The Proximity Principle

The Proximity Principle: Leaders tend to serve people they see, touch, and spend time with.

Leaders who huddle rather than mingle grow inward and serve each other.

Distance allows detachment.

leadership potential expands the closer you get to the real people doing the real work of your organization..png

Detached leaders falsely believe the work of others is easier than theirs. Detachment turns into a bubble of perceived simplicity. Proximity bursts the bubble.

People who aren’t seen often feel under-appreciated and misunderstood.

Leadership potential expands when you connect to real people doing real work.

10 ways to leverage the proximity principle:

  1. Show up where the work is actually done. Schedule it.
  2. Show up unannounced.
  3. Show up to serve. Put on a hardhat and learn someone’s job. Get dirty. Look foolish. (This doesn’t work for brain surgeons or pilots.)
  4. Touch base with the supervisor, but don’t allow them to control your visit.
  5. Avoid disrupting workflow as much as possible.
  6. Help. Don’t fix. Learn. Don’t tell. Show up to improve yourself, not others.
  7. Tell people they matter. Explain where they fit in and what’s important now. Admire and affirm.
  8. Send thank you notes to the people you meet.
  9. Give yourself reminders that you are responsible to others just as much as they are to you. Post pictures of the people you meet on your bulletin board or Facebook page.
  10. Bring gifts when you show up, company gear, for example.

Proximity opens hearts and strengthens influence.

Proximity and dispersed teams:

Long distance relationships are tough. Use technology to leverage proximity.

  1. Hold brief video huddles regularly. Try once a week.
  2. Send snail mail. Something you can touch helps.
  3. Work and socialize when you get together.
  4. Visit off site team mates and play a little.
  5. Post pictures of off site team members on Facebook.

Bonus: Celebrate birthdays, weddings, and special occasions, just like you might in an office.

What happens when leaders isolate themselves?

How might leaders connect with off site teams?

How might leaders leverage the proximity principle?