Someone called me adorable. During a business conversation.
I was in Namibia speaking with a local businesswoman. We were discussing NICE, The Namibian Institute of Culinary Excellence, and how it operates. Travel tip: NICE has an excellent and very interesting restaurant operated by the students.
I was taken aback of course—and somewhat flattered–but after a few seconds of reflection, I asked her what she meant by adorable as I couldn’t remember anyone ever calling me that, even my mother when I was a child. Certainly no one ever called me adorable in a business context.
Could it be that this was a question of cultural difference? Language, or more directly the meaning of words, often flows from cultural background. Different cultural background, different meaning. Different meaning, misunderstanding.
Indeed, this was the case. I discovered she meant something that I would never have put in the adorable box. Adorable was her word for my ability to connect with a variety of people with wildly different backgrounds, experiences, and education. Most adorable to her was my ability to travel the world and fit in wherever I find myself. And my willingness to eat and drink things in Africa that many foreign travelers won’t touch. (Perhaps in a future missive I’ll share a few of these experiences.)
We went on to discuss how this ability is germinated and cultivated through observation and listening, modeling behavior, openness and friendliness, helping out. Stepping into others’ world rather than expecting them to step into mine.
It got us talking about the importance of being adorable in both business and other interactions. The importance of being open to others coupled with the flexibility to really hear them and understand their world while staying true to yourself and always walking your talk. We shared stories of leaders we know who are clueless about what their people are thinking because they aren’t adorable.
For many leaders, it’s not easy to be adorable, it’s much easier to stay in their bubble and expect others to adjust. But they do so at their peril and the peril of their companies.
Connect with people wherever you go. Meet people where they are.