I was told a story last week by a friend and colleague who regularly rubs shoulders with extraordinary people from all walks of life. He is something of a star himself and the tale may be folklore, but it stuck in my mind. In the showbiz world, actors, musicians, comedians and performers have what’s known as a rider in their contract. This could be as simple as a glass of water on stage or could be pink roses, Krug champagne or even singing unicorns (okay I made that up) in their dressing room. A global rock and roll star alongside more luxurious items in his rider, listed a bowl of blue M&Ms, just the blue ones in a bowl, nothing more, nothing less. Simple.
One fateful evening, the contractually obliged bowl contained not only blue but just a mere few orange ones and a yellow one which triggered a whole chain of events.
Said rock star ordered a review of everything, from the entrance door to the stage. After several hours, it was discovered that one of the lighting rigs was not only unstable but also dangerous and hung above an area where, hours later, hundreds of fans would be below.
The gig was called off immediately.
Whilst the blue M&Ms may have seemed like a rock stars quirky request on a rider, they were in fact a flag, the offending different coloured ones anyway. If a venue couldn’t pay attention to the little task of putting blue sweets in a bowl, what else would have been overlooked that was way more important.
Since January I have been inspired and honoured to spend time with many leaders, those that inspire their people stand out, not by being noticeable but, most often, by how they choose to notice. What they see in others, what they pay attention to in their people within their teams and most importantly, where and with whom they choose to spend their time, because it will make a difference to the person or persons.
I spent some time with a leader, who takes portraits in his spare time – his photographs are spectacular and seem to capture such depth and emotion of a person, as to be almost intrusive.
‘Wow!’ I rather inarticulately expressed of one of his photos.
He cocked his head, ‘it’s the details, Kate, when you notice and pay attention to the little details and peculiarities of a person, their unique individuality is revealed, making them so much easier to photograph,’ he paused ‘and lead’ he added, perhaps as an afterthought. He then smiled, a wide landscape of a smile and said ‘but you know that. ‘
As John Kabat Zinn said, ‘The little things? The little moments? They aren’t little’.