Influence can save someone’s life

by Daniel Batten on October 8, 2009

One of the most influential people in my life was my grandmother Emily.

She began painting at age 55 after raising a family of 5, having never held a paint-brush. She also had crippling rheumatoid arthritis. She won a painting competition the same year, and went on to exhibit in galleries around New Zealand. She taught me that you could do anything new at any age. But she taught me something even more important than that.

Once upon a time, as a teenager, I was busy riding motorcycles like there was no tomorrow – after one crash there almost wasn’t. After I hit a traffic Island in Pompallier Tce and finally writing it off, I said to my uncel “I think there was a curse on that bike.” He replied without missing a beat “Yes there was – YOU!” I also started accumulating speeding tickets.

My solution was to buy a radar detector. I went to see my granddad D’arcy to borrow his soldering iron so I could attach the detector to the bike’s battery. As soon as he found out what I wanted it for he refused. Further, he went to tell my grandmother. Emily came out and with a tear in her eye, and she cut through all my teenage defiance in one soft beat of her breath “Daniel, you don’t understand. The only reason we don’t want to lend you the soldering iron is that we love you – and I just hope you’ll take that horrible thing back to the shop”.

One month later, I did take it back. That was around the time a class-mate from school was killed speeding on his bike, and 20 years later I am here to tell the tale. Influence happens when there is a connection that cuts through the mundane.

What was the quality of Emily’s influence that mattered so much, and was so different.

1. She was authentic – she expressed her human love.

2. She was intense – she expressed in no uncertain terms what she hoped I’d do.

However, she did not tell me what I had to do. She left that bit up to me. And that made all the difference.

As a leader in your company, your family or your life – how often to you use this approach? And how often to you tell people what to do because your position says you can? Influencing without authority – even if your position gives you it – separates out average leaders from great leaders.

And yes, influence can save someone’s life.

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Love is more powerful than fear « Beyond the Ceiling
October 8, 2009 at 9:44 pm

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