Mar 1 2012

Book Short (and great concept): Moments of Truth

Book Short (and great concept): Moments of Truth

TouchPoints:  Creating Powerdul Leadership Connections in the Smallest of Moments, by Douglas Conant, former CEO of Campbell’s Soup Corporation, and Mette Norgaard (book, kindle), is a very good nugget of an idea wrapped in lots of other good, though only loosely connected management advice around self awareness and communication — something I’m increasingly finding in business books these days.

It’s a very short book. I read it on the Kindle, so I don’t know how many pages it is or the size of the font, but it was only 2900 kindles (or whatever you call a unit on the device) and only took a few Metro North train rides to finish.  It’s probably worth a read just to get your head around the core concept a bit more, though it’s far from a great business book.

I won’t spend a lot of time on the book itself, but the concept echoes something I’ve been referring to a while here at Return Path as “Moments of Truth.”  Moments of Truth are very short interactions between you and an employee that are high impact and, once you get the hang of them, low effort.  At least, they’re low effort relative to long form meetings.

Here are a few thoughts about Moments of Truth:

  • They are critical opportunities to get things both very right and very wrong with an employee
  • They are more powerful than meets the eye – both for what they are and because they get amplified as employees mention them to other employees
  • They can come to you (people popping into your office and the like), you can seek them out (management by walking around), and you can institutionalize them (for example, one of the things I do is call every employee on their Return Path anniversary to congratulate them on the milestone)
  • They are no different than any other kind of interaction you have, just a lot shorter and therefore can be more intense (and numerous)
  • Their use cases are as broad as any management interaction — coaching, positive or negative feedback, input, support, etc.

What can you as a manager or leader do to perfect your handling of Moments of Truth?

First, learn how to spot them when they come to you, and think about a typical employee’s day/week/month/year to think about when you can find opportunities to seek them out.  Their first day on the job.  When they get a promotion.  When they get a great performance review, or new stock options.  Maybe when they get a poor performance review or denied a promotion they were seeking.

Second, learn to appreciate them and leave space for them.  If you have zero free minutes in every single day, you not only won’t have time to create or seek out Moments of Truth, you’ll be rushed or blow them off when they come to you.

Finally, like everything else, you have to develop a formula for handling them and then practice that formula.  The book does talk about a formula of “head, heart, hand” (e.g., being logical, authentic, and competent) that’s not bad.  Although I’d never thought about it systematically before writing this post, I have a few different kinds of Moments of Truth, and each one has its own rhythm to it, and its own regular ending.

But regardless of how you handle them, once you think about your day through this lens, you’ll start seeing them all over the place.  Recognize their power, and dive in!