Magic on the Frontline

Showing respect, interest and curiosity

May 20, 2016 Magic on the Frontline

Showing respect, interest and curiosity


There’s a big difference between engaging an executive or senior manager, and an employee working on a factory line or driving a truck or covering a sales territory. I believe the most important thing you can do with people – whoever they are – is show respect. Everyone wants to feel respected for what they do and what they contribute.

Clearly the bottom up model for strategic management has been proven. But for me, it’s a privilege to engage with people on the frontline. And it can’t be, “Here I am, coming down to look at what you’re doing.” You have to acknowledge your appreciation of the core of what people do – and you have to work with them as equals. Importantly you need to find a bond through your interest in their craft, their profession or their skill – and confirm your interest in what they have to say.

Oftentimes, if I’m in a factory or store, I find that bond because I am genuinely curious. I like to ask a lot of questions. I really want to know why a shelf is set a certain way, or how a piece of production equipment works, or what happens if the truck breaks down. I remember doing those jobs and I’m interested in learning how people are doing them better today. Genuine curiosity in what people do inspires them to step forward to offer up what they see and what they’ve thought about.

As leaders, we’re not auditors or inspectors – we need to be connectors. When we come to people on their level and show respect and genuine interest in what they care about, the magic happens. We connect, we learn, we grow.