I've recently met several sports celebrities at different events (mostly golf tournaments) that I've been attending.
What I've noticed is the level of anxiety that people feel when they think about approaching a celebrity.
My friend Scott really wanted to meet Larry Robinson (a Canadian hockey player who played for Montreal in the 70s; he's currently employed by the San Jose Sharks). Scott was too shy to introduce himself and ask for a photo with Larry (Scott's dad is a huge fan of Larry's).
As you might imagine, I'm not shy, and I just walked up and spoke to Larry and asked if he would pose for a photo with Scott. He was very happy to do that. I later found myself sitting at the next table to Larry at dinner and several times he leaned in to chat with me. Scott was amazed that I didn't let Larry's fame intimidate me. He commented on how friendly Larry is.
Shortly thereafter, I was at a golf tournament featuring professional golfer John Daly. At the meet-and-greet, John was quite often all alone, while everyone around him chatted with each other. I'm guessing he was very uncomfortable standing there alone. People were afraid to approach him; they had their photo taken with him, then scurried away.
It occurred to me that in the workplace employees often feel the same kind of intimidation with senior management. They are afraid to chat, be friendly or even engage in any type of conversation short of "good morning." Everyone recognizes the CEO or the CFO, but few would sit down and join them for a coffee in the lunchroom.
Why? What have you got to lose by being friendly? What have you got to lose by inviting the CEO to have a coffee with you in the lunchroom?
Whether someone is a sports celebrity or a senior executive, you should not let fear prevent you from approaching them. If you currently support people in the C-suite, you already know these executives are just regular people who are more than happy to chat with anyone in the company. There is nothing really special about them.
In fact, they likely feel awkward when people are afraid to speak to them. When John Daly was just standing there, I knew he felt uncomfortable. It was a meet-and-greet and no one was chatting with him. Anyone would feel awkward in that situation, and someone approaching them to chat would be welcome relief.
So, say hello the next time you see your CEO in the elevator. Engage in conversation. Introduce yourself. What have you got to lose?
I personally have several photos of me with celebrities, a signed golf cap, books and great stories to tell others about some of the interesting famous people I have spoken to... all because I wasn't afraid to approach them and engage them in conversation.
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