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You’ve probably heard the old saying, never judge a book by its cover. In my business it’s easy to break this rule. Week in and week out I meet new audiences that come from vastly different background and play vastly different roles in their organizations. Every one of these experiences creates a moment of anxious excitement before walking on stage to “meet” the group for the very first time.

Inevitably it’s easy to find yourself making predictions about which camp they might fall into. Will they think; I’m full of shit, too young, too inexperienced, not credible, dressed too casual, not an industry specific expert, etc., etc. The list goes on; making judgments based on the cover of the book. In my case, the audience profile.

Have you been there? I bet you have. We’ve all been there.

Last week I was confronted with this situation yet again. I had an opportunity to work with captains of the nuclear industry to have a frank discussion about the future of their industry and the workforce of the future.

As someone who talks about the shifting of power and influence from the top of the chart to the center of the network, I made some pre-event judgments as to how they would re-act, both to my content and to me personally.

However, this time around I had a plan. I made a conscious effort to break the habit by utilizing an intentional ritual to direct my focus on the audience instead of on myself.

Before walking on stage I wrote a small note to myself with the following four lines…

Love People Serve People Add Value Have Fun

I can’t say why exactly but at the close of the program I felt compelled to pull the note out and read it to the group. Of course the voice in the back of my head said, “Don’t do it!” “LOVE… who talks about love with leaders in the energy industry?!”

Shut up voice. I’m reading the note.

Later that night the CEO approached me asked if I still had “the note” on me. A little stunned and bit confused I reach into my suit pocket to find it was still there and in one of the most remarkable moments of my life he asked if he could have it.

WAIT…. WHAT?! You want this? The words meant that much that you want it?

Indeed they did.

He went on to tell me how those words were an exact reflection of how he lives his life and approaches their business. Love People. Serve People. Add Value. Have Fun.

Completely stunned I handed the note over and thought to myself how fortunate. Had I judged the group and listen to naysayer inside I would have missed this moment and the remarkable connection it held.

My friends - don’t miss the moment. Get out of your head. Stop judging books by their cover and don’t be afraid to dig a little deeper to lead with love.