Posts Tagged ‘Influence’

Humble PieI had a kind, good person at work send me an email today concerned about some things I had said recently.  She feared that my remarks could be harmful if taken in a way that pitted one group against another.  While that was not my intent in making the remarks, I can certainly understand where she was coming from.  I thanked her for the comments and the manner in which she shared them and felt duly and appropriately chastised.  I was reminded that it is difficult trying to find that balance between being a change agent affecting how communication happens in a large company while maintaining good working relationships with all, including those with whom you disagree.

It is amazing how open to correction one can be when coming from a trusted source whom you respect and with whom you have a good relationship.  Had the same email come from someone I regularly did battle with, I would not have been as receptive to the correction.

None of us is perfect.  Far from it.  We have our strengths and we have our weaknesses.  We like to be reminded of and praised for our strengths, but as a rule we don’t care much for others pointing out where we fail.  Still, we need people who will do that in a kind and gentle way.  As a former pastor of mine used to say, it’s like someone throwing a velvet-covered brick at you – not as hurtful as the raw brick by itself, but it still packs a wallop.

I’ll take the words of this colleague to heart and try to be more mindful of how my words influence others, for good or bad.  I thank her for today’s leap year lesson #347: Humble pie tastes bad, but it’s good for you.

Who inspires you?  I was reminded on a very long run today that inspiration can come from a variety of sources, some of them very unexpected.

While on my longest run of the year today – a little more than a half-marathon distance at 13.33 miles – I could not help but think of the chubby 12-year-old boy, Nathan, currently highlighted in a Nike commercial about greatness.  In the commercial, the boy keeps running toward the camera as the narrator talks about greatness.  I can’t tell you how many times today on my run I thought of that boy when I would get to a very tired point and wanted to stop.  Today, Nathan was an inspiration to me.

Also while running at a nearby park today, a large group of Marines was there for a long time going through various drills.  At one point they left their workouts on the interior of the track loop and ran once around the loop, passing me by.  One of the leaders was wearing a shirt that read on the back “Pain is weakness leaving the body.”  So not only did I have a chubby 12-year-old to nudge me to keep running, but I had a whole slew of fit, enthusiastic Marines going through drills I could never complete as an encouragement to keep going.

I don’t know if you run or not, but I’m sure you still have people who inspire you.  For physical feats, people who inspire don’t have to be Olympic gold medalists.  They can be quite ordinary.  For other types of inspiration – models of character, kindness, work ethic, generosity, learning, talent and a host of other areas – people who inspire you can come from all walks of life, backgrounds and experiences.

That means that you, too, may be an inspiration to others.  Are you?

Leap year lesson #220 is Anyone can be an inspiration to others.

In the late 1990s I was the training manager for two Kentucky locations of an international computer training company.  I had a little over 20 trainers reporting to me.  It was a good experience and I think I did a good job representing the needs of the trainers to management and representing the needs of the management and business to the trainers.  I had good relationships with everyone.  I left that role feeling good about what I had done there.

In my current role, I have nobody that reports to me.  I don’t really aspire to management, although I’d consider it if asked.  I love what I do and it isn’t arrogant to say that I know I’m good at it.

Does the difference in people reporting to me mean I have less influence in my current role managing nobody compared to the previous company where I managed over 20 people?  No.  Not by a long shot.  The reality is that my current role as community manager for a 20,000 member online community gives me the opportunity for great influence and the responsibility that goes along with that.

Perhaps some in the community see me as having positional power within the community, and I suppose they are correct.  But far more important to me is to be a positive influence that helps people cooperate, collaborate and connect together in ways that benefit both them and the business.  I don’t care much about having power.  I do care about having influence.

When you look back on the people that have been most influential in your life outside the obvious family members, chances are pretty good that the ones with the greatest impact have not been in positions of great power, but rather they have been influential in other ways.  The good news is that everyone has the ability to be a positive influence on others regardless of the position they hold in their work or community.  Such influence is earned through trust and demonstrating expertise, wisdom and good judgment over time.

Leap year lesson #210 is Choose influence over power.

As pervasive as social media is today, a majority of the people on earth still don’t use it.  That’s hard to imagine for some of us whose work lives and much of personal lives seem to revolve around it, but it’s true.  Facebook’s nearly 1 billion users is a genuinely impressive number, but so is the 6 billion not using it.

Some don’t use social media because they do not have access to it.  They are in underdeveloped countries without the technology, or they don’t have the personal resources to spend what it takes to be online, or their countries don’t allow them to use it, or their lives are following paths and work and pursuits that have no need for it, or – gasp – they just choose not to even though they have the access and means to do so.

It is the last group – the ones who choose not to use it – to whom I plead they reconsider.  For them to do so requires that we address the “What’s in it for me?” question they may well have.

The overly simplistic graphic I created above shows in the smaller blue circles the world of relationships and connections in which most people on earth live.  It consists of friends, family, coworkers and others we know or have access to through various direct or indirect channels.  The small blue circles describe the connections for the shepherd in a field, the leader of a tribe, the worker on an assembly line, the knowledge worker or the president of a country.

If one chooses, however, to take advantage of the world of social media, then the potential for personal connections, information, knowledge exchange and extending your own influence literally has no earthly boundary, at least among others who also choose to extend their world through social media.

Why would anyone choose less knowledge, less information, less influence, less efficiency, fewer contacts, and a host of other less-than-optimal resources when so much more is just waiting for them on the other side of a keyboard?

I wish more were excited about the reality of and the possibilities that come from leap year lesson #145 – Social media brings the world to you.

This will be a morbid post for some, but for me, it’s a reality check.

On many of my trips back home to Winchester, Kentucky I take a few minutes to privately visit the graves of family members.  I stop in front of each grave and either silently or audibly say a few thoughts of gratitude for that person.  It’s a good opportunity to relive fond memories and anticipate future ones.

After a little while of visiting the graves of grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, a nephew, a brother I never met and a sister lost way too soon, I walk over to a nearby area with no graves (pictured here).  It has no graves yet because it contains the plots my wife and I purchased 30 years ago for ourselves.

While standing in the section where I will be buried, my thoughts change from the past to the future.  I hope I have decades left to work and play and love and make a difference.  But I am not guaranteed another day on this earth.  Neither are you.

Some avoid thinking about such a reality.  Some respond by living hedonistic lives grabbing what they can before they’re forced to let it go.  I choose to stand on that empty ground and pray for wisdom in how to make a positive difference in the lives of my family, friends, work and church with however much time I am granted in the future.  I pray that I put aside past sins and bad choices that interfered with making as big a difference in the past as I might have made otherwise.

I’m long past the time of life when I’m trying to be successful as most would define success.  It’s time to be significant instead, focusing on the positive difference I can make in the world and in the lives of others.

Leap year lesson #127 is You don’t have forever to make a difference.  So you’d better now start if you haven’t already.