High performance; everyone talks about it, but what does it really look like in practice? Here is my story of Habit #5, Influence:
No man or woman is an island, though we might occasionally wish we were! When the action or inactions of those around us frustrate us, we’re tempted to imagine that life would be easier if we were in total control - but that’s a fallacy. We need one another to accomplish our dreams – and how we influence others and are ourselves influenced is what makes our dreams reality.
Most of us have been lucky enough to cross paths with at least one great influencer in our lives – a person whose example helped us to become better than we were before we met them. Sometimes it’s a parent or a teacher, or a great boss or a mentor who goes out of his or her way to listen and advise. But often the most powerful influencers in our lives are those who lead by example; the people whose commitment, kindness and generosity of spirit let us glimpse the light of the divine spark that animates us all. I’ve been profoundly blessed to encounter several of these earthly angels in my life, and their faces and voices come to mind whenever I find myself at a crossroads trying to choose the right direction. I like to think I’ve been that person for a few people, too, but so often we don’t realize our own influence on others.
As a leader, you influence people every day, simply by who and how you are. Your respect (or lack of it) for those working under you decides how they will treat those under them. Your interest in their opinions, your willingness to hear them out even when they differ with you, shapes their self-esteem – and either opens you up to being influenced, or closes you off from others’ ideas and inspirations.
Are you goal-centered? Mission-centered? Do you openly and enthusiastically share those goals and that mission with those around you? Do you help them to understand their place in accomplishing these goals, and how essential their contribution is? Are you optimistic and positive in how you face the challenges you come across when working with others, or are you negative and pessimistic in your outlook? In choosing how you present yourself in the world and the workplace, you’re not only setting the tone – you’re setting the limitations.
Influence always runs in both directions, whether we’re looking for it or looking to pass it on to others. At some point in life, each of us will have to reach out a hand for help – and each of us has to be ready to reach out to offer a hand back. The most powerful influencers for good are those who look at others through soft eyes; who encourage, who empower through love. As Brendon Burchard says, “The greatest tool for change is kindness.” When we bring love into our interactions and give others the gifts of our listening ear and our open heart, we influence them to take those gifts and build on them. We literally make the world a better place as that kindness is paid forward.
When I was a hospice executive director, I always told our staff that the greatest compliment they could ever get from a patient’s family was when those loved ones said after the death, “I’m proud of what I did for Mom/Dad”. That meant we’d done our job –which was not to take over responsibilities of the family members, but to help INFLUENCE them to fulfill those responsibilities to the best of their ability.