A survey of nearly two thousand people concluded that more than half of Americans haven’t written a letter in over five years. Yet for centuries, our rich history has been brought to light in great personal detail, thanks to numerous examples of private correspondence.
Because historians and contemporary authors alike have painstakingly surfaced many of these letters, we have a greater appreciation for the many milestones in our history and life-changing influence they had on their recipients. I’m sure I’ve benefited from these efforts since some of my favorite books are the result of this research.
While correspondence offers a rich look at our history, I began to think about how the future has been informed and influenced by letter writing.
You might recall a letter I’ve shared in the past from a former employee of Prologis. I’ll call her Rebecca. She was twenty-three years old when she started working for the company as a property accountant. Rebecca was hired just before we instituted a hiring freeze because we were heading into uncertain times, and she assumed she would be the first to go if there were layoffs. She recalled sitting in one of our first Prologis town hall meetings. While she didn’t remember all the details of our message, what stuck with her was the honesty of our management team.
My memory of that same town hall meeting was very similar to Rebecca’s. I was also anxious. So was the management team. We would have loved a crystal ball, but we didn’t have one. Instead, we candidly shared that the upcoming months weren’t going to be easy but that we cared deeply about all the employees who were trusting our leadership. I’m sure we confessed that we’d been losing sleep over the prospect of layoffs, but we expressed our optimism about working diligently to make the right decisions.
Rebecca’s letter went on to emphasize how she drew strength and determination from our leadership, which helped her keep the faith and focus on work rather than what-if scenarios. In her closing, she thanked us for helping shape her professionally and personally. You can imagine what a powerful experience this was for us to receive Rebecca’s letter and how much it continues to positively influence me years after receiving it.
Rebecca’s letter is a great example of a letter’s ability to influence. In this case, Rebecca’s intent was to thank us for influencing her, but in doing so, she’s had incredible influence on us. Her letter motivates me to similarly impact others and perpetuate that ripple effect.
Never miss a post about leadership, transparency, and trust by signing up for my weekly mailing list, delivered right to your inbox. Sign up here.
If you’ve read my book or posts, you’re familiar with an essential leadership framework that I call the 3H-Core, which helps center me. The three Hs stand for honesty, humility, and heart. Each of these leadership values closely aligns with the practice of letter writing and its ability to positively influence others.
One of the ways I like to put the 3H-Core into practice is to ask myself “How can I be positive and influence someone today?”
It’s easy to focus on the negative with all the input we experience from the media and other sources, but negative people don’t impact others in a positive way. That’s why I like to start my day meditating on this question before I open my inbox or look at the internet. John Wooden helps clarify this priority: “Time is precious. Time is limited. Time that is used in a negative manner is now not available to do something positive.”
In keeping with Wooden’s quote, make room for something positive at the beginning of your day by choosing someone to share an upbeat exchange with and to influence their outlook. Send a handwritten note or email and bring light to something small or significant that’s important to you. Chances are, if it meant something to you, recognizing it will mean something greater to your recipient and having a lasting effect.
This is the first installment in a three-part series on the power of influence through the written word. In this series, I highlight three practices that have become an important part of my daily routine. Read parts two and three.