I was recently at a networking meeting where there was a guest speaker. I had travelled some miles to go to this meeting because I was super excited. The guest speaker was a highly successful small business owner like me – but he was ahead of where I am – in terms of revenue – he was into the multi millions, and we are not quite at that point yet!
I met a few other people at the event and they seemed equally excited to be about to listen to this highly successful millionaire. The crowd hushed – he was introduced – he smiled and opened his mouth to say his first words……and that’s when it all started to go wrong!
You see, here’s what happened. He spent the next 20 minutes telling us about how amazing he was. He bragged and boasted about his lifestyle and his possessions. I guess he thought he was motivating people, and I guess there were a few people who were excited by that, but the vast majority sat there thinking “Well it’s great you have a helicopter, but I don’t even have a car I can rely on, and you’re not telling me anything that’s going to help me change that”.
I saw people get up and leave the room. The audience participation dwindled to a few devotees. And afterwards at the drinks reception all I heard was “big mouth”, “show off”, “arrogant”.
And that’s a shame – because if you could get past the bragging and listen to the great information that was actually there in his presentation, then there were some golden nuggets. I persisted because, even though I also found him difficult to listen to, I knew that he had to know some cool stuff to get where he is. However, I totally understood why some of the other people left. Had the guy not been as successful as he is, I think he’d had been playing to an empty room by the end.
And it made me wonder, how many other ‘leaders’ are unaware of the impact they are having. Now I cant say for certain that this chap actually cared a jot about the impact he was having. Perhaps he didn’t. In which case – no problem for him.
However, if he DID want to actually offer some benefit to others. If he hoped to inspire people to follow in his path. If he wanted to recruit people into his business. Then he went about it the exact wrong way. Rather than thinking about what THEY needed to hear, he only thought about what HE wanted to say.
He didn’t understand his audience. And that’s a problem. If you want to lead people and expand your business, then you need to understand the people on your team. You need to meet them where they are at. And that is no doubt, individual for each person.
You need to show empathy and understanding.
If this man had thought about it, the people coming to hear him speak were just a bunch of regular small business owners, some more successful than others but none in his league. What they wanted to hear was how he had once been like them, until he figured some stuff out, and then he found success. They wanted some golden nuggets for sure (which were in there), but most of all they wanted to feel understood.
They didn’t want to feel like big fat losers. Which is how he made them feel with his approach. They felt like he was throwing his success in their faces in a way which almost said – “Why are you playing so small? What is wrong with you that your business can’t give you all of this stuff that I have”.
As I said – I’m pretty sure it wasn’t his intention to have that impact on them.
The other lesson here of course, is that if you are aware of others impact on you, and you can manage that appropriately then you can still get what you want out of an interaction.
Most of the people at the event seemed to have gone there to learn from this guy. Very few did. They allowed the impact he had on them to undermine their hopes of what they wanted from the event. They undermined themselves! This happens a lot.
Perhaps you have a colleague or business partner that has a certain impact on you. That can be positive or negative. If you do not take ownership of your response to them then you are giving away your power.
For example, I once had a colleague at work who cheered up everyones day. He was the office piece of sunshine. And everyone relied on him to bring the mood up. There was one person in particular who came to rely on Charlie for their daily dose of optimism. When Charlie moved on, this person struggled to cope. Literally. And they left not long afterwards.
More often the opposite is true. Perhaps you have a colleague who drives you mad. You might find you are spend time complaining about them, worrying about them or looking for ways to sabotage them or at least avoid them. What you may have missed out on is their strengths (everyone has them).
I once had a colleague who got up everyone’s nose. They were always buying the latest gadget and showing it to everyone, in minute detail! And they were renowned for avoiding as much work as possible. I decided I would invite them for lunch as perhaps if I knew them better, it would be easier for me to work with them.
Well, it was an eye opener. This guy was isolated. He had no-one in his life and the only way he got any self esteem was to buy himself all the latest stuff so he would get some attention from others. Now I have to be honest and say he didn’t become my best friend after that lunch. However, what I did realise was that he wasn’t lazy when it came to doing all the paperwork, it was just that his only interaction in life was with the people he met in and through work. He also had great attention to detail and was very organised. So, we made him ‘social secretary’.
He ended up doing a great job and changing many people’s opinion of him. He was unaware of the impact he previously had. But equally the team had been missing out on his skills because they dismissed him out of hand, as boring.
So, my question to you this week is – are you aware of the impact you are having? If you aren’t getting the results you want from your team it can be difficult to objectively understand why. Drop me a line to [email protected] and let’s book in a call where I can give you some advice on understanding the impact you are having as a leader.
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Julie Hutchison is co-Director with Jan Sargent of Transforming Performance, a consultancy which provides businesses with expert support in Leadership Coaching, Team Development and Performance Coaching, Executive Coaching, Mentoring, Training and Behavioural Profiling and help in getting the best from you and your people. If you’d like to have a chat and a coffee to discuss how we can help you, we’d love to talk. Call us on:
01722 484155 or 07947 823842