I saw him walk into the lobby of our building. So must have my male colleague. I smiled and approached the elevator at the same time. So did my male colleague. Nearing the executive, my colleague began discussing a small work related matter with him. I waited to offer greetings until their conversation concluded. My colleague and I office on one floor while the executive offices on a higher floor. When the doors opened at our floor, I got ready to step out when I heard my colleague say, “I’ll ride up with you,” and he continued talking.
Later in the day, I had an issue I wanted to make sure I talked to a specific person in management about. He arrived to the office after meetings and was approaching my desk from the hallway. Steps away, another male colleague approached him and began a discussion. After it wrapped, the individual got ready to walk past my desk to his office. But my male colleague said, “Well, if you have another 30 seconds, let me pick your brain about this,” and continued walking with him into his office.
I consider myself pretty adept at office networking. I’m not shy about having conversations about work matters or professional development with executives. And, finally, I’m comfortable in my own skin and a skilled presenter on difficult issues in both formal and informal settings.
But this day at the office schooled me.
I have never once, in an 18 year career, said “I’ll ride up” to an executive on an elevator.
Why not? It’s an incredibly smart thing to do. You don’t inconvenience the other person and are able to address the issue with the decision maker.
I rarely take extra time, after small talk, to walk to the office with an executive to pursue a business agenda.
I try to find time on calendars or schedule meetings. I’ll make small talk at the coffee bar, but I am not regularly taking the opportunity to advance the business ball.
How do most effective leaders get what they want? All the research shows they have meetings before the meetings. The key to sustained success is previewing the issues and the solutions before ever walking into a meeting room.
And while the more I research and travel around the country speaking about leadership I find gender similarities, this is an area where gender differences persist. Regularly, many issues previously discussed as male or female, I find turn more on introvert v. extrovert or calm v. excitable or visionary v. detail oriented.
But actively “business working” in social encounters can be an area where women professionals lag.
Think back on how you work business issues. When’s the last time you went out of your way to “ride up” with someone to pursue a business case? Do you walk to the office drink station simply to make sure you engage with a hard-to-reach leader?
I recently had a friend who said, “let’s walk around the table this way so we can bump into that vice president.” If you have critical matters you are working, or need to increase your visibility, then what better way than grabbing three impromptu minutes walking to the parking garage or the salad bar?
Engage the right people without formal meetings and have brief questions ready for their feedback. Does this make sense? Does this align with the team’s priorities this year? Etc.
Being ready to engage at a moment’s notice will send your professional stock soaring, and give you the opportunity to more regularly engage with important audiences.
Next time, offer to “ride up.”