While in the gym this morning (inspired by the Olympics!), I took a break from reading—looking up to distract myself from how hard the last five minutes of my elliptical workout was feeling. I noticed the staff person at the reception desk was standing at the end of the counter looking down, doing something with his phone that was holding his full attention. Over the next few minutes, I observed about twelve people come into the gym. There’s an electronic check-in and they each checked-in and then looked up at him. They watched him as they took the ten or so steps past him on to their workout destinations. It occurred to me that they were expecting to catch his eye—perhaps to greet him or to be greeted. He never looked up.

After about four minutes, a woman walked by on the other side of the counter—leaving the gym. She called out:  “Have a nice day!” That got his attention. He looked up and said: “You too!” Then something interesting happened. He energetically greeted the next three people who walked in! Then someone approached him to purchase something. I was done with my last five minutes so I gathered up my book, towel, and water to leave. As I walked by, he was in a lively conversation with the purchaser, attentive and engaged.

We need to act first! There is so much power in initiative! Yet, more often than not, we wait for someone else to take the first step, make the call, ask the question. If everyone who had walked into that gym had proactively greeted the young man at the counter, or been greeted first by him, it would have changed the whole experience of the morning for all of them. Our acting first can change things for others.

Relationships are the most important currency nonprofit leaders attract. You, as board members, executive directors, staff or volunteers, influence the quantity and quality of the relationships your nonprofit has with the people who care about, or could care about, the mission you care about. Today, watch for opportunities to make the first move. Be the first one to say hello. Be the first to invite that person you have planned to connect with for coffee. Do something first! Then, reflect on how it made a difference and, please, get back to me and the other readers and let us know about it. Let’s share some stories!