There is an old story about a man who walks into a synagogue dressed in rags. He is barely noticed and those who do see him convey their coldness; no one makes room for him to sit down. Moments later a man walks into the same synagogue dressed in fine garments with gold rings on each finger and the people welcome him with open arms. Chris Van Gorder, CEO of Scripps Health, shares a story in his book The Front Line Leader of something that happened to him 30 years ago. Chris share’s his story with passion and detailed recollection.

As a nighttime security guard Chris was working in the basement of the hospital with no one else around. He looked up and saw the CEO walking toward him. Excited about the opportunity to meet him, Chris quickly straightens up his uniform. As the CEO approaches Chris stands tall only to have the CEO walk right past him as if he were not even there. Chris’s heart dropped, I suspect he felt a lot like the man who walked into the synagogue dressed in rags. Chris shares this story 30 years later to convey the importance of personally connecting with the people in the workplace. As leaders you cannot just connect with those at your peer level, or those you think can do something for you, you must connect with those you lead and those who are watching you lead.  We all want to feel valued regardless of our title.

In our lives we have all been guilty of investing only in those relationships that we see as either beneficial (adding value) or required. Required relationships can be those that are with our immediate family, after all we live with them day in day out. Required relationships are also those with our boss, or peers we interact with daily to get a job done. Beneficial relationships are not required; they are the relationships that we invest a bit of time in because we will get something out of them. Those relationships can be seen in both our personal and professional lives. You befriend a guy at the gym because he can get you tickets to the next big game or you befriend someone at work because when you need your project to rise to the top, he is the guy to know. There is nothing wrong with these types of relationships, but when they start to warp your thinking about the purpose of human relations, there is a problem. Chances are, just like in Chris’s case, if you view connections as a means to add value to your life, you will walk right past the security guards in your life.  Acknowledging others is not about me, it is about the other person.  By taking the time to show others that they are valued, I, in turn, gain a greater sense of my own value as a person.

As leaders we cannot choose to ignore those around us who do not wear the same title as us. We cannot just invest our time in those people whom we hope to gain benefit from. In our organizations every role counts.  From the front lines to the CEO’s office, genuine connections are the lubricant for gaining and sustaining success in your organization.  Many of you may excel at this, but it does not come naturally for me I have to be intentional about this discipline. I can get so caught up in my busy day, running from meeting to meeting, checking my smart phone while walking through the corridors, that I miss opportunities to connect. Pledge with me today to take notice of those around you, regardless of their position, influence, or appearance and make them feel valued.  In today’s world where more conversations are had electronically then in person let us not lose sight of how important human connections are We really can make a difference in each other’s lives, one connection at a time.




  1. Alli Polin | Reply

    When I was in college I went to see my dad at work. At the end of the day, we got in his car to leave and he said hello by name and chatted with the parking attendant who scanned his ticket. I asked, “how did you know his name?” My dad replied, “because I asked.”

    In that moment and on our drive home I saw that what makes a person great isn’t the ability to build relationships with people who are “worthy” but with all people.

    Over 20 years later it’s a lesson I’ll never forget. Thanks for brining it home in your post today.


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