You’re working hard – making a living, but are you making a difference? That’s the question that bugged me early in my career as a change guide and leader.
At times, I felt discouraged and disappointed trying to create positive change at work. I let reality and the critics get me down. “Change is hard. Leaders are greedy for power and money. It’s a dog-eat-dog world. Work is about making money.”
Since then, 25 years have passed, and I’m still working on my positive impact. But I’ve changed my perspective – and my results. I have more positive impact nowadays!
Before you raise your brows and think: “Whoa, who does she think she is?”, let me tell you that you, too, make a difference by being WHO you are. However, to amplify your impact you have to unwrap your unique gift to the world. I hope to inspire you to do so with this blog about Positive Leadership, Culture, Change and New Organizations.
We don’t need to suffer anymore as our ancestors did from their hard factory or farm labor. We can go beyond surviving at work like our grandparents and parents did in those harsh hierarchies with strict bosses. It’s time for us to thrive at work and make a positive contribution to the world. Welcome to the 21st century.
There’s more than “what” meets the eye
But do we make a difference at all? When we assess whether what we do matters, we assess the “what” we achieve. Let’s assume you’re a change consultant or a new team leader. You’re on a mission to cut back on the red tape. After many efforts you judge: “This organization is still not working well. The change program to create a more agile culture and to become less bureaucratic failed.”
This conclusion may make you feel like YOU have failed – discouraged – as the first stage of becoming cynical. “Change never works – especially not in bureaucratic organizations with elderly staff – I did my best – but won’t try this again.”
You may be right. But you may be wrong!
Reality is complex – and we can’t see all the “whats” we cause to come into existence. If you subscribe to my mailing list, you can download my E-book about Making Your Difference and learn more! But let’s first continue this story:
Maybe your organizational change program doesn’t appear like a success on the surface. Maybe that official program never meant much to anyone involved. It was just something the CEO felt he had to try once, because the supervisory board thought it would be important to cut back on procedures, forms and number of lengthy meetings. It was unfeasible and radiated low energy from the beginning.
However, underneath this program that “failed” because you don’t see many “whats” changed (they still need two signatures to approve a small budget and they still have four meetings per week on average) you helped some people see things differently. Change is happening in unexpected and yet invisible ways. That’s not because of what you did as a change facilitator or team leader in that program, but because of WHO you are. That’s where your biggest positive impact is…
There’s Who you are
If you have unwrapped your unique gift you have developed yourself so much so, that you feel safe and dare to let yourself be seen and be judged. You are present and authentic. You are a presence – and the people you work with will respond to Who you are.
If you are no longer wrapped in expert pride, professional armor, or personal guilt and shame – you can be an enlightening example for others. You’ll radiate what is unique about you. You connect as a human being, helping others to open up and try alternative ways of thinking, feeling and being. You role-model authenticity.
We can’t see everything we effect and affect. #Change Click To Tweet
It’s not the “what” you do: it’s not the Powerpoint presentation about efficient meetings or becoming more agile as an organization. It’s not your brilliant analysis of which procedures and authorizations to delete to speed up this bureaucracy.
It’s “who” you are. Your authenticity, your presence, your energy – and hence your relationship with the people who, together, form the organization. Even though they may still be hiding behind authorizations and job descriptions and professional positions, you relate to who they are. You touch them.
This is how YOU make a difference!
You can learn more when you sign up for the mailing list so I can keep you inspired with new blog posts. Read my gift after you sign up: download my E-book with the Make Your Difference Framework to see how you make a difference and how you can amplify your positive impact.
You create change by being YOU
I will share one of my examples. As a consultant guiding a culture change project, I had a session with a team of elderly employees who resisted changing anything. We were discussing the culture, how they worked, and their tedious bureaucracy. There was a man who started shouting out his frustrations. That happened because I made the space safe and I made it clear that all views were welcomed. Truly. And he saw and felt I was genuine.
He shouted at me because his boss never listens to him – and he doesn’t trust his boss one bit.
And then, while I listened to him, I made a connection. He allowed me to ask him questions which made him aware of his anger, frustration and of what he really wanted: to be respected, to contribute and to be trusted for his competencies – and not be belittled by his manager.
He calmed down but was still frustrated.
Then I asked: “May I share how I felt when you started shouting?”
He nodded, and I explained honestly: “I felt a bit threatened. Even though I can understand your frustration – I didn’t feel like listening to you and opening myself. My first impulse was to shut down – really. I wanted to back away. How do you think your boss feels when you radiate this energy?”
Your authenticity, presence, and energy make the difference Click To Tweet
He suddenly understood his part in the tedious, fruitless meetings. Years of old-style managers and frustrations made his normal tone of voice sound accusative. As soon as he started speaking, his boss stopped listening in an ineffective attempt to protect himself – and judge this man as quick-tempered and unprofessional. The man now understood how he made his boss nervous… I connected with my authentic feelings – but without an emotional charge – and that helped him to open up and see “the other side”.
Be present – to be a present
I helped him see the pattern because I showed myself – instead of some professional, arrogant armor. Such as: “I know better than you and I’ll teach you how to work less bureaucratic”. I was present and shared how it made me feel as a person, even though he wasn’t attacking me or my position in this case.
Stop the theater play. Shed the armor. BE you and work together Click To Tweet
Magic can happen when you unwrap your gift. You bring your genuine self to work instead of just your toolbox, your titles, expertise, and ego – an armor around your true self. You dare to show yourself. You are present and authentic and people will respond to your presence.
No one is perfect. Everyone is vulnerable underneath their armor. Stop the theater play. Skip the armor. Welcome, kitchen-table-selfs! Let’s be human. Let’s be kind. Let’s work together and get things done! Because don’t get me wrong: I value results. I value the “what” that we achieve. This “what” matters most when “who we are” is its source.
As of now, small changes are seeping into this organizational system. I made a huge difference to one man. He’s chewing on it. He’s thinking. He’s trying. He sees his manager in a different light.
I made a difference to his team members who recognized what I said – and who tend to copy him because he’s an informal leader. I connected with his manager – though this boss is not willing to open up just yet – but I planted the seed.
Meetings still tend to be long – procedures aren’t simplified yet – but a few people see it differently and take responsibility for how they work together – becoming honest and starting to communicate better. They start to take ownership for what must be done instead of hiding behind signatures, job descriptions and waiting for the despised bosses to decide – just to avoid accountability for themselves.
Change is happening in unexpected and yet invisible ways Click To Tweet
It’s change in progress. Who are you to judge “what” you achieved? It ain’t over until it’s over. How can you apprehend where this small change will lead to? Who it will affect? To whom it will matter, eventually?
All you have to do is unwrap yourself to have more positive impact. That’s your job. Become better, to make the world better. One person at a time. If we all do so, would we make a difference together? You bet. Be present, to become a present.
Do you want to amplify your difference? I care about people who care to make a difference – so, sign up to the mailing list and you download my E-book.
Marcella Bremer co-founded this Leadership & Change Blog and OCAI-online.com. She’s an author and culture & change consultant.