I once took part in a clean up effort for local water channels. I was told that we’d be pulling out debris and litter from shallow canals to help the water flow better. When our small group of 5 arrived at the canal – armed with nothing but latex gloves, poker sticks, and hefty bags – the methane-fart smell of the polluted waterway told us this would not be a walk in the park. However, one of the quieter people in our group that we didn’t know changed all that. He put on his knee-high rubber galoshes and kitchen gloves and jumped right into the muck. He was pulling out condoms, tennis balls, fishing line, bags, and anything else that you can imagine. Before I knew it, another group member followed him in. And then another. And another. At this point, I had to step up and join in.
Leaders don’t talk about change – they lead it from the inside out. This opportunity might look like a conflict between a group of people you work with, a category of items that are very hard to sell and are avoided by most employees, or an intimidating change in a process that people are evading. Influential leaders ignore the intimidating or unpleasant nature of these tasks; instead they bite their lip and jump right in.
Want to be an influential leader? Put on your galoshes, jump into an undesirable scenario, and lead change from the inside out! Throw yourself into the fire!
I am working towards my next promotion at work. In preparation for this, I’ve been spending time going through mock interviews. Recently, one interviewer gave me this question: “As a manager, it is often said that you can influence 10% of change. Where would you focus this effort to get your maximum impact?”
So…where would you focus? Whether you’re looking at being a retail manager or coach or entreprenaur or whatever… where would you focus?
My mind raced at the sound of this question… there are so many things that are important to a business! I could respond with visual merchandizing, progressiveness/change management, forecasting, marketing… so many hugely important things… but I stepped back for a second and listened to my gut…” people.”
The most important step in leadership is investing in your people. You are only as good as your people. As a leader, your success needs to be measured by the success of your people. Being an advocate, a developer, a teacher, a friend, a coach, and a motivator – these are contagious behaviors that create a culture of success in any leadership position – and it is perpetuating. People helping people (cheesy youtube video – beware!).
The other key to success as a leader is having a growth mindset. This includes believing that people can becoming better, more, stronger, and that people have a limitless capacity. Even if people struggle with growing – this will set you up for the best way to invest in those around you as well as yourself. Think about athletes: Athletes are always training to improve. They do not simply tell themselves “my muscles simply cannot get stronger.” That fixed mindset is so limited. They continue to strive for betterness.
So, fellow leaders: Strive for more, invest in your people, and believe in those around you. Grow your people, be an advocate, and be good to everyone around you. And have fun doing it! Everything else can come out of these two qualities. Lives are being changed and you’re driving your metrics and success simultaneously. People helping people.
I’m a big football fan.
Recently, my favorite team, the Chicago Bears, hired a new coach named Marc Trestman. As with any new coach of a football team, Trestman has the huge responsibility of molding his team to his vision. Anyways… recently the Chicago Tribune published a newspaper headline that caught my attention in ways beyond football:
“Trestman whiffs on chance to make point”
I began to apply this to non-football life. I wonder… how often can that headline pertain to us in situations around leadership? How easily could our name be substituted for Trestman’s? “Matt whiffs on chance to make point.” The opposite could also work: “Matt succeeds on chance to make point.”
Every moment is a chance for us to mold the world around us to our vision, passion, and dreams. We can whiff or we can hit. How often do you consider each and every moment an opportunity to influence?
A cool TED talk on everyday leadership. Give it a watch – this guy has an interesting perspective on how everyone can be a leader.
We are powerful beyond measure and it starts with one person. I like it.