This past week I made my semi-annual trek up to Cedar Falls to teach students ways to be more innovative within the school of business. After one of the sessions a young man approached my teaching partner and I and shared with us how much he appreciated what we shared. He said, “This was the best session of the year so far. Normally I check out and was anticipating doing the same today. But I didn’t. Thank you.”
Obviously hearing his thoughts was very validating, but it was what he said next that inspired me personally and to share this story with you. After the lovely comments he said somewhat nervously, “This is actually really uncomfortable for me. I don’t ever give teachers feedback. But I wanted to make sure I told you this in person.”
What struck me was not the content of his words, but the courage of his conversation. On my drive home I wondered, when have I pushed through my fear to show my appreciation to someone? I realized I couldn’t come up with as many times as I would have thought. And not nearly enough times based on the vast number of people who have positively and significantly impacted my life.
How many people have influenced your life and don’t know it?
The number of people in my life who have influenced me and do not know their impact is well into the hundreds, if not more. I challenge myself (and you!) to create an “Impact Inventory.” Make a list of individuals who have significantly impacted your life (or even just this past year). This list may include family, friends, colleagues, mentors, authors, thought leaders, etc. Identify a few key people who have impacted you and who you can reach out to with an expression of gratitude. But, before you type out a quick thank you email, I’d like to help you take this a step further.
Instead of simply sharing your appreciation it will always be more powerful to be specific about the impact they’ve made on you. How have they made you think, feel, act differently? What specifically have they shown you about being a better leader, person, partner, parent? Not only is this powerful for them, it can be a powerful practice for you too!
Great, we have a thank you written and it’s specific about the impact they’ve made…don’t press send just yet!
Share the Ripple Effect
Let’s take this a level deeper by sharing The Ripple Effect of their impact. This idea came for this to me for this type of feedback while I was on a train from Amsterdam to Paris last year. I had just wrapped speaking at an incredible conference. My boss Erin had strongly advocated for me to come with her and speak at this conference. And while she knew I was immensely grateful, I couldn’t stop thinking about the ripple effect her actions had, and how she truly didn’t know how big of an impact her actions made. So, I mapped it out:
- It had an impact on me. I got the chance to present internationally at a conference and meet movers and shakers from across the globe.
- It had an impact on my husband. This was his first time traveling outside of the United States and our first time taking an international trip together.
- We got to meet incredible people and are still friends with our AirBnB host from Amsterdam.
- My parents watched our house and dogs while we were away. This gave them a fun staycation in Des Moines and a chance to spend time with my brother and sister-in-law, who was 9 months pregnant.
- I bought a little bunny doll in Amsterdam that had a rattle inside. This doll now goes to bed every night with Sophie, my niece. When my brother and sister-in-law hear the jingle from the bunny, they know Sophie is awake.
The majority of the people on this list are people that Erin may never meet or may hear about from me, but her action of advocating for me spread into their lives. While she certainly would have appreciated hearing about my impact, it was showing her the Ripple that showed how far her one decision spread.
We’ve created a Ripple Effect worksheet to help you map out the Ripple Effect of someone on your Impact Inventory.