Creative Leadership

Want to Know About an Organization? Ask The Janitor

When I visit a client organization, they often send someone to pick me up at the airport. It might be a full time driver, someone’s assistant, or a janitor. But I’ve discovered that I can find out more about the organization from that person than anyone else I meet during the visit. They have the least to lose, and are the most free to share what they know.  Likewise, when I have an appointment with a leader, I’ll often show up a bit early. The receptionist or assistant knows everything, and you’d be amazed at how much you can find out. Stop being rude to assistants and notice how much they can help your cause!

One museum was about to pay for a costly study to find out which of it’s exhibits was the most popular. Just before they signed an expensive agreement with a consultant, someone decided to ask the janitor where he mopped the most.

Sometimes the best information is in the most obvious place, but it doesn’t sound glamourous or expensive enough to check. Look around. Before you chat with the leadership at a company or organization, or hire a consultant, see who knows what. It might surprise you.

Have you experienced something similar?

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  1. Great thought. Plus…it’s nice to treat these folks with respect, as if they actually matter and have something to contribute. Often they’re surprised.

  2. It tells me a lot when the CEO passes me in the hall with a guest and I’ve seen him introduce “important” people to the guest on his way down the hall.  I wonder what that guest must think when they pass by me with no more than me saying “hello”.

  3. Wait a second.  Who said we’re being rude to the receptionist?

    In reality, most people aren’t rude to the assistant.  They’re just disengaged.   Their mind is on the upcoming meeting, wondering if they have time to hit the restroom before their appointment, etc., etc. 

    Sure, in most cases, I believe it is important to be friendly.  Find out the assistant’s name, and use it.  Address the assistant with the same respect you would the executive.

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