I was invited to have my View-Changer Cards used as a lunchtime activity during a recent conference that had over 400 participants in attendance. For those not familiar with the cards (click on the above link for more information), they are a deck of 53 cards with photographs on the front and a thought-provoking question on the back. I’ve taken each of the photographs and the location for each photo is also listed on the card.
I was also invited to sell my cards should there be interest. For those of you who’ve been to conferences, you probably are familiar with the experience of passing through the line-up of vendors who are hoping you’ll stop by for conversation, that may lead to future business, while knowing that you’re really interested in the “free goods!” Time is usually very precious and more often spent in catching up with colleagues; participating in the educational sessions; eating a relaxing lunch- where you actually have time to eat; and maybe a quick run through the vendor area, hoping not to make eye contact but are still able to grab some pens, or other creative gadget that you really don’t need, but think you do.
Suffice to say that I brought far more decks than I sold, yet my reward was far greater than I imagined. After I had announced my booth’s door prize, and went back to my booth to do final packing, a participant came running over to me to ask if she could still buy a deck. I asked her what card she had at her table and if it was used. She proceeded, with a big smile and what I thought may have been watery eyes, to tell me her story.
“They didn’t use the card but I did. The card at my table was the one of pelicans from South Carolina. My mother, who’s been dead for several years, LOVED pelicans. They are strange looking creatures but she had a passion for them. She lived in South Carolina for some time and she would often share stories; have pelican paintings or trinkets around the house, and we would occasionally stroll and watch the pelicans on the dock. While others were chatting at my table, I was visiting with my mom.”
At that point, we both had water coming from our eyes, and as she held out her hand to thank me, I asked if I could give her a hug instead.
The entire interaction lasted for less than five minutes. And I’ve been sharing that story as my most important take-away from the conference. It was a moment. And it made the day worth far more than any amount of sales could have achieved.
As I work with leaders and hear stories of burnout, I am impressed with how dis-heartened people seem to be. We often discount demonstrations of emotion in the workplace as “drama.” I wonder what we’re losing by not engaging the hearts of our employees? Judith Glaser in her book: “Conversational Intelligence,” talks about listening to connect, not reject. Can you take five minutes to listen for emotion as well as thought? What difference would it make if you did?