Inconsistent behaviors are present in most organizations and managers and partners often raise this issue in my conversations with them.  I assert that instead of being powerless or stopped by a feeling of helplessness, there is almost always something we can do or say that can impact or move forward the behaviors we’re committed to see in the groups in which we work.  Each of us can make a ripple in our pond and that ripple will drive change.

For example, one manager asked me recently if regular check-in meetings should be part of their mentor program to be reported on and monitored.  My answer was yes, that it would be ideal that any mentor or career development program outline the expectations of both the mentor or career advisor and mentee or employee.  However, in the absence of that, I asked the manager what she could do to forward her career and develop those that report to her.  As we explored it together, she determined that she could request check in meetings with her mentor and schedule quarterly check in meetings with the people that report to her.  Distinguishing what she could do, on her own, immediately empowered her.  As others watch her achieve success and develop her staff, they’ll see the benefits of regular check-in meetings and other colleagues are likely to begin to schedule these meetings with their people.  Maybe check-in meetings will even become part of the formal program!

Our actions, even the small ones, have a ripple effect on those around us.  Mostly, we go about our lives and don’t consider the impact of what we’re saying or doing has on others. In addition to positive ripples our words and actions can have, we can cause negative ripples, too.  As my partner, Jennifer Wilson, said in her blog, Who Are You Going To Be When Things Go Bad, I was reminded that I had to consciously choose who I was going to be about it all.” Who we choose to be, despite our circumstances or what others are saying or doing, will ripple out to others in our pond. 

I know I get lazy about choosing my words or actions carefully with those I’m closest to or when I’m tired, but it’s those times that I should stop and “breathe” as Jen pointed out, so that I can drop a positive pebble – or maybe not drop a pebble at all at that moment and come back to it later!   That way I won’t have a mess to clean up or worry that the negativity I gave to someone will then be passed on to someone else because I made them upset by my words or actions.

I’m not saying that it’s easy to find an action I can take when I don’t feel empowered or consciously choose a positive statement or action when I feel like being mad or upset.  However, I do know if I choose the statement or action that will make the difference that I’m committed to, I like the results much better. 

My daughter, a diver on the high school swim/dive team, was complaining about the lack of communication to the divers regarding meets, carpooling, and other events because the divers practice at a different school than the swimmers.  I asked her what she could do to improve the communications.  After reflection, she said that she thought improving communications is the coach’s job (sound familiar?).  We explored what actions she could take instead of being a victim to the circumstances, and she asked the diving coaches to talk about the upcoming events, times, transportation, etc. at the end of each practice so all the divers knew about them and could make a plan together.  I’m sure the other divers appreciated the communication and the coaches appreciated the kids even being interested in the information, but more importantly that someone proactively put a structure in place for the communication to happen. 

What pebble can you drop in your pond today to forward those things to which you’re committed?  And what strategies do you have to help you drop positive pebbles instead of negative ones?  Please post a comment to share so we can learn from you!