By Chuck Violand
May 23, 2016
My wife and I recently attended a concert, sitting in the row directly behind three slightly younger women. During the intermission, one of the women stood up, turned around, and asked, “Is your name Chuck Violand?” Since she had pronounced my last name correctly, it was clear that she knew who I was, but for the life of me I did not recognize her. After she identified herself and both of us marveled at this coincidence, we did the math and realized we had not seen each other in over 40 years! Yet, she talked about an organization we had both been involved with at the time, a program I led within that organization, and even a few specific comments I had made all those years ago. I was amazed by her recollections. This made me think: if casual comments I made as a young man could be recounted 40 years later, imagine the impact comments we make as company leaders could have on our people now and in the future.
As leaders of any organization, we are always in a pulpit, and people are always watching and listening to the things we do and say. It doesn’t matter whether the organization is a business, a sports team, a non-profit, or a church. And it doesn’t matter whether you’re in your teens, your twenties, or your sixties; if you’re in a leadership role, people are paying attention to you.
Too often we think of pulpits only as objects in churches; ornate wooden or marble structures with someone in them serving up sermons about life. But those pulpits may actually be the smallest of them all, since they typically have our attention for only about an hour each week.
But, when preachers can influence their congregations with only an hour a week to do so, and coaches can influence the lives of their players in just a couple hours each day, imagine the influence business owners and managers can have on their workers in forty hours per week, week in and week out, sometimes for years!
The pulpit we have been tasked with as business owners and managers can have a far greater impact on the lives of the people in our care, although we rarely think of our businesses as pulpits.
The people in your company will appreciate the technical training you provide to them. After all, their jobs depend on it. But what they’ll remember and talk about are the life lessons they learned from you by observing the way you treated them.
I’m sure others have stories similar to the one I experienced. I can assure you I had no idea all those years ago that anyone was even paying attention. It’s important to remember that we’re writing our own histories every day with every action we take; histories that influence people’s lives and that could be recalled years later. As leaders, everything we do and say and write will impact the people we lead, even when we think no one’s paying attention.
So, write your history carefully. You never know who’s taking notes. And you never know when someone will approach you in years to come and ask, “Do you remember when you said…?”