Leaders leave legacies. Big ones, little ones, ones that last lifetimes. But too often, we don’t recognize the power we yield in small ways every day.
The other day, I was hiking in a forest near my home when I noticed a strange rustling sound around me. It was a quiet day. It was cool, so the birds weren’t chirping. And the air was still, as if the wind wouldn’t dare to take a breath. I could hear children laughing and cars driving in the distance, and the ever-present hum of the fans in a commercial building nearby. But I could also hear this rustling – every time I took a step.
It took me more than a few strides to realize that I was creating a breeze as I walked through the dried grass on the path. The rustling was the sound that came from my impact on the environment around me. Step. Rustle. Step. Rustle. Step. Rustle, It was only because of the silence, that I was able to notice that almost imperceptible effect.
As I walked deeper into the forest and the terrain changed, I reflected that leadership is similar to my experience on the dry grass path. Normally, the noise around us is loud. We go about our business every day, but don’t realize the impact we are having. We don’t recognize the breeze we are creating or the changes we are sparking in those around us.
I have held many leadership positions in my career, and have experienced the great joy of providing glowing references for my employees – especially when they have the opportunity to step into leadership roles for the first time. The pride in their eyes is worth the months it will take to replace them. The knowledge that I’ve helped another leader take flight is one of my favorite feelings in the world.
I invest a lot of time and energy in helping leaders grow. But I am always humbled when they share with me the small ways that I have had positive impacts on their lives and careers. It’s a “magic question” that I’ve asked, that day when the world was crashing around them and I was there with Kleenex and a shoulder, the stretch assignment that they would never have asked for. More often than not, the moments that matter to my employees were not moments I would have pointed to as important.
Whether you are leading a large team on a significant project or simply acting as a leader among your peers, remember that someone is always watching. We like to think about big dramatic actions of leaders as important – giving hard news, celebrating big victories, working in the trenches during a peak period. But it’s often the small, soft steps that you take, which can have the longest lasting impacts. Never underestimate the breeze you create.
Three ways to have positive impacts:
- Be present. Give 100% of your attention to the person with whom you are talking. Turn your phone to silent and flip it face-down (better yet, tuck it out of sight).
- Pay attention. When you’re meeting with your team, don’t check your email throughout the first few minutes when everyone is arriving. Engage. Get to know them. And make notes. If your dentist can “remember” the name of your spouse, kids, and dog, surely you can do that with your team.
- Share. I’m not saying spill the details from your last therapy session. But sharing details about your life give your team insight into who you are. It makes you human; it makes you trustworthy. And trust is one of the most important elements necessary for a high-performing team.
What positive impacts have leaders had on you?
Share your experiences in the comments below. I’d love to hear how your leaders have had small, but positive impacts on you. Or, share the most surprising thing an employee has told you – what positive impact did you have, without even realizing it.
Do you need a coach in your corner? Do you want to take charge of your career and grow into the exceptional leader your team deserves? Send me an email to book a free 30 minute consultation and let’s talk about how I can help you reach your goals.