The Ice Breaker

The Ice Breaker

What Starts a Conversation?

One noon hour about eighteen years ago someone stopped in at reception to drop off a sledgehammer. Since everyone else had gone to lunch I took it back to my office and set it by my desk. At some point in the afternoon, I planned to take it back to the shop. That was eighteen years ago, it still sits by my desk to this day. Like everyone else I have paintings on my walls and things I have collected over the years. Heck, I even have a Tardis, a BB-8 and the complete works of Gary Larson’s Far Side, but what creates the most conversation is the sledgehammer.

Leadership is about being accessible, being able to interact with everyone and to create an environment where everyone feels comfortable talking to the CEO. That’s not easy for some, and that includes the CEO, those three letters become an inhibitor to a lot of interactions. You can have an open-door policy, but you are still the CEO and with that comes the thought by others, that they cannot bother you, or they assume you really have no time for them. If the CEO believes leadership should be weaved throughout the company, then it is only natural that having time for others at all levels is one of the most import things he or she can do. It has been the sledgehammer that has assisted that open-door policy and why it still sits by my desk today.

Even the most hesitant will try and make a comment about the sledgehammer. Make a small joke at their own expense like ‘is that thing just for me’, or ‘that’s pretty scary’ or ‘what’s that for?’. I have a simple answer ‘it is a conversation starter and it just worked’ and thus begins a conversation. It may be about work but often, it is about family or sports or the news of the day or it could be a debate about who is better Queen or the Rolling Stones (for the record it is Queen). The contribution this old sledgehammer has made is it has lightened the mood and started a conversation. There is nothing special about this sledgehammer. No magic, it is just a sledgehammer but it is one amazing sledgehammer as it has the power to create a conversation with whoever walks by the office for the first time or has stopped in.

Leaders, no matter where they are in a company, must communicate about more than just the task at hand. If one only hears from their manager when the manager needs something done or if they have done something wrong, that is not leadership. Leadership is about growing those around you so that down the road they will excel and surpass the leader you are now. That means developing a relationship that creates an environment where growth and interaction can occur. Take the time to make time for others. This beat up old sledgehammer on occasion has been known to start that conversation.

Scot Rutherford

Former President & CEO