By Sam Whitney
The Arbinger Institute
I’m going to propose a simple idea that you’ll likely agree with: We all have an impact on the people around us.
I know…It’s not a groundbreaking revelation. It might even seem unimportant or irrelevant. Of course we affect those around us. And they affect us. So what?
Awareness of Impact Drives Results
In Arbinger’s work with our clients, we’ve found that our ability to influence others and achieve results is a direct function of how well we understand our impact on other people: Awareness of impact is a critical element of success. This principle applies not only to our coworkers – our bosses, peers, and direct reports – but also to our customers.
You might even say that we rise and fall based on the level of understanding we have of our impact.
When we’re unaware, we can cause all kinds of problems for others. For example, at a recent conference I witnessed many people walking and texting at the same time. It was funny to see how they walked in what they thought was a straight line, oblivious to what was going on around them. They walked into obstacles and people, at times becoming a real impediment to others. Their lack of awareness not only hampered their own progress, but also hindered others’ abilities to get where they were going.
How often do you see this happening in your life or at work? How often do we unwittingly cause problems for others?
Interestingly, the walking-and-texting people usually remained unaware of the negative impact they were having on those around them. In fact, they became irritated with those they bumped into! This is a common phenomenon: When we aren’t alive to our impact, we often blame external sources for our problems rather than taking responsibility for them. But when we blame, we give away our power to make any meaningful changes.
Discover Your Impact By Getting Curious
If I asked you, “What exactly is your impact on your closest coworkers?”, would you be able to answer completely and correctly? If not, how might you find out?
We’ve found that simply asking is the best way to find out.
In fact, one client radically transformed their cross-team collaboration and business results by making a practice of getting curious. After a series of problems with one internal customer, they called their customer representative and said, “We realize we’ve crossed swords in the past, but we’d like to understand our impact better.” They drove to the customer’s office, sat down, and listened to the customer describe the problems he and his team had had with the product. Over the next few months, the team worked with the customer to create a document listing all the customer’s requirements for their product. “We used this document to check any product we sent him from then on.”
In other words, they created a process to check their impact to ensure they were delivering to the customer’s needs. They later expanded this process to their other customers, making a regular practice of asking, “What problems are we causing you?”
The results were dramatic. Customer trust and satisfaction increased while defects reaching the market decreased. At the same time, the team achieved incredible time and cost savings.
So, get curious! Ask questions with an open mind – with a genuine desire to help – and see what answers you get. Rise to the level of your impact.