• Mike Burke

As I was leaving the office, my boss says, don’t screw it up Mike!”

He was only half-joking.

So, there I am on the way to the airport to pick up this corporate executive guy.

Everyone knows he’s a childhood friend of our company’s CEO; rumor has it they still talk every day.

I wanted to make a good impression; I wanted him to like me.

Driving back to the office, I said, “how was your flight?”

He said, “good.”

I said, “that’s good.”

And that was the last time we talked on the entire ride.

Sitting at my desk, I realized, “I’ve never met anyone on his level before.”

My mom was a secretary and my dad customer service.

This guy, this corporate executive, is on his Country Club’s Polo Team.

You know the thing with horses?

I wondered, “What do I have in common with him?”

Then I started beating myself up because I let my nerves and fear keep me from seizing an opportunity.

Later that day, I was sitting with friends in the cafeteria, and I saw him walk in.

In a sea of lunch tables, he walked toward mine.

I’m thinking; I hope he doesn’t sit here.

Then he plops down right next to me and says, “I hear you train dogs.”

I said, “yea, I love dogs.”

He started talking about his female Dalmatian Eddie.

He was passionate.

I remember thinking, “Wow, it’s like I’m talking to a friend.”

I even joked around a little, and so did he.

The whole thing only lasted 15 minutes, but in that time, we formed a bond, kind of a friendship that lasted until he retired.

The next day I was daydreaming and thinking how lucky it was that he heard about me training dogs.

If someone didn’t tell him about dogs and me, I would have never formed that relationship.

I wondered, can I use the same strategy with others higher ups?

That’s when I realized, “they don’t get all love dogs.”

Then I thought, “I got it.”

“I’m going to know enough about what a person above me likes and or cares about, that I could get them to talk for 10-15 minutes.”

I’ll admit some people were "uncrackable" or jerks.

But they were the exception.

Doing that small thing unquestionably helped my career.

Years later, after a below average employee engagement survey score, I decided I needed to get to know my people better.

In random encounters, I would bring up something that they told me they liked doing as a hobby, or something about their family they were passionate about.

You know what’s crazy?

It always blew people’s minds when I asked them about their grandchildren by name or some other detail that they told me about in another conversations.

It was like I was managing on a whole new level.

It’s really cool.

©2020 by Mike Burke Management.