Use personal effects to increase relatability and drive connection.
My travels in 2018 allowed me to spend a day exploring the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. I found the most meaningful part of the experience to be the “Forever Remembered” exhibit that honors the fourteen astronauts who died in the Space Shuttle Challenger and Space Shuttle Columbia missions. In addition to recovered orbiter hardware from each of the accidents, the memorial included designated spaces that contained personal effects for each astronaut. The link below provides a glimpse of those individual displays:
The experience of reflecting on those everyday objects made the astronauts real people for me. I remember where I was when I heard the news of each tragedy. I knew a few facts about the first school teacher in space, but I couldn’t tell you a single thing about any of the other members of those flights.
Now, I remember that one of them was a runner. Another a doctor. And one had a fantastic pair of cowboy boots. Other items included Muslim prayer beads, a co-authored research paper, piano sheet music, and model airplanes: all helped change my perspective and allowed me to relate differently to these individuals. I had a great deal of respect for them, the profession, and their courage already, but having some way to associate with the astronauts as individuals increased my admiration because there was something relatable now. They weren’t ‘just’ a role.
This concept of relatability can serve you well in the workplace too. There is great value in our relationships when we can relate to our colleagues on a deeper level. Influential leaders take advantage of positive connection points to relate to others beyond the role they serve in the organization. As a leader, many times you don’t need fancy concepts to make a difference in someone else’s life. Simple interactions, such as a conversation about non-work-related topics, are extremely powerful. Everyone can benefit from being seen, respected, valued. As employees and humans.
What effects do you have on display in your work area? Do they represent you well and would they prompt meaningful conversation? A couple of the astronaut displays did contain awards and accolades, but the vast majority of the objects were items that revealed unique interests or hobbies. They offered a glance into a personality; they did not highlight past accomplishments.
As you consider your workspace, what artifacts might you display that will prompt others to connect with you beyond your role?