I just got off a call with a close colleague and a good friend. We hadn’t spoken for a while, and, although I was glad to hear her voice and always interested in what she has to say, I could feel the pull towards today’s work. “I want to get going!!” clamored a voice in my head. I felt the tug to get to work as a physical longing.
I was distracted by all this internal “noise” while I was talking to her. Although, I wanted to feel the warmth and vitality of our connection, I felt my attention drift far away, as if the emails sitting in my inbox were calling to me like Odysseus’ sirens.
“Stop,” said a wiser voice. “This call will only take a couple of minutes, and you want to be there for this dear friend.” With a deep breath and an inner gesture towards our friendship, I redirected my thoughts and my heart. and the connection burst through my disconnected haze like an undammed river. And, then, she mentioned a pressing concern, something serious. I was finally able to listen with care. We spoke for a few minutes and found a good resolution for her.
I felt refreshed as I returned to work. I felt more in harmony with my friend, my self, and my values. I learned again that engaging with the interruption with skill can take less time and lead to higher quality work.
In their short book, Touchpoints: Creating Powerful Leadership Connections in the Smallest of Moments, Douglas Conant and Mette Norgaard turn “interruptions” upside-down. They see them as valuable moments of connection and leadership. In their view, leadership is shown in the many choices that we make about how to respond to the stream of requests and concerns that come our way.
The “knock on the door” happens over and over again – phone calls, meetings, emails and text messages, all with questions to answer, concerns to address, problems to solve, and fires to put out….what if you saw these as latent leadership moments? … Each of the many connections you make has the potential to become the high point or low point in someone’s day.” p. 2
They suggest to enter into the “interruptions” with care and focus, knowing that as we interact, we are building the world we live and work in. We have a tendency to want to “get back to work.” They suggest that paying attention to requests for connection is the work.
Remember to stay heart centered while in the rush of tasks, errands, meetings and interruptions. Although it seems easier to allow our attention to drift along with the constant flow of calls to action, being heart-centered takes attention more than time.
Finding a way back to heart-centeredness with boundaries can be a daily challenge, yet people notice when we are not listening and not speaking from the heart. It can be a deep offense to rush a personal connection. We can lose people. We don’t mean to, but we tear the web of our communities. Good boundaries also help with deep connecting. Connections are the vital essence of our webs of creation, collaborative work, educating, parenting and living well.