“If you think you are too small to make an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito in the room.” — Anita Roddick
What is impact? What is it not? Mission statements are not impact. Even grandiose acts of kindness or donations of time or sums of money are not impact. Confused?
All these things — worthy and important as they are — come back to be about each of us. You give with an anticipated outcome. You enjoy the psychological and physiological (yes, actual hormone boosts) of giving. You revel in your great work or great generosity and use it as mental justification for being a good human.
Now, none of this is to say you shouldn’t do those things. All of these acts make society incrementally better. But let’s not confuse them with impact. These are point-in-time actions. They are controllable and conscious. Impact, on the other hand, is not about you as an individual. Impact is not something we can control. Impact is the unconscious reaction the universe has to a consistent stream of authentic actions — whether that universe is your business, home, community or greater society. Impact is what happens when you adjust your mindset to transform point-in-time actions into a continuous way of thinking and acting.
The 30,000-Foot View
Business, especially in today’s world, is chaotic. Within that chaos it is easy to run with side blinders on, narrowly focused on only your own business. If you want to begin to build real impact, embrace your expertise and think about it as it relates to your industry as a whole. Reach out to partners within your industry or in complementary industries. Know the public policies that affect your business or industry and get involved with an advocacy group or association. Stay current in your broader arms of influence and help educate others — whether that be through writing, speaking or physically attending events. In the midst of a 100-hour workweek, it can seem like a distraction to take time for some of these activities. The compound effect, however, is a vital piece of using your business to build impact. MORE FOR YOUNo Side Effects Doesn’t Mean The Covid-19 Vaccine Is Not WorkingHospital Costs, Not Drug Prices, Are Out Of ControlWhy Are So Few Life Sciences Companies Certified B Corps?
Train Your Assassins
This section title is credited to Kelly Hoey, influential writer and speaker. In a recent lunch with her, I was inspired by this fun description that alludes to simple human interaction. When you hire good people, get to know them on a personal level and then empower them to achieve great things, not only does your organization reap the benefits, so does the greater community and the world. People want to be valued. We all have a voice, an opinion, a point of view. By no means should you replace valuing and listening with coddling. This can have the opposite effect. No matter how big or small your organization is, you can take two minutes on a Monday morning to ask your receptionist how her weekend was. You can know that Sam in accounting loves the color blue or project manager Gary is a Reds fan. It may amount to small moments of conversation, but you should never discount the compound effect of simply caring about other humans.
And most important, let others know you as well. After all, I didn’t call this section train to be an assassin; I called it train your assassins. There is a fine line between being the boss or leader and being vulnerable — but it is an important distinction. True human impact comes from a place of reciprocity. Your employees should know enough about the person behind the curtain to be comfortable sharing their own stories. It doesn’t diminish your power as a leader. In fact, it increases it.
There was a construction company CEO that I worked with a few years ago who struggled with the high turnover in his industry. More than the cost of constantly finding and training new talent, he had personal feelings of disconnect from his employees. One Friday after completing a large project successfully, he decided to celebrate with a parking lot BBQ. Over hamburgers, hot dogs and chips he found something he hadn’t even realized the organization needed: a sense of connection. From that day, he grills out with his employees after every event, and it’s become a vital part of the company culture. It brings about greater loyalty, worker satisfaction and less turnover. Who would have predicted a simple BBQ could mean so much? Are there small ways you could increase the human connection at your company? It could make a bigger impact than you think.
It Starts Within
We have all heard the advice: You have to step back and work on your business rather than in your business. This is easier said than done. However, there is a critical piece of that advice that relates specifically to impact. Too many of us put off the big thoughts of who we want our professional persona to be and what we want our organization to represent — basically the “why” of our organizational existence. Simon Sinek in “Start with Why” outlines a business model that turns that notion on its head. Before you start into “what we do” and “how we do it,” you should spend real time thinking through the why. It adjusts your perspective and your focus. Don’t put it off. It is easy to get caught in the minutiae of the business at hand. Before you realize it, you may have allowed the culture of your organization to morph into something completely outside your values. Set aside time each week — and certainly before any major pivots — to write down the why.
In business, in relationships, in life, it is the small consistent decisions that bring about the compound effects of real impact. Make a conscious choice about your values and build your decision-making lens around that. Let go of the outcome and trust. We will all be better off for it.