Not just for Dads

Intentional Influence – Thoughts for Leaders and Fathers…and anyone who knows some!

Archive for the category “Influence”

Where are we going, Daddy?

A few weeks ago I was out with my family. There was a crowd of people and I had to go and find someone. I offered my 2-year old son, Joshua, to join me and he got all excited that he was allowed to come along. He came running after me, took hold of my hand and we made our way through the crowds.

After a while he looked up to me and said: “Daddy, where are we going?”

I stopped. His question surprised me. I felt bad for not considering his situation more. And it got me thinking:

If you are leading people, they generally want to know where you are headed. My son (still) has enough faith in me to follow first and THEN ask where we are going. But most people won’t be happy to follow very long, if they don’t know where you are going or what you doing.

One thing I failed to appreciate as we were making our way through the crowd was that while I was about a head taller than most people in the crowd and had a good view of what was going on, my son was about a head shorter…than most people’s waistline. All he could see was legs! No wonder he asked where we were going.

Remember: as a leader (or a parent, or…) you have usually spent a considerable amount of time thinking through and discussing an idea. You have enough information and insight, that you feel about a head above the crowds. You  see what is going on and you are moving ahead with confidence. But the people following you are in a different situation. They might feel more like they are just looking at a forrest of legs. They DON’T see what’s going on and they are not willing to follow with confidence. They will say something like my son did: “Daddy, where are we going?”

“So what do we do about this dilemma, Andreas?” you ask me.
I’m glad you asked!
Tell them where you are going!
If it’s worthwhile, they’ll follow!

How a letter to yourself could change your life…

The website “Future Me” let’s you write an e-mail to yourself, that will be delivered at a specific point in the future. That’s a great idea, because if you are anything like me, you have good ideas, great intentions, lots of motivation…until you get busy…get distracted…forget.
By sending yourself an e-mail NOW about something that really matters to you, you will actually receive that reminder sometime in the future when you are…well, busy, distracted and in need of a reminder.

Another way to help you stay on track, or help you understand what you personally define as success in your life, is something called “the 7-year-letter”.

In this simple exercise, you write a letter to a close friend or family member. The twist is that you imagine yourself 7 years from now and that you havn’t had contact with the person you are writing to in those seven years. Tell them where you are, what you are up to and what happened in the past 7 years, if you could CHOOSE the results. Be specific, add as many details as you can think of:
Are you married or single?
What are the names of your kids? How old are they?
Where do you live? What type of accommodation?
What jobs have you had,  what’s your position right now?
What kind of things are you involved in outside of work? Sports? Clubs? Teams?
What have you accomplished? What are you proud of?
What went wrong in the past 7 years? What are some of the things you would rather not mention (but will, for the sake of the excercise)?

By writing this letter as if it were 7 years from now, you are forcing yourself to think ahead, to look inside, what is really important to you.
In some way, you are putting yourself in your ideal setting, without the restrictions of time, money or opportunity. You are creating a “dream scenario”.

But it doesn’t stop there:
The next step, after you have written the 7-year-letter is to review it frequently and use it as a map. It’s NOT like a navigation system. It won’t tell you what step to take next. But it IS like a map. It shows you where you want to be. Now it’s up to you to figure out how best to get there…one step at a time.

So in review:
– Take some time to think about where you want to be 7 years from now in life.
– Write a friend or family member a letter, imagining it is seven years from now.
– Frequently review the letter, as it will give you a good idea of what success in life is, by your own definition.
– Use the map (the letter) to help you make small steps towards that future situation.

A friend of mine did this simple little excercise and it changed his life!
I have done it and I am excited, how it has worked for me so far.

Will you take the time and be brave?
Let yourself dream of where you want to be in 7 years and then start writing…it might just change your life, as well!

Six words is all it takes!

I recently read that Ernest Hemingway managed to write a novel using just six words. Here is what he wrote: “For sale: Baby shoes, never worn”

I’ll leave it up to you to decide what it means…
Is it the desperation of parents who lost their child?
The disappointment of realizing it’s the “wrong” gender?
Is it the slightly humorous naivety of new parents realizing babies don’t walk?

What I want you to remember is this: If he can write a whole novel using just 6 words, maybe you can spare some words next time you write a letter, a memo, an instruction, an e-mail…whatever.

Write less. Much less. Say more!

Six words is all it takes!

 

 

Tell me who your friends are!

“Tell me who you friends are and I’ll tell you who you are”
Or at least I will tell you who you will become someday soon…

Because your friends have a huge influence on you.
So do the things you do, watch, read, look at and spend your time on…

We all know that. But do we do anything about it?

It is not uncommon for us to start adding phrases from movies we’ve seen or expressions our friends use to our own vocabulary. “Houston, we have a problem” was a phrase used once in the movie “Apollo 13” and then thousands of times by those who watched and were influenced by the movie.

In 1987 a scientific study found that couples that have been married for many years eventually even begin to LOOK alike. Talk about influence!

We are easily influenced. Positively and negatively. Often unintentionally. It just happens.

This blog is about intentional influence. But I don’t just want to influence OTHERS intentionally. I want to be intentional about who or what influences ME. Because that has a huge effect on my character and my behavior and who I will become as a person…and ultimately on my ability to influence others positively.

And there is only one person who has that responsibility in my life: ME! I can choose what influences me, by choosing what I surround myself with.
Who I spend time with influences me…
What I do, read, watch and look at influences me….

But I have to make a choice. And I have to be proactive:
Who or what is influencing me that needs to get out of my life? – What do I need to stop?
Who or what should have a bigger impact on my life? – What do I need to start?

I need to write it down (so do you!), I need to do something about it (so do you!), I need to start growing intentionally (so do you!).

Then I can better influence others positively (so can you!)

It’s the thought that counts…NOT!

The other day I was in stop-and-go traffic with my family. We passed a vehicle with a foreign numberplate that had broken down on the side of the road. We started talking about how sad it is for them, how we’d love to help, how nice it would be if we were in that situation and someone would help us…
And then we drove on…

Almost subconsciously I mumbled “It’s the thought that counts”.

Then I thought about it…It’s the thought that counts…NOT!

A thought doesn’t feed anyone. A thought doesn’t comfort anyone. A thought doesn’t change anything in another person.

Action counts!

A thought makes ME feel better. Action makes someone else feel better!

It’s not the thought that counts. Action counts. Action makes the difference!

Stop thinking, start DOING!

 

Anyone can do this for 30 days…

“Think of something you’ve always wanted to add to your life (or subtract from you life) and then stick with it for 30 days”

That’s the simple idea shared by Matt Cutts in his TED-Talk in 2011.  And this simple idea literally has the potential to change your life. How do I know? Because I tried it and it has changed mine!

I have been doing this “30-day-challenge-thing” since last December and it has helped me grow, mature, learn and become more focused. Every month I pick something I want to work on in my life, some area I want to grow in. That could be something like:

  • Write a blog post every day for 30 days
  • Get up at 5am every day for 30 days
  • Spend quality time with my son every day for 30 days
  • No Chocolate for 30 days

You get the idea. Health, productivity, hobbies, social skills, leadership… the options are endless. The room for growth is as well.

Just 30 days.
It’s simple – not always easy, but totally do-able.

I believe we all have something in our life that we are pushing off, avoiding, procrastinating…Something that would make our lives more enjoyable, productive or meaningful – if we just got started.

I am not sure what you want to get out of life. I want to make a difference for the better. I want to have a positive influence on those around me. This is a small way to start that. It’s worked great for me so far.

Imagine what you could look back to after 30 days. Imagine what you will have accomplished by the end of the year…If you just got started today.

So what are you waiting for?

I am pretty sure there is something specific on your mind as you are reading this, that you should do (or stop doing) for the next 30 days. The temptation for you right now is to quickly close this website and get on with your busy life. DON’T DO IT. What are you afraid of? What at you waiting for?

It’s only thirty days.
But these thirty days can change your life!

 

It’s worth repeating yourself!

If you have something important to say, it’s worth repeating yourself! 
If your message should stick, it’s worth repeating yourself!
If you want people to remember, it’s worth repeating yourself!

Repeating yourself is important in good communication. But often our attitude gets in the way of good communication:
If I said something, it was said. No need to repeat myself. After all: they heard it. They should have listened. They could have asked if something was unclear. They should know. It was clearly communicated! I shouldn’t have to repeat myself.

To which I would simply say: No, you dont HAVE TO… There’s no law about it. You won’t go to jail. And yet: It’s worth repeating yourself.

Ask yourself this:
What was my intention for communicating in the first place? Why did I even bother mentioning it?

Because it was important. And if it is important, it’s worth repeating. Not just once, or twice, but every time. Until it sticks! It’s worth repeating yourself!

Now, just repeating yourself isn’t all it takes to communicate well. But if you want to communicate well it’s worth repeating yourself. It’s worth repeating yourself. It’s worth repeating yourself.

Telling your wife you love her…
Telling your team the plan of action…
Telling your fans the details of your next concert…
Telling your company your vision…
Telling your kids you’re proud of them…

It’s worth repeating yourself. Every time!

Let’s not assume people heard the first time. Let’s not expect they understood the first time. Let’s repeat ourselves and make sure they hear it…again and again.
Until they recall. Until they remember. Until they repeat.

You may start sounding like a broken record. Your family, your team or your friends might start finishing your sentences for you, because they’ve heard them so many times.
But that’s exactly what you want!
That’s exactly what you want.
That’s exactly what you want.

They recalled it. They remembered it. They repeated it.
Message delivered.
Mission accomplished.

It was worth repeating yourself!

Time to say goodbye?

Dear Andreas,
It’s so sad you are leaving. You’re such a great guy. We will miss you.
Wish we could have gotten to know each other better while you were here.
Love, Bob

Recently I quit my job. We also moved away from the town we were living in. That meant a lot of “good-byes”.

Something I noticed when I was leaving was all the kind words people said to me. Kind words, similar to that fictional goodbye note at the beginning of this post.

It was an emotional time and I, too,  started thinking about how to encourage my friends, neighbors and colleagues before we left. I actually wrote over 20 handwritten letters with kind and encouraging words to various people I had worked and lived closely with.

Isn’t that great? Am I not a thoughtful, encouraging guy?

The problem: It was the first time I had done that in all the years I had lived there. The people I had spent so much time with; the same people I could think of so many positive things about, now that I was leaving. But before that: not once.

I also hadn’t received so many kind words when I wasn’t leaving. I had never received a note from Bob that read:

Dear Andreas,
It’s so sad you are leaving. You’re such a great guy.We will miss you.
Wish we could have gotten to know each other better while you were here.
I am glad you are not leaving. Looking forward to more great times together.
Love, Bob

Are you surprised? When have you last received a letter of encouragement for “no specific reason”? Have you told someone what you appreciate about them, although they weren’t leaving?

I have. But not very often. Definitely not often enough.

I have left before. I have moved and said goodbye many times in my life. And I have noticed a pattern: people start appreciating things in others, when they realize they won’t be around much.

Now moving away is one thing. The end of our life is another. One of the biggest regrets at funerals may be: I wish I could have told him how much I love him and what a great guy he was.

Why wait until its too late?
Why not write a goodbye card, without anyone actually leaving?
Why not tell someone they are awesome, just because they are?

Words are so simple and yet they can be so powerful.

I want to make it a habit to say good things to people. But habits start with the first step. So right now I am going to write a short note of encouragement to a friend. Just because he’s cool and I haven’t told him in a while!

And you?
What are you waiting for?

That will never work!

A few days ago I was playing cars with my oldest son Joshua (at almost two years old he is also my youngest son – so far). He was attempting to drive a car down the ramp of his toy parking garage, which OBVIOUSLY wasn’t going to work…the car was simply too big for the garage. I realized that Joshua hadn’t understood that yet, and so – to save him the effort – I said: “That won’t work, Joshua. The car is too big to go down the ramp!”

About three minutes (and a lot of effort) later, the car DID go down the ramp. Back end first and diagonally on it’s side…but it went down!  I instantly started thinking of excuses: “I must have been right – after all, cars are not meant to go down ramps backwards and on their side…That’s just not “the way it’s done””. But I quickly realized my excuse wouldn’t impress my 2-year-old.  I had said: “That won’t work”, but it had worked. I stood corrected.

You may relate to this story in any of three ways:

1. Not at all

To be frank: you just don’t care. That’s not a problem. I learned something from it and thought I would share it. If you don’t relate to that and it seems boring to you, you can just stop reading. Right now. No questions asked. No one will ever know!

2. You relate to my son

You immediately felt for my son in the story, because you have been there yourself (or are there right now). You know people who constantly try to tell you: “It won’t work”, “You can’t do it”, “Don’t even bother”. You have dreams, ideas, a passion…but the people around you, maybe even those you care most about, constantly seem to be pulling you from your dreams, rather than encouraging you and cheering you on!

They may be trying to help you, but in reality they are just getting in your way and making life difficult.

3. You relate to me

Although most of you probably related more to my son’s perspective, one or two of you might actually see the story from my side. Like me, you often catch yourself telling others: “It won’t work, you can’t do it. Don’t even bother trying”. Some of you might not even catch yourself doing it, but now that you are reading this you realize it is true…

I know it’s true for me. I just shared a story of how I did it to my own son! I love him and want to help him succeed in life. And yet I catch myself discouraging him and telling him things won’t work…simply because my mind is so fixed on “how things should be done”, “what others will think” and “the time, money and effort it will take”.

Not too long ago, I heard this short story:  A man has great dreams and shares them with his friends. But his friends constantly pour jugs of cold water on the dreams, by telling him they won’t work, until one dream after the other dies. Finally, one day, the man dies…

Just think about how much creativity is crushed. Think about how much good is NOT done and how many great ideas are NEVER realized. Think about how many passionate people, full of energy and dreams are restricted and discouraged…because of people like me and comments like the one I used: “That can’t be done!”.

YES IT CAN! Maybe not the way people want it to be done, or the way we are used to it being done… but it can be done.

I don’t want to let people pour jugs of cold water on my dreams.

And I don’t want to be someone who pours jugs of cold water on other people’s dreams!

Do you…?

Then don’t!

Live your dreams and encourage others to live theirs!

Sticks and Stones…

One of the secrets of affirmation is the positive power words can have. But words can also be very destructive.

A known proverb goes: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

What a great response that is when someone is bullying you or insulting you with their words. The only problem is: it’s not true!

Just think for a moment how many people sue someone else because they were insulted by them. By one or two silly little words. Or consider how many fights and arguments start because of what was said by one side or both. By nothing but a different opinion expressed with a few words. Or look at how many relationships fail because of the wounds created by words. By deliberate or in some cases even unintentional words.

WORDS ARE POWERFUL!

Recenty I heard the story of a woman in her 50s. She was struggling with insecurity and self-worth and it affected every area of her life. And the reason for that was one simple sentence that she heard from her dad over three decades (!!!) earlier. She was standing in front of her mirror and doing her hair when her dad came by and said: “You are so vain!”

“You are so vain!” A simple sentence that changed the life of one person forever. A simple sentence, maybe even spoken without much thought, that has such a lasting impact.

Sticks and stones may break my bones…but my bones will heal again. Words on the other hand can go much deeper inside, and create wounds that often don’t heal. Wounds that are so far down and so painful that we don’t let them heal, because healing would require revealing. And with that: facing the pain.

Sticks and stones may break my bones…but broken bones will only cause me to limb for a couple of weeks. Words on the other hand have the potential to knock me right off my feet. And to make sure that I never take a step again. No step towards a dream I once had. No step towards the people that I love. No step out of my cave in which I have been hiding…for fear of the next word that might hit me if I do step out.

Each of us has a choice. We can decide how much we let the words that are spoken to us affect us. But that isn’t always easy. Much more than that each of us has a responsibility. A responsibility to choose the words we speak to others wisely. “With great power comes great responsibility!”

This is not just for leaders or dad’s. This is for teachers. This is for supervisors. This is for employees. This is for spouses. This is for children. This is for you…and this is certainly for me!

The words we speak on a daily basis to the people around us have the power to change lives. Even when we are not aware of it. We have a choice to make! Will we criticize and hurt and insult and belittle….or will we encourage and build up and affirm and love?

What will your choice be today?

I would love to hear the stories you have about words. Words that you spoke to others, or things that were said to you that had an impact on your lives. Leave a comment and share with others about the power of words!

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