When a black hole was imaged for the first time last month, no one geeked out harder than me. By day, I’m a communications professional, but I have a deep passion for space and science, which make me feel part of a larger whole and put life into perspective.
That thinking translates perfectly to my work in client relations. Here’s how:
Be open to everything. Awareness of our limits is awareness that what we know may be incomplete or wrong. Max Tegmark, noted MIT physicist said, “I’d rather have questions I can’t answer than answers I can’t question.” To guide a team that wants to follow you and to make clients want to work with you, you have to be open to everything. Answers come from unexpected places.
It’s Ok to say you don’t know. There’s no shame in admitting what you don’t know, because no one can possibly know everything. Science is born from humility, and leadership and knowledge are as well. I encourage my teams to admit they don’t know something, then go look for the answer. What’s important is to instill a culture of curiosity, allowing your teams to feel empowered to learn and grow. You can’t help your clients or cultivate your teams without constantly growing your knowledge.
Everything is relative. There’s a reason Einstein’s theory is called Special Relativity. It’s because it basically states nothing moves in time and space except in relation to other objects. The same is true for clients: What may be a big deal for one client or company may not be a big deal for another. Learning sensitivities is important, but what’s even more important is putting it all in perspective. At work and life, you learn the benchmarks for trouble relative to your past experiences. When things feel hopeless, take a step back and remember it’s all relative.
Always be reliable. Only one thing in science is totally unattainable: certainty. In fact, the scientific method is used to disprove, not prove, theories. Without certainty, we need something else to count on, and that measure is reliability. In science, reliability is defined as providing consistent results. This also applies to client service. Being on time, communicating clearly, staying positive but honest with your teams and clients, leads to stable and consistent results. I can’t guarantee what will happen tomorrow, but I can be a reliable resource regardless.
Stand on the shoulders of giants. Science is built on learnings passed down through the ages. From Democritus to Galileo to Newton to Einstein to Hawking, the hope of every true scientist is for the next generation to pick up the quest for knowledge. The same applies for true leaders. Any self-aware leader acknowledges her mentors, and provides a path for future employees to betterment. Great leaders build great teams. Great teams provide great client service.
More than anything, pursuing astronomy in my free time has served as an ongoing reminder that inspiration and new ideas often come from unexpected places. I encourage professionals of all backgrounds to make time for their hobbies and to try new experiences whenever possible. You never know what you’ll learn!
Thanks to Carol Rovelli and the final chapter of “Reality Is Not What It Seems” for helping me to sharpen my thoughts on this topic.