An Effective Way to Earn a Team’s Respect

Recently, I attended my company’s inaugural Growth Forum.   This was a two-day event where the top 125 leaders, throughout the company, came together to review the company’s strategy for innovation in the health care sector.

Many of the attendees travelled to the convention style hotel, in Nashville, where the event was held.  My company has 4,000 employees and it was crucial for the leadership team to share the company’s renewed vision in detail as we set-out to execute it.   

The agenda was full and we had a lot to cover in two short days.  I was pleasantly surprised to how our leadership team kicked off the meeting.   After a 30-minute keynote introduction by our CEO, members of the executive team introduced themselves and spoke about their personal life.  Each leader gave a 5-minute glimpse into their personal life.  A collage of pictures displaying family members, vacations, hobbies and favorite sport teams filled a PowerPoint slide for each. 

It was an effective way to connect with each attendee.  One interesting observation I made was many of the leaders share the same interest – continued learning and building things.  The following are a few other takeaways that I found noteworthy: 

  • One executive lived in China for two years.  During his stay, one of his daughters had the idea to sleep on Great Wall of China.  After a bitter cold night, with not much sleep, he advised it wasn’t a good idea after all, and referenced the experience to be similar to sleeping on a big, cold rock in 30 degrees weather.  His facial expression in the picture was priceless. 

  • Another leader shares one of my favorite pass times, and likes to build things with Legos when spending time with his twin boys. 

  • China born executive grew up during a time when children didn’t go to school.  His mother taught him at home and eventually started formal school at age 13.  A few years later, he moved to the US to attend college and graduated from University of California, Berkeley with a Bachelor in Computer Science and a Master’s degree in Computer Science from Stanford.

  • One EVP is an avid motor cross fan and competes in biking competitions around the country. 

  • An officer has the aspirations of being the next Martha Stewart (minus the jail time) if she didn’t have to work.  She prides herself on her creativeness of décor and food when hosting parties.  

The purpose of this exercise was obvious yet successful.   Each leader appeared to be a normal husband or wife, a father or mother with their transparent approach.   Their stories of their children and their quirky family adventures resonated with me and other peers I spoke too. 

A colleague of mine made an interesting comment to me after the introductions were completed.  He said he respected the leadership team for their personal touch to start the event.  Like me, he felt personally connected to them and through this exercise they earned his respect, and he felt like they respected the team as well.