Twenty five years ago I accompanied Mike Bloomberg on a trip to inaugurate two offices in Sao Paulo and Buenos Aires. The trip taught me two valuable lessons.
We landed in Buenos Aires in the early evening. Mike told me and a colleague, Dan Parke, to meet him in the lobby at 7 a.m. the next morning. We were going for a jog.
I’m not a runner now and I wasn’t one then, but I ran.
Leadership is an interesting business. Harvard publishes case studies about how you are supposed to manage people by setting targets and metrics. And I’m sure those are helpful.
But none of those things are as inspiring as the CEO inviting you for a run.
The experience taught me that the most valuable thing a leader can give you is their time and presence. And that works best when it involves a project or doing something together.
A former colleague of mine called this “touching the cloak,” which is a nice turn of phrase that captures what is happening at an emotional level.
Leaders miss an opportunity when they don’t invite this kind of connection. Usually that means creating the environment or conditions that make it possible. But mostly its being aware to include people.
This works at all levels, whether you manage five people or 5,000.
I realize going for a run feels a bit dated. Steve Jobs famously invited people to go on long walks. It’s not so much about any particular activity, but the invitation and the experience.
What is important is that the experience is novel, unusual. This is not about booking the dreaded weekly one-on-one meeting. It’s about creating a memory. You don’t go jogging with a billionaire every day.
The second thing I learned on that trip was about connecting with clients.
The company had invited a number of customers to the Sao Paulo office one evening for drinks.
I watched Mike navigate the room, slowly and steadily. He made it a point to shake everyone’s hand, thank them for their business, engage them briefly in conversation and then move on.
He realized people were there to meet him and wanted to give them the chance.
Most people at cocktail parties settle into one or two conversations. It’s hard to engage and keep moving.
It takes an awareness that clients also want to touch the cloak.
(Part of a series of posts about lessons I learned from three decades at Bloomberg LP)