Constantly traveling as I am, I often find myself with time to read on planes. Recently I finished a very interesting book by Douglas Conant and Mette Norgaard, TouchPoints (Jossey-Bass, 2011).
Doug and Mette's premise is that we've clearly moved from the Information Age to the Interruption Age. I agree. We're barraged by e-mails, texts, and unscheduled conversations that seem to stand between us and getting the real work done. Their book, TouchPoints, addresses this head-on. It is the first and best source I have seen show how to use these moments—rather than fight them—to expand your influence and get more done.
The book is powerful because it actually works. The authors walk you through exactly how to intentionally seize the moment in ways you likely have not fully considered. I particularly like that Doug, chief executive officer of Campbell Soup (CPB), has been applying this approach for years and had the guts to write about these "small moments" vs. something more grand. There is a humility here, an authenticity that's great to see and learn from.
Lead With Intention, not Reaction
This is not just a make-them-feel-good, touchy-feely pitch, either. The book helps you get to a well-thought-out "meta conversation," (if you will) in your own head as you confront the issue. In fact, the book pushes you to figure out your own leadership model that then dictates your reaction in these moments. You lead with intention, not reaction, even in the most reactive instances.
In my book What Got You Here Won't Get You There, I list 20 habits that keep high performers, achievers, aspiring leaders, and what-have-you from ascending to the highest levels. I also give seven steps to show how you can fix these habits. Among them are: Listen, thank, follow up. The approach in TouchPoints aligns exactly with what I say in my book. It makes a framework in which to learn to really listen and yes, get out of your own way.
I'll close with a recommendation: Read this closely and put it to work for at least one day. If in that day you see an effect—as I think you will—do it again the next day. If you forget or miss opportunities as you go, so be it. Get over it and keep moving forward bit by bit, interaction by interaction. Over time you will start to see real impact because this is what leadership is about. I would argue that real "roll up your sleeves leadership" means exactly this: adding real value through these smallest of moments.