Updated: May 25
As a Certified Career Development Coach, I learned the most valuable lessons on how to create impact from my days working with youth. When I was 19 years old, I started to work in the human service field. I spent the first 11 years of my professional life working in residential treatment programs with kids who had a variety of emotional and behavioral challenges.
These brave youth came from diverse backgrounds and were struggling in their homes, schools, and communities. For them to be deemed eligible to enter our facilities, they had to have been demonstrating levels of danger to either themselves, others, or to the community at large.
These were kids that had sustained significant trauma in their backgrounds. As a result, their acts of danger sent out red flags that they needed help.
Each youth had their own individual story. They came with their unique set of circumstances. These were courageous and resilient teenagers. Of the hundreds of youth that I worked with, each of them taught me lessons far greater than I ever taught them.
I was drawn to the human service field, like so many others, because I wanted to make an impact and a difference in someone’s life. My grandfather, Dr. Joseph Flanz, was a psychiatrist in the 1930s and ’40s. Although I never had the chance to meet him, I knew that embedded in my DNA, my grandfather and I shared the same desire to understand what makes us do what we do and to help and serve others.
One of the greatest lessons I gained was becoming clear on the elements of influencing and creating an impact in another person’s life. The 11 years that I spent working directly with youth in crisis allowed me to gain a perspective and develop strategies that transcended into my leadership tool belt.
Here are the four ingredients that I want to share that will generate impact as a leader.
· Rapport Building,
· Consistency and a Never-Ending Persistence.
Yes, impact takes time. The exact amount of time varies from organization to organization, project to project, employee to employee, or client to client. The time frame can often be unclear however showing your investment and demonstrating that you will be “in it” can speak volumes.
I recall seeing a former client working at a video store several years after she graduated from one of the residential treatment programs. Yes, remember the days of VHS tapes and video rental stores?
When I entered the video store I turned around swiftly when I heard someone screeching my name in excitement to find this former client working at the register. She was then in her 20’s, a student in college studying psychology, looking healthy and together. She started telling me how much she appreciated all I had done for her those years earlier. Her memory was vivid and clear and for all the challenges that she presented with six years earlier it was clear that some of the messages my team and I had sent had stuck! Yes, the impact had been achieved!
As a leader, your impact will develop over time. You may not see it, feel it or experience it right away or ever but know that what you do will be remembered. It may take time for all the seeds that you sow as a leader to grow and show themselves within your team. Your efforts will not be lost and will eventually take form.
#2 RAPPORT BUILDING
Impact requires developing and sustaining healthy relationships. Since most of what we do as leaders involves a relational aspect, creating rapport with your team will drive your connection and levels of influence. Being skilled at building and nourishing your relationships is an important tool for all leaders.
When I would encounter a youth that bucked at me, challenged almost every request, and seemed to have little interest in what I had to say, I would focus heavily on working to build our relationship. I would center on them; learn their interests, pay attention to their preferences, their likes, and dislikes and look for some way to find commonality and link between us. Most of the time, I would be able to find an “in” with those kids and from there doors opened.
Relationship building is a key ingredient to gaining greater leadership impact! When you take the time to learn about your team, decipher their strengths, interests, and pet peeves you will send a message that they are important. They’re important enough to invest your time and energy to learn and understand who they are and what they bring to the table.
Rapport drives impact! Your focus and emphasis on developing healthy professional relationships and sustaining them as a leader will reap positive rewards.
#3 & #4 CONSISTENCY AND A NEVER-ENDING PERSISTENCE
Impact also requires a high level of consistency and never-ending persistence. I am referring to, that “do as I do not as I say” adage and that “never give up attitude” that you should embrace with others.
Now, consistency, when working with troubled teenagers or any teenager for that matter is essential. They would try to find any loophole they could to avoid developing trust and confidence. One reason is that they had experienced many adults in their lives who had let them down. My approach with youth was to be even, steadfast and true to my word. That approach paid high rewards.
You may encounter, as a leader, that members of your team had negative experiences with their previous manager, and you may be working to dissolve a bad illusion of another leader. Don’t get me wrong, there are obvious situations where leaders should draw the line, create boundaries and maintain a healthy threshold. However, in relation to working with your team, a high level of consistency and persistence will breed confidence others will have in you and subsequently in themselves.
By showing a high level of consistency and a persistent attitude that you believe in your team, you will be a leader role modeling an image that will boost your impact.
Consistency and persistence drive and power impact.
Working with youth taught me how to optimize my impact on others. As a leader, you, can have that same direct influence and create a climate to assist your team to achieve their best. Time, rapport, consistency, and continual persistence will help you achieve a stellar leadership impact. Go out there a make a difference.