One of our five practices is Owning Your Impact: Your impact is how people experience you, what makes you compelling and what people say about you when you are not in the room. You need to own this! And be responsible for what you create. Why? Because you are impacting others all the time – whether you realize it or not.
Leaders especially are impacting those around them. Everyone is watching you and gathering clues – you are always messaging, in both intended and unintended ways. It’s important to reflect on the messages are you sending, and whether they are limiting or boosting those around you.
As we share in our book, Debbie realized her impact one day when she was the chief people officer of a high-tech company. Her executive assistant gave her feedback that people on the team thought she was in a bad mood. When Debbie asked, “What’s that all about?” the EA commented that she’d failed to say “good morning” to folks on her way into the office. When she had walked in that morning, Debbie had just finished a distracting phone call. She had created an unintended impact on those around her. The team knew she cared about them, but on that morning, she was unavailable to them. In the absence of context, people began to make up stuff about Debbie and how she was feeling towards them.
Believe it or not, you are impacting others all the time. It’s true. You create an impact when you walk into a room. If you have positional power—if you’re a leader, a manager, someone who makes decisions for all or part of your organization—people are paying particular attention to your behavior. Sometimes your impact is intended, and sometimes it is not. When it is intended, you create the effect you mean to. Unintended? Like Debbie in the story above, you have no idea of your effect on people or a situation.
We love the word “unintended,” because it’s so human. An unintended impact is just that: accidental, unplanned, inadvertent. It takes some conscious awareness for you to notice your impact.
This is a great place to begin to notice two things:
- What is the impact you are having? Are you aware of the atmosphere you are creating? How are you showing up to create that or not?
- And, is this the impact you want to have? If the atmosphere you’ve created is unintended, then get clear on the impact you do want to have, and how you will make that happen.
To help you create awareness about your impact, ask yourself:
- What impact am I having?
- Is that the impact that I want to have?
- If not, what is the impact that I want to have?
If you are not sure about the impact you are having then choose 3-5 people and ask them:
- How would you describe me to a stranger?
- What adjectives or phrases do you associate with me?
- How would you describe my conversational style? Personality? Interests? Skills or experience?
Do not judge what you are hearing. This is potentially valuable feedback. Thank them for their thoughtfulness. YOU get to decide what values and characteristics you want to choose for yourself.
Rest assured, you ARE having an impact. Now comes the discernment – are you having the impact you want? Get curious. Then choose. It all begins with YOU.
Humanity works because of you!
Kate and Debbie