It’s practically impossible to watch a British movie or TV show without someone inviting someone else to sit down and, “Have a nice cup of tea.” All around the world, people make warm drinks like coffee and tea the essential component of their assemblies—from kaffeeklatsches to tea parties.
Often tea or coffee is offered as a health remedy and more often to calm nerves, reduce stress, or simply make someone feel better. And more often than not, hot drinks do the trick.
A few years back researchers John A. Bargh and Lawrence Williams conducted studies suggesting that people who briefly held a cup of hot coffee in their hands perceived other people as being significantly warmer than those they encountered after holding an iced drink. Bargh explains:
It appears that the effect of physical temperature is not just on how we see others, it affects our own behavior as well. Physical warmth can make us see others as warmer people, but also cause us to be warmer—more generous and trusting—as well.
Lawrence Williams, Bargh’s partner in the study, explains in the video below, that factors beyond our control as well as influences we are not aware of, such as simply holding a warm or cold beverage, can not only affect our attitudes toward strangers but also the degree of generosity we express.
Before anyone reading this makes a rule about always serving hot tea or coffee at every employee coaching or feedback session, consider people who don’t like coffee or tea. Forget about the temperature, an unwanted cup, hot or cold, won’t change anyone’s heart.
Stronger than tea, coffee, or any other comfort food or drink, however, is the thoughtful gesture of giving people what they prefer. To do so leaders have to first know what their team members want. Leadership Intimacy—the intimate and accurate understanding of self and others—never fails to warm.
Do you know their future aspirations? Their biggest challenge at work? How they want to be recognized? Do they prefer you write to them when delegating a task, or is a verbal conversation better? Do you support their specific development journey? Heck, do you know their favorite order of coffee or tea from Starbucks?
I encourage you now to gather preferences and start treating your team members as individuals. Stop generalizing and start customizing your leadership approach to align to them! Best of luck in your journey towards Leadership Intimacy!
Not unlike the emotional intelligence model of Daniel Goleman, Leadership Intimacy covers four areas of business competency: Self Intimacy, Organizational Intimacy, Social Intimacy, and Influential Intimacy. To really understand emotional intelligence and Leadership Intimacy, please look into how you can learn both alongside other leaders like our CoachQuest Leader-as-Coach Workshop.