Numerous studies have shown that ensuring that colleagues even just know one another’s names improves performance and teamwork and that the more they know about each other the better performance and teamwork gets.

Knowing that, think about that CEO, manager, or other business/team leader that doesn’t take the time to get to know their people. They sit in their office banging out work. They’re constantly busy meeting with their executive team, clients, and partners, but they don’t even take the time to walk around the office and say hi to staff … let alone get to know them.

In my experience, this is often not because they don’t care. It’s actually because they don’t care enough. Talking about this exact example of just saying hi while walking around the office, a CEO once said in a staff meeting, “I know you’re supposed to do this. I’m just not that kind of person.” Think about the numerous messages being sent there:

  1. I know that I’m supposed to get to know you, but I won’t do what it sometimes takes … because I’m just not that kind of person.
  2. I know there’s value in getting to know you, but I won’t do what it sometimes takes … because I’m just not that kind of person.
  3. I’m choosing for us all to suffer the consequences … because I’m just not that kind of person.

The list goes on, but perhaps most importantly, this is being communicated.

“There is something that I know I should do, and it’s hard for me, so I don’t do it. That’s the standard and level of expectations I’m setting for this company.”

When that titular leader needs someone on the ground to get something done or when they need to shift the entire organization for reasons of revenue generation, modernization, or whatever else, how much do you think the staff cares about doing what s/he asked (or told) them to do? Not a lot. In fact, people 1 or 2 steps removed from the leader often don’t understand why they’re being asked to do something, and as a result, they rarely want or care to do so. They phone it in, or even worse, they simply don’t do what they’re asked … maybe because their organization accepts that it’s okay to not do things that are hard?

Summarizing Atul Gawande in Checklist Manifesto, it’s this disengaged disagreement that is often the biggest and worst contributor to avoidable problems. It’s the nurse in the operating room that notices the surgeon’s glove is no longer sterile, but is afraid to say something, so now the patient gets an avoidable, life-threatening, and costly infection. It’s the colleague that just knows the new technology won’t work, but feels it’s not worth bringing it up for whatever reason, so it goes to market and immediately encounters problems.

And to think, one of the simplest fixes to problems like this could just be getting the people in your organization to know each other’s names and eventually get to know each other better, but it starts at the top.

As a leader, you want someone to do something? You better be setting the standard that you are willing to do the exact same. Otherwise, you’re bound to encounter issues with performance and teamwork that will eventually lead to heartache, revenue losses, layoffs, downsizing, and more.