Walking the Walk

Back to All Posts
July 6, 2010
Last week I was one among 11,000 HR professionals who attended the annual SHRM conference which was held in San Diego.  I have visited San Diego in June before and it completely slipped my mind that this is not a particularly sunny time of year.  After spending months prior to the meeting gazing at the scenic and sunny picture of the destination on the brochure, I was ready for some mild and happy weather.  Let’s just say it was a good thing my friends left a day before I did and warned me to throw some jackets and long pants in my suitcase – they were my staple attire for the whole trip.  That said, I did encounter a ray of sunshine here and there while attending the conference and one of them happened to sit next to me in one of the sessions. 

Barbara Glanz has a business card that reads: "Spreading Contagious Enthusiasm" and this is exactly what she does.  Those who know me have actually described me as "unapproachable" and this is not because I intend to be, I am just a fairly private person who has a tendency to get lost in my own thoughts on a regular basis.  It is also true that I do not like to talk to strangers.  When Barbara sat down next to me I did not know who she was, as I am also not good at recognizing people from the media or otherwise.  Brad Pitt could have sat down next to me and I would not have made the connection. 

Barbara turned to me to say hello with the biggest, brightest, most genuine smile I have ever seen.  I did a double take and looked around to make sure she was actually addressing me, knowing that I am unapproachable, but this did not deter her one bit.  She engaged me in casual conversation, not caring at all that I had no idea who she was.  It was not until someone else came up and said to her, "You wrote Johnny the Bagger!" that I made the connection.  I had read the book Barbara wrote with Ken Blanchard, The Simple Truths of Service and in fact used it regularly with staff members to teach and instill a deep understanding of how each of us contribute to the overall company brand.  It was all starting to come together.  When I told her how impactful her book had been on people who worked with me she mentioned that they made it into a movie that I could see on her website. 

The topic turned to blogging and social media and I mentioned that I manage the blog for our company and for our local SHRM Chapter and she told me I was welcome to use any of the content she had on her site in my posts.  Now, how can you turn that down?  I spent some time on her website and come across one of her articles titled "A Choice in Every Interaction" and this is where it hit me that here is a person who does actually practice what they preach and walks the walk.  I am a natural skeptic (I like to say I learned it from my father) and if there is one thing I cannot forgive it is a person who says one thing and does the opposite.  Hypocrites are no friends of mine and there are plenty of wolves out there in sheep’s’ clothing.  Barbara is not one of them.

In her article, Barbara says: "Even though we cannot control the external circumstances of our lives, we each have a choice in our response to them. The overriding theme of all my speaking and writing is that we all have choices, beginning with each interaction we have with anyone. We can create a minus, a zero, or a plus for that person." 

Barbara created a plus for me that day when she sat down next to me with the big smile on her face and a quote from a friend of hers that went like this: "Beginning today, treat every person you meet, loved one or stranger, friend or foe, as if they were going to be dead at midnight. Extend to each person you meet, no matter how trivial the contact, all the care and kindness and understanding and love that you can muster. And do so with no thought of any reward. Your life will never be the same again."

I simply pass this along as a reminder in our personal and professional lives to "walk the walk" and practice what you preach and if you are lucky, you will come across a ray of sunshine like Barbara who will remind you that every interaction is important.