen has just as much value as what is seen.”

Rather than an anomaly, this can actually be the analogy for what we aspire to do every day. It’s up to all of us to A.C.T.—be authentic, make a connection, give others a taste of who we are … to enable the unseen to be seen. That’s what people notice—as the transactional becomes the relational.

It’s a fact of life and leadership: When people are noticed, they know someone cares. And when they know someone cares, they feel valued. And when they feel valued, they will believe they are indeed part of something bigger than themselves.

This is our human nature. We all want to be loved, we all want to belong. Indeed, we all want—and need—to be seen, especially today.

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