Like all skills, qualities and attributes, being seen as the person capable of getting the job done can be as simple as counting the number of times you hear the question, “Do you work here?”—Or, even better—“Are you the manager?” when you’re just another customer.

After finishing up a swim workout, I jumped out of the pool, dried off, gathered my things and headed toward the exit. With my swim bag hooked on my shoulder, I noticed an older lady just finishing up her workout and asked, “How was it?”

“Good,” she said, “I’m heading to the Bahamas in March and I need to get ready.”

“I fit in most oversized luggage,” I said with an inviting smile, “I’ll even carry your luggage—I just need one meal a day,” I said as we laughed and I turned to walk away.

“Umm… excuse me, do you work here?” she asked in a sincere tone that left me feeling like she’d like to know when we might be able to reconnect.

“No, I don’t work here,” I said.

She looked confused, and so I added, “I just love people, and I enjoyed chatting with you. Have fun in the Bahamas!”

Why did she ask me if I worked there?

Was it the…

—Eye contact,

—Genuine “hello”,

—Sincere interest in how she was doing (her workout),

—Fun and engaging dialogue that ended with well wishes and no expectation of anything in return?

I suspect its all those qualities combined that left her feeling seen that did the trick. And, the great part is engaging in that way goes far beyond being seen as a leader—it elevates my spirits, inspires me and leaves me feeling connected.

There’s a ripple effect to such a great feeling.

Heck, I walked away from that experience smiling more and buzzing with positive energy. It was the perfect kind of energy to bring to my afternoon meetings.

Every word, nonverbal clue and action you project onto others sets you up to either be seen as someone people can trust, respect and ultimately want to work with, or not. While the big moments of visibility are important, the tiny ones added up far outweigh, even create, the bigger opportunities.

Each action or inaction serves as silent clues on your capability to lead effectively.

By being present, attentive and exuding positive energy wherever you find yourself, you wind up practicing the exact qualities you need to stand out as a leader. The question—“Do you work here?”—simply let’s you know that your behaviors are resonating with the qualities we look for in those we decide to follow.

The next time you’re in the grocery store, pharmacy, restaurant, or even at the airport, see if you can find a way to help, offer kind words, or simply ask how someone’s day is going. When you hear the words, “Do you work here?” let a smile grace your face as you silently cheer yourself on for demonstrating the qualities that not only make you stand out in a positive way, but also strengthen your self-esteem.

Here’s to your greatness,

Misti Burmeister

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