Everything we do, even the slightest thing we do, can have a ripple effect and repercussions that emanate. If you throw a pebble into the water on one side of the ocean, it can create a tidal wave on the other side. - Victor Webster
Last week whilst picking up my morning caffeine fix I decided to try something different.
“Large almond flat white, please”, I asked whilst handing over my $10 note. “And while you're at it, I don’t want any change, take it for the guy’s coffee behind me”.
Now the look of surprise didn't stop with the barista. When the guy behind me ordered his coffee to be told it had already been paid for, his facial expression moved from “WTF”, to confusion, to a gentle smile to engagement.
“Why would you do that?” he said.
“Why not”, I said with a smile, “Happy Monday. Pass it on.”
And in that moment, in that one simple gesture, I know I created a ripple of change for the day – for the guy, for the people around me looking on at the exchange taking place, and hopefully for those who were the recipients of the next level of passing it on.
Here's the thing - every single thing we say or do makes an impact. No matter who you are, what you do, your title or area of responsibility it is up to you to make every connection count because everyone is watching and listening – your team, the barista, the taxi driver, the receptionist, the supermarket checkout person, your colleagues and peers, your kids, their friends, the person reading the email that you’ve written ALL IN UPPER CASE – even that annoying researcher that calls you whilst you are cooking dinner. Our tone, our manner, our behaviour, how we are being always impacts someone else.
The question is are you making the impact you want to make?
We seem to be so busy these days rushing from one thing to another, trying to clear emails, answer phone calls, get through the endless to do list trying our hardest to keep up with the endless demands on our time. Are we so out of control of our time that this is impacting our behaviour too?
I’m reminded of the Everyday Leadership Ted talk by Drew Dudley. Drew’s message is such a vital one in an age of disruption and chaos, where leadership has become synonymous with a job title, business card and/or achieving crazy heights of business (and financial) success.
Drew argues rather than viewing leadership in such traditional and static terms, that the impact that we can unknowingly have on another means we are all leaders – spot on I say!
People are people. There are those that you will inspire who will watch how you react and go about business; who listen to what you say, and what you do; who see how you behave and respond to others.
Are you passing on your “I’m pissed off with my day and everyone in it” message or are you getting out of your own way, acknowledging the impact you can have on the people around you and accepting your responsibility in creating positive ripples of change.
Whether it be a much loved, or even much disliked, CEO’s departure and the immediate waterfall effect that cascades rapidly inside and outside the organisation, the impact of a national leadership spill or the super sonic speed with which an unknown audition on reality TV hits YouTube mega millions of views within what seems like nano-seconds – the impact of one action (big and small) always has ramifications one to one, more to more and many to many.
In his book Give and Take, Adam Grant shares that the people most likely to rise to the top are often the ‘Givers’, who give the most to others. The ‘Takers’, who try to get as much as possible from others, and the ‘Matchers’, who try to give and take in equal amounts, never experience the same success. But there is something magical that happens when ‘Givers’ succeed. According to Grant, “Givers succeed in a way that creates a ripple effect, enhancing the success of people around them.”
It's not about faking it till you make it. It’s not about saying one thing and thinking another. It’s not about hiding things from others for fear of being copied. It's not about protection of self or even survival of the fittest. And it’s certainly not about taking your bad mood out on others.
It is about facing outwards with an interest and willingness to connect with others, to exchange value, to care about another’s success first and to support other’s growth.
It is only through the interaction and connections that you make does one ripple begin that can lead to many others down the line. The way you act, the values you share, what you say about others, your opinions and the way you communicate send messages about you to those around you. And like a pebble being thrown in to a pond, the initial ripple of connection has a far reaching impact as those ripples spread far and wide.
Make every connection count. Because at the end of the day, it does matter – your impact can last forever. Through the creation of one ripple, many others will naturally form and surely it’s better for those around you to be left with a feeling of positivity, encouragement and support rather than the WTF was that all about feeling.
As Grant says, “every time we interact with another person at work, we have a choice to make: do we try to claim as much value as we can, or contribute value without worrying about what we receive in return?