At certain periods of my career I have allowed the rush of busyness that comes with advancement to keep me from participating in the simple things that make the world turn. If we are not careful, those periods of advancement can create bad habits moving forward.
During one such step forward I found myself uncharacteristically absent from some of our people interactions. It was the first year that we held our One Place customer conference. We had planned for months, brought in big sound and lighting companies to help us make things spectacular, and spent countless hours preparing for our presentations. As the event drew near I spent every waking moment preparing and planning every detail. On the first day, I delivered my keynote presentation which included many live software demos, videos and guest speakers. Any technical glitch could have sent me over the edge. Thankfully it went perfectly. I was so proud of our team and we all collapsed with exhaustion.
However, I allowed that busy season of new activity to keep me from one aspect of business that is the most important: interaction with the people that make our business happen. Business – actually all types of organizational success – depends on people interacting with each other in thousands of small ways over a long period of time. When we get too big for those simple, seemingly small interactions then we are on our way to a much larger failure. I was correct to push the company forward and create the big new conference, but I was wrong to think that because of the activity it was okay to excuse myself from the individual meetings.
A few weeks ago I was having another busy week with our quarterly earnings press release and conference call. As a public company we report our financial performance each quarter, including a narrative on our business progress. All the preparation makes for a busy week. On the day of the earnings call, I generally work from early in the morning until 9:00 or 10:00 at night. Then I go home and spend a few more hours reading emails and analyst comments.
This particular week I had also scheduled my quarterly “Culture Sessions.” I like to do in-person culture sessions with all of our new associates each quarter. These are 90-minute sessions where we discuss the history of our company, our core values, the importance of company culture and how every associate is vital to our success.
I conducted one session on Monday, which is generally the busiest day of finalizing our earnings press material and script and preparing for Q&A with the analysts. I then had two back-to-back sessions the morning of the earnings release day. That meant speaking for three straight hours, then doing a full afternoon and evening of speaking and answering questions on our financial and business results.
At the culture sessions that morning, I felt so motivated by the bright new folks joining our company. I could see in their eyes enthusiasm for our culture and the future. That invigorated me even more and created a great energy on our earnings call that evening. As I left the building that night around 10:00 p.m., I looked back at the beaming Benefitfocus sign and smiled. I was as busy as ever but my feet were grounded in the daily interactions that make a business successful over the long haul. I knew we had many new associates now on board with our company and our culture and it gave me added excitement for our future.
Each One Place week since that first year, I have created a schedule for myself that is jam-packed with social interactions with our customers, partners and prospective customers. I still end the week exhausted, but now it is an excited version of being worn out from the many simple interactions with so many great people who make up our customer community. As you advance in your career, give yourself grace when you get too busy, but when you notice a new pattern emerge pause to weave into your schedule those simple interactions that make business special.