If you follow my weekly blog, you know that I’ve been anticipating a conversation with my colleague and friend Steve White. Steve and I share a passion for leading life with purpose. A leadership practice that’s critical to this focus on purpose is living with intentionality about influence.
So when we joined each other for a chat during my LinkedIn series Off the Rak, my first question out of the chute was to ask him why having an influence on others has been important to him throughout his career. He answered with such conviction and inspiration that I told him we could have ended the interview with him having answered only the one question!
It’s such a powerful answer that I want to share it with you. Steve explained that he wanted my listeners to know what he tells his ten-year-old son, Stevie.
Influence is about the “who question.”
He says, “Stevie, the five or six people you spend the most time with, that’s who you’ll become. Let me say it again. The five or six people you spend the most time with, that’s who you’ll become.” Steve added that our time is so limited in life that we have to be diligent about answering the “who question” when we evaluate our circle of friends or colleagues for positivity.
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Influence is about overdelivering on the good.
“People are already doing enough damage to themselves because our brains often are wired to think about the negative. As a leader, my job is to see things in people that sometimes even they don’t see in themselves. I have to overdeliver in the area of positive feedback,” Steve said. So after you ask who’s pouring into you, take a look at how often you’re pouring into others. It doesn’t take long to locate research that shows how feedback about someone’s strengths is tied to greater profitability, higher performance, a desire to work harder, and greater personal fulfillment. Why leaders withhold timely feedback is a mystery.
Influence is about a creating a positive legacy.
When you exhibit positive leadership and fill your ranks with equally optimistic people, others who share the same values are attracted to working with you. “And once they’re attracted to you, you can pour into them in a very, very positive way and help them find their true purpose. Because, let’s be honest, we’re all on this earth for a reason, and I truly don’t believe we’re here just for ourselves.” Once Steve realized that he could choose who impacted him as well as how much he could positively affect others, he multiplied that equation by making himself a compelling leader to more and more positive team members—effectively expanding his influence.
Steve went on to say that he appreciated my question because it’s a great reminder that we all should constantly do an inventory of who we are spending time with, and if they’re not reinforcing our values, we need to question our investment of time in them. He added the caveat that you shouldn’t be looking only for the people who look through rose-colored glasses but also for the circle of friends and colleagues who give you constructive feedback when you need it.
Steve’s answer couldn’t have come at a better time. If our tendency to focus on the negative isn’t challenging enough, local and international events offer no shortage of heartbreaking news that confronts our ability to simply be cautiously hopeful in spite of it all.
In fact, when I met with my team recently and they asked me what was on my mind, I couldn’t help but say how struck I was by the amount of hatred I was observing in the world. Hearing Steve talk about how necessary it is to find positivity in the people you surround yourself with and to overdeliver on the optimism you provide others hit me right when I needed to hear it. I hope it is good timing for you, too, and helps you in the coming months as we draw 2023 to a close.