Ordinary connection

The Power of Ordinary Practices describes how apparently mundane interactions with managers have a major impact on people’s work.

Management and leadership are so often described in heroic terms which seem to disconnect everyone from reality. In the search for impact, leaders often miss details and leave people behind. I liked this point from Teresa Amabile in the article:

One, people have incredibly rich, intense, daily inner work lives; emotions, motivations, and perceptions about their work environment permeate their daily experience at work. Second, these feelings powerfully affect people’s day-to-day performance. And third, those feelings, which are so important for performance, are powerfully influenced by particular daily events.

She gives lots of examples of how managers small scale interactions have a big impact on morale, creativity and productivity.

One of my favourite workshop activities is to look at real world conversations, especially those seen as difficult by participants. We’ll often just take two lines of dialogue (a classic “he-said, she-said”) and play with multiple ways of replaying them differently. The results can be dramatic.

The other thing that the article brings out is timing. Too many interactions, or two few, or at the wrong or right time, have big impacts. Failing relationships and conversations often feel to me like badly co-ordinated dances; we think we’re fighting over the content but really we’re experiencing a lack of synchrony.

Hat tip: Keith de la Rue (on Facebook)

2 thoughts on “Ordinary connection

  1. Chris Rodgers

    I think that the essence of what she’s saying is contained in her statement:

    I believe it’s important for leaders to understand the power of ordinary practices. Seemingly ordinary, trivial, mundane, day-by-day things that leaders do and say can have an enormous impact. My guess is that a lot of leaders have very little sense of the impact that they have.

    I would add that what they don’t say and don’t do has an equally powerful effect on other people’s behaviour.

    Leaders reflecting on their own practice (or “thinking culturally” as I called it in Informal Coalitions) is central to this. Although I’m less taken with the idea that there are a defined set of behaviours that can be classified as having positive or negative impacts. The meaning of leaders’ actions (and inaction) is determined by those on the receiving end, as they seek to make sense of what’s going on through their ongoing, local interactions. It’s not something that the leaders themselves can control.

    In a workshop I facilitated some years ago, the Chairman of the company said to his top 80 or so managers, “If any of you in this room has decided that you don’t want to be a role model, you’ve just decided to be a bad one.”

    1. Johnnie Moore Post author

      Yes, Chris I agree! I also share your caution about “the idea that there are a defined set of behaviours that can be classified as having positive or negative impacts”. I think it may be more useful to bear in mind that we’re operating in a context which is more sensitive to our behaviour that we normally realise. If we attempt to hard to stick to a set of defined behaviours, we may end up reducing our sensitivity to this.


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