David hired me to help communicate and reinforce his division’s long-term vision and business strategy with their 1,200 employees. About a year into our relationship, we were holding a weeklong strategic planning meeting with the key leaders on his team.
On one of those days, during a lunch break, I ran up to my hotel room to complete a task that someone was waiting for me to email to them. I returned to the meeting a little late, about 10 minutes after it had resumed.
To me, missing 10 minutes of the meeting didn’t seem like a big deal. I was not facilitating or presenting anything during that portion of the meeting, and I didn’t miss much content. And hey, I had a good excuse.
Later, as David and I were chatting privately, he gently pointed out to me that people on his team looked up to me as a leader. And when I arrived late, it sent a signal that what they were doing in that meeting was not really that important.
David helped me realize that I had an inaccurate view of my role and of the time.
We are all leaders…
In my formal role, I did not have any authority over anyone in that room, so I didn’t view myself as their leader. But because they viewed me as a trusted advisor, I nonetheless was a leader with influence among them.
… all of the time.
I had viewed that moment, when I slipped into the meeting late, as an insignificant time because I wasn’t saying anything or taking an overt leadership action. But in that simple moment, I was influencing them.
Whether you realize it or not, every time you interact with others, you are communicating and leading. Even if you say nothing, and have completely blank facial expressions and body language, your silence is communicating something about who you are, whether you place any value on the topic or event that is taking place, and whether the people you are with are important to you.
The people you care about need your cultivating influence to be all they can be. Your kids need you to believe in them, teach them self-discipline, and help them discover their passion. Your employees need you to energize and equip them to discover how their work can change the world for the better. Your customers, friends, and followers need you to listen and inspire them to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more.
At nearly every moment, you are influencing others — which ultimately affects all of us — through what you say or don’t say, and what you do or don’t do.
Let’s make the most of each opportunity to appropriately engage the people we care about.
Jesse Lahey, SPHR, is the host of the podcasts Engaging Leader and Workforce Health Engagement, and he is CEO (chief engagement officer) of Aspendale Communications. Connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn. If you know anyone who would benefit from this information, please share it!