The Warmth of Influence

Remember the story of the rain, wind, and sun? They challenged each other to see who was the most powerful by trying to get a man to take off his coat. The Rain went first with thunderous pellets, but the man held tight to his coat. The Wind thought he had it in the bag by blowing a hurricane and trying to rip the coat off his back but the man clung tighter than ever. The Sun stepped in and with a warm glow smiled down as they all watched the human disrobe.

In our home and office cultures today we forget that a quiet gentle glow can cut through tough walls, difficult personalities, and hardened ways. Our social media sites are constantly screaming at us to check in or be out of the loop or make a statement – the louder the better.

Perhaps a little warmth would make a greater impact.

Influence is about caring which can only be truly accomplished by physically showing up. Personal caring is rapidly disappearing from our lives through the distractions of technology and the cluttered culture and distraction of media. We don’t have the time for personal encounters and the warmth of the personal touch.

Here are some thoughts on showing up and caring that might just cause someone else to stop and care:

Care about the unnoticed. Yes, you have to be nice to the boss, co-worker, and mother in law, but what about the janitor, receptionist, or the grocery clerk? Simple caring questions like, how was your weekend or vacation? – how’s the kids or parents? – why are you limping or holding your head? These simple acts of observation show people you see them in places where they thought they were unnoticed – the heart. They’re given a chance to see that they have worth – the kind God sees in us with endless grace.

Care how you communicate. Is that email really appropriate? Are you giving those fiery messages and social media postings a second glance before you push the send button? What about that questionable joke? Are you willing to take the time to encourage others with a real conversation face to face, or verbally on the phone? What’s your tone of voice like when communicating to others? Is it demeaning, arrogant, dismissive? I’m so guilty of this. My French ancestry blood pumps and before I know it my tone and volume erupt with fury. I have to ask for grace regularly.

Care how you confront someone. I hate confronting people. It’s a struggle every time on every level, but as a leader, it’s something I’ve had to learn to do. Being liked is not always the right approach but doing the right thing is. Jesus was a master. He confronted with questions and short answers but always with truth and love. Confronting will never be easy but choosing the right path with integrity, grace, and Godly prayer, wisdom and above all, forgiveness will always result in dignity for all.

Care enough to admit your faults and forgive them of theirs. Mistakes will be made. Be part of the solution that builds a culture of forgiveness but not necessarily of escaping consequences. God always forgives but many times we have to pay the consequences of our choices. Keep your temper and anger on a tight leash. Give yourself the space to cool off and think through solutions before confronting appropriately. And when it’s your fault, admit it and seek forgiveness and restitution. Our culture is consumed with passing the blame to relieve ourselves of the guilt and shame. I would highly recommend Brene Brown’s research, books, and talks on vulnerability, shame and working toward becoming what she calls a “whole hearted” person. She has great insight on forgiveness.

Care by rewarding people. Years ago, the cherished trophy for retiring employees after a lifetime of work with a company was a gold watch. I know of one company today who for years gave their employees a canned ham for Christmas. It became such a routine that it become a joke. These once thoughtful acts became thoughtless. Where was the investment of caring, time, and thought from the leadership? Study how you’d like to receive praise, encouragement and physical rewards. Studies and books on the various love (caring) languages are also worth your time. Are you willing to give encouragement and attention on their terms and not yours?

Develop, nurture, and increase the warmth that true caring can unlock. People hold on tight to their security coats until they see the warmth of your open hands. This is the beginning of influence.

Kathleen Cooke, co-founder of Cooke Pictures (cookepictures.com) and The Influence Lab where she publishes a monthly newsletter (influencelab.com/women). Follow her @kathycooke