On the Platform

It’s 7.30 AM and the platform is full of school kids and commuters. A number of boys of about twelve stand close to each other, they seem half asleep. Once in a while one of them utters a single word but nobody reacts.

Two boys walk along the platform toward the small group. I notice the blond, wakeful kid raises a finger when he approaches the group. He pulls a face like he’s about to reveal the end of an exciting movie and says a few words. The attention of the whole group turns towards this newcomer, their circle opens as if on its own accord. The kid steps right in the middle and tells his story while continuously turning around to address every kid. One of them says something back, another punches him in the side, a third looks from one to the other. It strikes me that everybody reacts.

Many a manager would be jealous of this kid. How on earth does he get everybody’s attention so effortlessly? It would make their life a lot easier if they could do what this kid does. But isn’t this also a matter of personality?

The kid’s pal is a different type. He remains outside the group, says nothing, just looks on quietly. Only after a while one of the words that bounce from one to the other is directed towards him and he then delivers a short, clearly audible comment. And with those few words he’s automatically engulfed by the circle of boys. I recognize myself more in the behaviour of this boy and am happy to see that he too acquires his position smoothly.

My thoughts drift off to the discomfort of Leon in his new job as manager operations in a large unit. When he wants to ask or tell a group of people something, his ability to connect and realize what he’s come for is continuously tested. Leon tends to become slightly loud when he asks for attention and to want the encounters to be ‘nice’, which leads to artificial, painful situations.

Neither of the two boys uses large arm movements, shouts from afar, or talks fanciful or purposefully witty. They have different styles but both of them combine a subdued performance with content that is interesting, cool or important. People open themselves for that immediately, effortlessly.

I would so love to see the situations in which these boys will be operating in 15 years and which roles they will have adopted. I have my predictions but you never know.