I have been blessed to have met many very influential people during my lifetime. Many are Vistage speakers who have accomplished much and are now giving back to others by sharing their experiences and learning with other CEOs. Others are current CEOs who have overcome huge obstacles to achieve success. Some are professional athletes or celebrities who have influenced fans and followers around the world. Others are local heroes in the community who influence through sacrifice and serving others.
We expect these types of high-profile people to have an impact on others. What is often forgotten is the impact that each and every leader has on those around them. I am certainly not “high profile”, and yet I cannot count the number of times people have come up to me to thank me for the impact I have had on their life. It’s very humbling, as I can’t even recall some of their names or where we may have met. I certainly did not feel at the time of the situation they described that it could be a life-changing experience!
Who are these people I have impacted? Sometimes it’s a former employee or client, and other times it is someone I met only briefly. Sometimes it is someone who heard me speak or read my blog whom I have never met in person.
What did I do to warrant this gratitude? Some of the stories are a result of a kind gesture I made or an encouraging word I shared. Some are because they felt I truly listened to them and gave them an opportunity to be heard. Others are a result of asking just the right question to get them thinking about something differently or seeing additional possibilities they had not yet considered. Sometimes it’s because they felt that I led by example and they recognized that I never asked anyone to do something I would not do myself. Or that I maintained a high level of integrity and consistency in my actions, so they always knew what to expect.
Whatever the case, the impact was significant enough that they wanted to let me know. Hearing those stories motivates me to continue to have that type of positive impact on others. What type of impact are you having on others at your company or in the community? Are you being the kind of leader who will have a positive impact on the lives of others?
As I was reading the paper this week, I was struck by some bizarre headlines. First, there was the mayor who admitted to using and purchasing illegal drugs and yet insisted that he was a positive role model for kids. Really? How interesting. He was also videotaped threatening to kill someone. He was asked to step down and has refused. He doesn’t sound like someone I’d like my kids to emulate!
Another bizarre headline this week was the announcement by London’s Metropolitan Police that the spy whose body was found stuffed inside a locked gym bag at the bottom of his bathtub, likely died in an accident with no one else involved. Huh? He died accidentally and then locked himself in a gym bag? That’s a trick even Houdini might have found challenging! What does that conclusion say about the judgment of that police department?
These bizarre headlines are just two examples of how we are bombarded with mixed messages from a variety of sources. While these types of stories might make for interesting discussions at the water cooler, they certainly do not increase confidence in the judgment or leadership abilities of the organizations involved.
What are your headlines saying about you? Are you inadvertently sending mixed messages to your employees and customers? If you step away and look at all of your messaging from an objective distance, what does it say about your leadership and judgment? Does it inspire confidence? Or does it just provide additional fodder for those water cooler discussions?
I used to think that billboards marred the beautiful scenery. However, once I had a small child, I changed my opinion completely. It was very helpful to play the alphabet game using the letters on billboards and signs. My version of the game was where we would start with the letter A and look for something in nature or a word on a sign that started with that letter, then we’d continue our way through the alphabet. If it weren’t for billboards, we never would be able to make it all of the way through the alphabet, since there weren’t too many natural things along the road that started with the letter X! This game kept my daughter engaged for hours at a time (before portable DVD players became available.)
I like digital billboards even more. It’s convenient that they can be changed frequently and quickly and with minimal effort. When I’m stuck in traffic, I appreciate that I do not have to read the same words over and over again, and can see messages from different companies. It helps the time pass more quickly, and helps me stay engaged. And I am quite sure it’s helping those companies gain business.
Sometimes it’s helpful to think of yourself and your company as a billboard. Are you sending the same message in the same manner over and over again? While that can be effective as a form of branding, be careful that your message has not become stale. My suggestion is that you change things up on a regular basis, aligned with your brand image.
You know the old story about the frog – if you put a frog in boiling water, he will immediately jump out. But if you put a frog in lukewarm water and gradually increase the heat, he will remain in the water until he cooks. Marketing messages can have the same impact on humans. If you make them too similar, too boring, and too much the same, no one will pay attention any more. However if you make the messages pop, look different and grab their attention, people will notice and jump into action.
Photo by: ucumari / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND