Most people will go through their professional life coming in contact with many people who have both positive and negative attributes. If you take the time to sit back and reflect on those who have helped develop you to the person who you are today, you could probably count those who had a serious influence on you on one hand. These people of influence, whether they know it or not have most probably made you part the person who you are today and helped your professional development, or impacted on how you operate, lead or manage.
The Oxford Dictionary defines influence as:
It is a powerful concept when you think about it. Another person with whom you have spent time with can ultimately change or mould you into a part clone (in various levels of course) of them based on the amount of influence they have over you. But how do they do it?
I am only going to look at this from a personal experience and I have some distinct actions or behaviours which have been due to a direct influence of those I have worked with over the years. Some are behaviours and others are management or leadership values based on their direct influence. As I reflect on this I am thinking about why they had such an influence and it isn’t always due to positive experiences. Let me share a couple of the key influences I have inherited!
- Always use a black pen – It may seem trivial but this is a behaviour which I had enforced on me as a young and new manager many years ago. The person responsible was my Area Manager at the time, and a person I learnt a lot from, but to this day I have to use a black pen. He wouldn’t accept any paperwork, petty cash claims or reports UNLESS they were in black pen, and when you had the tedious task of manually completing and reconciling receipts to reimburse only to have it sent back to re-do due to the fact it was in blue pen, you soon learn the lesson! If I ever find myself without a black pen to this day, I get anxious and uncomfortable and struggle with the use of it. Strange I know, but it does show the impact of influence.
- What happens at work is different to what happens outside of work – another manager taught me this with a simple message one night after work when we were having a drink or several. We were having a good time and enjoying the mood when he came out and said to me something like ” just make sure you understand whatever we do tonight makes no difference on anything at work and if I had to terminate you tomorrow for a major issue I would have no issue as this isn’t work, but tomorrow is and that’s when I am your boss”. It was something that even at a young age I could comprehend, and I used a similar line with many of my employees over the years and tried to teach them the different relationships between work and non work, and it is a concept many struggle with. They often cannot differentiate the relationship between the two.
- No Surprises & Truth over harmony – a more recent manager and good friend to this day taught me this from day one of working with him. He sat me down on my orientation and said he had my back at all times and his role was to grow and develop me within the organisation and get me promoted as much as any opportunity occurred, but he needed me to understand that he would and could only have my back if I was completely open, frank and honest with him and that any mistakes or issues came directly to him from me and not from others. If he got a ‘surprise’ then he couldn’t back me or manage it. This naturally came with the second part of truth over harmony. Regardless of any issue or potential conflict or backlash, be upfront and open to allow a solution to be found. You may not always agree, but at the end of the day the same big picture goals are usually in play, so discuss, argue, challenge, disagree or whatever, but move on and hold no grudges. This is an extremely relevant concept I use to this day, as it is extremely relevant in my line of work. I am there to challenge others and we won’t always agree but we need to maintain the focus on the end game!
- Accountability for your own performance – the same person as above gave a great deal of autonomy and trust. He valued me for getting things done when they needed to be done to the right standard without enforcing a ‘be in the office from x to y’. I traveled a lot and avoided the office a lot (to escape the politics and meetings!) but this was no issue (except for one intervention when I may have taken a bit too much liberty), but I would find my place to go during some days with WiFi, laptop and coffee (or was actually mint tea then) and power through what I needed to do. He didn’t care if I wasn’t around, but knew I could be reached on email or phone or at the location where I was, and knew I was more productive working in this manner. He wouldn’t care if you came late, left early as long as the work was done. We weren’t on the clock when in town, as travel time work was much more demanding when in different countries. This kind of ties in with ‘no surprises’ too I guess!
- Family first – my final piece of reflection on my values and beliefs which have been of direct influence is the concept f family first. This idea at times went completely against the multinational corporate concept, as middle – senior management generally have the stereotype of working massive hours and never being home and being slaves to the business. While this did happen in our office with some, our team got the work done, but if anything came up that was family related, he would tell us to leave and sort it out, no questions asked. This had an extremely powerful impact on all of us working with him, as we knew we could maintain a healthy balance if ever there was a need, or a crisis that needed to be addressed, and I know this one personally had a big impact on me.
- REG & RUBY – These acronyms were introduced to me by a highly educated and philosophical mentor I had during a solid period in my professional growth. They were from a training session for Cert IV in workplace training and assessing and they talk about the behaviours of a trainer and they really resonated with me as I strongly related to them. Respect, Emapathy and Genuine are traits a good leaders/ trainer should have (R.E.G) and Respect, Understanding and Be Yourself (R.U.B.Y). I have always considered myself a W.Y.S.I W.Y.G so these completely fit in with my approach!
While there are a few more of my strange behaviours that I can ‘blame’ on others, the ones listed above I feel are all extremely positive and have influenced me to be the person I am today. I practice these daily, and share when relevant as they have a direct impact on a positive workplace, and mindset. Many thanks to J.B, Bill,Nick and Tony!
How have you been influenced to make you who you are today?