Nielsen: Learn from the Same Side of the Table

A million times, all leaders have heard and read the many benefits of a “win-win,” “make sure everyone wins,” “mutually beneficial” life-long philosophy. We also know that such a life-long philosophy is useless unless backed up with consistent action and behavior.

I am a huge proponent of not just believing, but living such a philosophy on a day-to-day basis in our personal, professional and organizational lives.

Action speaks so much louder than words! Here are some simple suggestions for creating an environment conducive to living this philosophy. These simple suggestions will convey a powerful message regarding how you treat, deal with, and lead people… even before you say a word.

  1. When meeting with people in your office, never sit on “your side” of your desk. Always get up and come around to “their side” of the desk or table.


  1. Never sit across the table from a potential or actual adversary. Join them on “their side” even if you have to move your chair or rearrange the furniture. Regardless of where you are, simply and courteously refuse to sit on “the other side.” You will be amazed at the reaction and immediate change in atmosphere.


  1. Arrange your conference table so that one side is against a wall, or loaded with great books, or inaccessible. Simply make it impossible to sit on “the other side.” There will be just as much room available for all participants, and everyone will be on the same side of the table.


  1. If you want to make an even more obvious and impactful statement about how you behave and lead, create a nice table top sign that reads something like, “We make decisions and lead from the same side of the table.” 


  1. Another great alternative is to simply eliminate the conference table, although you will lose some of the very clear impact of sitting on “the same side” of the table.     


The actions suggested above may seem small and somewhat meaningless. Just the opposite it true! Over time these actions and ways of behaving and leading (and your deepening commitment as you see and experience the results) will bear much positive and excellent fruit.

People will notice!

People will ask!

People will remember!

Come together, work together, succeed together. Improve your relationships and results – always sit and lead from the same side of the table.

Copyright © 2011 by Dan Nielsen

Founder, National Institute for Healthcare Leadership

Cell 214-695-1292

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