The Catalyst and Influencer

I mentioned in an earlier post that you can’t change people, unless you apply coercion, which rarely works, and when it does, it does not last. Or, you can influence others within the context of trust, respect and love. Today’s post is about that second option – Influence.

John Maxwell’s definition of leadership is influence, nothing more, and nothing less. I agree that this is the essence of leadership, there are other elements involved. But without influence, you aren’t leading. He who thinks he is leading without anyone following is merely taking a walk. We all influence people at different times during our lives. Sometimes for good, sometimes for bad. Therefore, a corollary would say that we are all leaders as well.

I would recommend any of John Maxwell’s books for a simple no nonsense treatise on leadership and people skills. One of those books is Becoming a Person of Influence, co-written with Jim Dornan. Within they use an acronym to describe the qualities of an Influencer.

A Person of Influence, or Influencer…

Integrity
Nurtures
Faith in people
Listens
Understands
Enlarges
Navigates
Connects
Empowers
Reproduces

Needless to say, an influencer is a quality person. It is some who endears themselves to others. They have the ability to connect with both individuals, one to one, and the masses. They value trust, respect and love, and show it in their actions. One of the best definitions of love is sincerely and selflessly wanting the best for other people. An influencer, or leader, embodies this. With this kind of definition, which raises the bar considerably, it is apparent that a lot who claim the word leader as a title are merely taking a walk. They might indeed have throngs of people “following” them, but they are following for the handfuls of bread they’re being promised rather than being a part of something greater than themselves. A leader has their best interests at heart, not an agenda that elevates the leader.

A leader has catalytic properties. A catalyst is a substance that increases the rate of a chemical reaction without itself undergoing any permanent chemical change. In human terms, it is a person who precipitates an event. (I also believe that catalytic individual also changes in the process of influencing others. They grow through the process as well.) For our purposes, a catalyst is someone who is a force of nature. Add them to the mix, and things happen. Things get done. And the folks involved are all the better for this person being in their lives. Make no mistake, leadership involves the pursuit of an objective, and mobilizing people to pursuing that objective. But a good leader doesn’t just utilize people as resources to meet that objective. The people and their well being in the pursuit of that objective is part of the objective. If the people have not grown in the process, then the objective will be of no consequence. It would be just a thing. Pursuing a goal will only lead to growth if the people involved in reaching that goal have grown, too.

Becoming a person of influence and catalyst takes some effort. People are not just born with this kind of dynamic. Leaders will tell you that wise choices, good mentors, deliberate deep practice, and shaping events have chiseled them into what they are. It’s more about the nurture than the nature. One might have a personality that precipitates this kind of development sooner, but make no mistake, where they are took much directed effort.

I leave you with a question: If you want to make a difference in the people’s lives around you, what kind of practices are you establishing so as to be a catalyst in those who are important to you?

Changes begin with Choices

How to change somebody….well, you can’t. Not really. As I mentioned in a previous post, the only way to change somebody is through coercion, which doesn’t work long term, in fact, it is exceptionally short term. The other way to change somebody is through consistent influence based on trust, respect, and love. And that takes some emotional capital and effort on the part of the one wanting to change the other, (as well as effort of the other.)

But here’s a thought….rather than trying to change someone else, how about trying to change yourself? You’ve heard that before, again, it’s almost cliché. Gandhi said it. “Be the change you want to see in the world.” You are at the center of your circle of influence. You might be able to influence those closest to you, even those not as close. But you are the one you can influence most.

This will be one in a series of posts on change. Steven Covey, in his prolific book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, organized his habits into two camps, Private Victory, and Public Victory. Private victory is primarily about self leadership; taking responsibility for your life, having a vision for your life, and prioritizing your life. It would be necessary to get a few wins under you belt in this arena/camp before you would be able to make any real progress in the Public Victory camp. Character does indeed count. So before affecting real change in this world, it begins with changes in your life first.

The first habit, Be Proactive, or said in another way, Take Responsibility for Your Life, is a keystone habit. In fact, I believe it is THE keystone habit. It mirrors Andy Andrews’ first decision of seven, The Responsible Decision: The Buck Stops Here. You have the Ability to choose your response. Response Ability. Rather than reacting to everything that happens to you, respond. To react means to act again. You are acting out the same patterns time and time again. Theese patterns have been hard wired into you. (Literally, residual neural pathways forming the fight or flight responses from bygone eras. Your annoying kids are not sabertooth tigers wanting to eat you. Really, they’re not.) Be proactive, not reactive.

You’d rather sleep in on a cold morning rather than wake up at 6:00 am and run a lap at the park? That’s a reaction….you’ve done that day after day after day. You have good intentions, and intentions are fundamental to change, but I takes more. Choose your response. The alarm goes off….choose to swing your legs over the side of the bed, sit up, touch your feet to the floor, push….and your up. Choose to do this. Fight the inertia. It is possible. I did it this morning. Yesterday too. And traditionally, I am NOT a morning person.

Staring at a blank page, or knowing that a perpetual blank page awaits you? Choose that first word, and then a second, third and fourth. Repeat. Honestly, I had know idea how this post would form itself until I just started with my first idea. You can edit later. But choose to write.

The double fudge chocolate chip brownie calling your name? Make a choice. Target weight or the temporary satiation of your taste buds or numbing a pain that you haven’t tackled head on yet. Your choice.

I know, sometimes it much more complicated than that. But regardless, however you decide to make a change in your life, it requires a choice to begin. A choice to stop making excuses. A choice to face a fear. A choice to get help, if needed. But choose a response.

Or don’t make a choice. That in itself is a choice. My favorite band, Rush, says it well.
“If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.”
Freewill from Permanent Waves, 1980

But not choosing is not a choice that will push you out of the rut to nowhere. Or out of the rut to where you do not want to be.

Your change begins with your choices. You have the ability to choose your response.

Choose wisely.

People…geesh.

“This job would be okay, if it weren’t for the customers!” says just about every retail worker on the planet. Well, maybe they never say it. But they do think it. Maybe not just retail workers. If you bleed and/or breathe or perform a combination of the two on a regular basis, then I bet you’ve thought it. Maybe you thoroughly love your job now and people are just wonderful. But at one time, you, too, were a card carrying member of the “I hate dealing with stupid people” club. If you never have been issued your card, just wait.

The point is, people can suck. Dealing with people can suck. Sure, there can be blessings, and lots of them. Usually it takes some years of suffering and some miles on the maturity gauge to get to a point where card carrying members  don’t need their card renewed because they have learned a few tricks. I’m not sure I have enough punches on my card to redeem it for the prize yet, but I’m learning a few things.

1.) On this side of eternity, it’s always going to suck. Two things about this. #1, A good chunk (notice I did not say majority) of people are always going to be selfish, needy, conniving, bitter, difficult and/or any combination of the aforementioned. We will always have difficult people with us. We can’t really fix them ourselves. #2, I kinda suck myself. And guess what? You kinda do, too. We all have our moments. Hopefully as we get some mileage, we have fewer sucky moments that we’re responsible for. But, if you’re breathing or bleeding, guess what? You’re also in the “I suck” club.

2.) Part of the reason people suck is that they live unmotivated lives. I used to think that these kind of people were lazy and entitled. (Some of them are.) Now I see that they just don’t have a big enough “Why” in their lives. Along the same vein, people who are born with the potential to be creative are not exercising their creative muscles. All folks are creative. ALL. Capital A Capital L Capital L Period. But fear, insecurity, and low self esteems prevent folks from exploring their creativity. Non existent creativity results in folks not solving problems. Including their day to day problems that put them in that sucky state of mind.

3.) You can’t change people. People have to want to change themselves. We’ve heard that so many times it’s almost cliché. But it’s true. Believe me, I’ve wanted to change so many lousy customers so badly, I could’ve throat punched them. But coercion never works. You may think coercion changes people, but it’s only temporary. Only influence from a safe relationship built on trust and respect, and yes, love, can begin to plant seeds of change, but it’s a interdependent relationship. Not a lot of folks want to invest that kind of emotional capital. That’s unfortunate, because it seems to me that a lot of these folks, especially the younger generation, need mentors in their lives.

So there are three things for now. We all suck. We’re unmotivated. We can’t change people.
Are there solutions or alternatives? I think there are. But my 500 words are up, and this is definitely a good intro to a “To be continued” kind of series. So for now…

Suck it up, buttercup!