An article titled ‘The power of ordinary practices’ was the seventh ‘most read’ of Harvard Business School’s Working Knowledge articles for 2006. The articles includes the following:
I believe it’s important for leaders to understand the power of ordinary practices. Seemingly ordinary, trivial, mundane, day-by-day things that leaders do and say can have an enormous impact. My guess is that a lot of leaders have very little sense of the impact that they have.
One of our projects has involved collecting about 250 anecdotes from within a large multinational on the theme ‘values in action’. The anecdotes were used as part of a management development program. After short-listing the anecdotes, teams went through the most significant change process to identify anecdotes that provided the best examples of behaviours they should model. The following anecdote was selected as the most significant by one of the teams.
A great example, you go and – even impromptu if you just knock on [name's] door if you’ve got something you want to talk to him he will get up and he will move to his table and he’ll give you his undivided attention. I have experienced many other managers who will continue to type, will not always turn and look at you…
That something so innocuous has such impact reinforces the ‘impact of ordinary practices’. As we regularly comment – little things can make a big difference. But, you can tell managers this sort of thing a hundred (bazillion) times without it really sinking in. So, here we see some of the power of narrative – a simple anecdote has had a major impact upon a group of senior managers by giving them a powerful example of the effect their behaviour has on others.