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Who Are You Influencing Today?

March 31, 2016

Last month, I was walking downtown in my suburban area when I noticed an older gentleman, seemingly in his early 80’s with white, thinning hair, bending down and picking up something on the sidewalk.

As I got closer, I saw he was picking up garbage.  When he saw me, he looked up and smiled with warmth glowing from his face that seemed to cut through the frigid cold wind of the day. “Good for you!” I praised the man as I kept walking. “I do what I can,” he said as he bent down gingerly to pick up the next piece of blowing paper running across the sidewalk.

Well, I made about 10 steps past the man and here in front of me was a front section of the local newspaper lying on the sidewalk at my feet. I’ve got to pick this up now, I thought to myself. It would be like a slap in the face to this man if I praised him and watched him kneel his 80-year-old frame down to the ground to pick up garbage and then I proceeded to step on this paper and walk by. So, I bent down and picked it up.  Then, a few feet further I saw an empty water bottle so I bent down again to get it. I was laughing to myself thinking about how my quick trip uptown to pick up some homemade bread from a bakery had now turned into a garbage picking excursion.

Before I knew it, I had an armful of garbage to throw into the town’s bin.  I didn’t have time to pick up everything I passed by, but I did my fair share and that felt really good.

Now, every time I take a walk, I come home with at least one item for the garbage or recycling and I remember that older gentleman. I will likely never see him again nor do I even know his name. But, he left his mark on me. Just by our chance encounter that day, he taught me about the influence that even a perfect stranger can have on us that can change us forever.

Many of us carry through our days, busy thinking of our to do’s and trying to carve out the time to complete all of our family responsibilities and work projects, without giving much thought to all of the people around us.  But every single day, you are influencing others. Even those people who work from home offices and rarely see others in a day still are making an impact through their interactions over the phone or via email.

As a leader, parent, friend or perfect stranger, you have a choice in the way you conduct yourself. Do you take the time to open the door for someone and give them a smile? Do you listen mindfully to your direct report when she needs to run some ideas by you? Do you send a thank you email or card to someone who has helped you? I say in these instances, sweat the small stuff. The small stuff counts. Professionally, it is what helps contribute to your brand on an ongoing basis. Personally, it just makes you feel good to be able to stop every now and then in your busy day to put someone else first.

Who are you influencing today? The list is likely endless. Make each moment count. And like the older gentleman said to me, “I do what I can.” At the end of the day, before you go to sleep at night, be able to tell yourself that you too are doing what you can.

Find out more about Potential Unlimited’s Coaching Packages focusing on Authentic Leadership.

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