I was lucky enough to attend my first Stradbroke Calcutta at Tattersall’s club last week and found myself at a table filled with doctors, a bookie, the VP of an IT startup and a number of sales people.
One of the more interesting people at the table was a C-level manager, and I spent much of the night talking with him about leadership, communication and what he learnt from his time at the Harvard Business School.
This CxO is a very smart man, and to be honest I needed to be on my A-game to keep up with him, but one of the things he said about communication really grabbed my attention.
He asked me the question – what is the most powerful speaking act? I came up with “please” and “thank you” but that was the best I could do.
He said to me, “the most powerful speaking act is acknowledgement”. And I must say, it got me thinking.
Napoleon said, “A soldier will give you his life for a bit of colored ribbon, ” and William James said “The deepest principal in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.”
I found this excerpt below from an article titled “Acknowledgement!” on tompeters.com that sums up part of what I am trying to say.
In Abrashoff’s book “It’s Your Ship”, he relates a tale associated with his practice of sending letters to the parents of his USS Benfold crew members, many of whom came from underprivileged backgrounds.
Putting himself in those parents’ shoes, he imagined how happy they would be to hear from the Commanding Officer that their sons and daughters were doing well. And he figured that those parents would, in turn, probably call their children to tell them how proud they were of them.
In their book: BARACK, INC: What Business Can Learn from the Obama Campaign, authors Rick Faulk and Barry Libert report: “Abrashoff debated whether to send a letter to the parents of one young man who wasn’t really star material. Weighing the sailor’s progress, he decided to go ahead.
A couple of weeks later, the sailor appeared at his door, tears streaming down his face. It seems that the kid’s father had always considered him a failure and told him so.
After reading the captain’s letter, he called to congratulate his son and tell him how proud he was of him. ‘Captain, I can’t thank you enough,’ said the young man. For the first time in his life, he felt loved and encouraged by his father.
As Abrashoff says, ‘Leadership is the art of practicing simple things—commonsense gestures that ensure high morale and vastly increase the odds of winning.’”
And to finish my story, on Sunday morning I got a call from this same CxO to thank me for the invitation to the Friday night event and the following day at the races.
A man who not only knows his stuff, but follows through by living it also.