Touchpoints Make The Difference

On the latest Human Capital Institute summit I had the opportunity to interview Doug Conant, the former President, CEO, and Director at Campbell Soup Company. He now runs his own leadership consulting practice where he gets to share the insights that he has built up over his career.

In his latest book TouchPoints: Creating Powerful Leadership Connections in the Smallest of Moments he describes that we have on average 70 four-minute moments a day where we can make a difference. Conant derived this odd number from evidence that suggest that four minutes is the average uninterrupted time that a moment lasts. Have a look at the below interview to learn how he defines a touchpoint.

Presence Makes a Difference

Conant’s emphasis is on being present in the moment and on realizing that the action is in the interaction. In that sense every interruption is an opportunity to make a difference through listening, framing and advancing the subject, provided that you bring presence, possibility, authenticity and flexibility to the situation.

As simple as it may all seem it is an inner battle to stay clear on seizing the opportunity of being present in every moment. On the other hand – and this is a sobering observation – Conant underscores that leading in the moment is all we have. This was one of the most difficult lessons for him as a CEO: realizing that you cannot directly instruct or influence the people who build the success of your organization.

Conant started to practice what he preached and dedicated a full hour every day on hand-written notes to thank people on stuff that is working well. It is estimated that he distributed about 33,000 hand-written thank-you notes throughout his career at Campbell. Most importantly: it shifted the focus of his team on scanning the organization on what people are doing well instead of the rationale of looking for the weak spots. A consistent and long-term discipline of showing people that you pay attention to and genuinely care about what they do results in touchpoint that people will remember for a long time.

Engage the Heart, the Head AND the Hands

Regular readers of this blog know that anyone who mentions the holy trinity of heart, head and hands marks a home-run for me. In 2007 we have built a complete strategy around these elements for Managing Organizational Change during SAP Implementations. In our turn, we borrowed the concept from the behavioral communication model of Bill Jensen.

In his book, Conant uses this model to underscore that a leader needs all three elements if he is to be consistent in the long run. The below picture that was taken during his presentation shows what happens when we miss one of the elements in our approach.

There are three types of inconsistencies that can occur on your touchpoint track-record, and all three of them are related to a missing element:

  • If you miss the head (logic) in the equation, your touchpoints will end up being illogical;
  • If you miss the heart (relationship and connection) in the equation, your touchpoints will end up being inauthentic;
  • If you miss the hands (skills) in the equation, you will end up being experienced as incompetent.

The book further focusses on how you can build capacity in all three areas. In short, I found it a great read – not because of any discoveries, but because of the simple statements and actionable advise from someone who has actually been in the shoes of a leader during a great part of his career.