Sit for a moment and think about one or two people who have influenced you, your life, your ideals, your behaviors, more than anything or anyone else.
Now take a moment to consider why they have impacted you. What is it about their character, their behavior, that causes them to stand out to you?
I recently sat in a room of executives from a Global Fortune 50 company who went through this exercise together. Their responses about who influenced them, not surprisingly, ranged from parents, to teachers, to coaches, to managers, to bosses, to political and spiritual figures. I was surprised that they didn’t talk about the person’s technical expertise, their intellectual capability, or their political or social acumen, but instead about the type of atmosphere the person created and how that person made them feel.
When they talked about the type of atmosphere, or culture, that existed around this person, I heard them say phrases like, “he smiled a lot”, “his heart and passion were evident”, “we were having fun”, “his love for teaching was infectious”, “she had an excitement about the future”, “she was always positive”, “he inspired us”, “he was patient”, “she saw my potential and helped me to see it in myself”, “she let us experiment and encouraged us to be courageous”, “he sought opportunity for us”.
The phrases they shared about how they felt as a result of their interactions with that person were, “I felt trusted”, “I felt listened to and cared for”, “I felt like all of his attention was on me and nothing else mattered to him in that moment”, “I felt like she truly wanted the best for me”, “I felt supported”, “I felt like I could share anything and I wouldn’t be judged or scolded”, “I felt respected”, “I felt more confident”.
The impact and influence that others have on us can be life-changing. Many of these executives shared about people who were a part of their lives 20 or 30 years prior, with the impact being so strong that it remains a part of who they are today.