Smears of Jam, Lights of Jelly by Mary Pratt, 2007
A friend and I were talking in her living room in the last week of summer. My kids were at a camp, hers were playing downstairs in the basement. The conversation rambled as it does when you are with good friends. Soon we found ourselves talking about how to be moms, women, humans in a world such as ours–take your pic of issues and dilemmas, we are aghast at it all.
So we asked, how do we lead in these times? How do things change? How do we parent, how do we counsel, how do we lead, how do we say any meaningful words in this world of really hard things? Of intractable divisions. Of such tangly messy issues, problems, hearts, that its easy to just give up and Netflix the heck out of days.
These are questions of influence, leading, using the power we have. And we got curious.
So I did what I do when I don’t want to do stuff alone and I asked other people. I asked other people what they know and what their lives had taught them about influence. Very ordinary people. I’m interested in how YOU do it. How the mom of 3 does it. How the single woman who makes a lot of decisions does it. How the dreamer, the artist, the project manager and the entrepreneur do it.
I’m so deeply interested in the wisdom of real women I know in THIS CITY.
I sent an email to a lot of people asking them some questions. Now if you didn’t get an email, and you are a friend of mine, I can guarantee I thought of you. I just had to draw names after a while because the list of women who influence, whether they know it or not, was as numerous as the number of women I know.
After narrowing the field by literally numbering off names and I emailed them these questions:
How do you influence others right now, in your present situation? What’s that specifically look like in your life? What is your goal? How do you do this? words? actions? plans? ideas? art?
Who influences/influenced you? Who empowers/empowered you? What/Who has been indispensable in making you you?
What is the outcome of your influence? How do you gauge success? When do you stumble in your influence and what does it look like to get back up?
And what I received back has blown my mind. I’m serious. From stay at home moms to moms with grown kids, to entrepreneurs, to activists, to theologians, to artists, to business leaders, these ORDINARY WOMEN, women in front of you at Superstore, had so much wisdom about the shape of influence in real life.
Almost every one of them caveated their response with a version of “these questions made me uncomfortable.” Are we uncomfortable with the bit of power we have been given? Not power to control, but power to make things flourish. Maybe we are uncomfortable owning our own life, power, desire to influence for good? Maybe we just aren’t used to looking inward? Stopping and paying attention to our own selves maybe just aren’t modes we live in? It requires such radical honesty and such radical trust that we’ve been given this power for good.
But these women answered – these women you pass by everyday—they answered and still are.
And I’m going to share their thoughts with you.
Because they are deep and good replies, I might only post one or two at a time for the foreseeable future. I did not edit at all. Which makes for a longform read – we can do it ! After each woman’s words I will draw out a few things from their answer that struck me deep. It might not be what strikes you deep. Share in the comments if something else was meaningful or helpful. If you want to subscribe to the blog, do so, and you can follow the answers. And if you are one of the women who was thinking about answering, or if you just want to add your voice to the mix – please send in your thoughts! Let’s share our collective wisdom for as long as we can.
NOW, there are such a variety of women in this. Each one in a different field or place in the world so their answers are so specific and particular. You might read something in their answers that you don’t get or identify with at all. Some of what they refer to might sound like a foreign language. You might read something you don’t even like. But stay curious. Stay Curious! Look for words in their answers that catch you. And run with those words, trusting that they are for you.
For today I’ll start with one answer.
It comes from a woman named Laura. As an Executive Coach, you might say her work is all about developing influence. But I love how she describes her work. I hope you do too.
1. How do you influence others right now? What’s that specifically look like in your life? What is your goal? how do you do this?
I think the two main ways I influence others are through my work as a coach and as a mom. As a coach, I get to hold space for people to look at what they’d love to create in their life. Not a lot of people take time to stop and have those vision conversations so even just the fact that I get to have conversations with clients where we talk about what more they could be capable of in their lives gives me the opportunity to influence their view of what’s possible.
I talk with clients about where they’re buying into their own limiting beliefs about what’s “realistic” and possible and help them set up ways to test their assumptions rather than trust them.
My goal is to powerfully serve people who are discovering new heights of what they want to achieve in their life and who are creating beautiful things in the world.
As a mom, I get to shape the world of three little people who are learning about what they’re capable of and what excites them. Creating opportunities for them to experience the world and failing beautifully within it is a way I’m excited to create resiliency and hope in them.
2. Who influences/influenced you? Who empowers/empowered you? What has been indispensable in making you you?
There are several authors who have influenced me through their work- Brene Brown, Jen Hatmaker, Rich Litvin, Steve Chandler.
The research and resulting book “The Three Laws of Performance: Rewriting The Future Of Your Organization and Your Life” from Steve Saffron and Dave Logan about neurolinguistic programming has changed the way I speak and approach my life.
Robert Keegan and Lisa Lahey’s work in “Immunity to Change” unlocked conversations I had been stuck on in the way I operated for years. Their work in “How The Way We Talk Can Change the Way We Work” has also been fundamental to what I’ve been learning lately.
“Loving What Is” by Byron Katie and her surrounding work had a profound impact on my understanding of personal ownership and living life from an empowered perspective rather than a victim mentality.
StrengthsFinder has been instrumental in shaping my understanding of myself and in creating passion for helping other people see the potential in themselves. It was my gateway drug into the coaching work.
Accessing the transformational coaching work that I am now a part of completely turned the way I was living my life upside down in the best way possible. It has absolutely been indispensable in making me who I am now. The organization “Gap Community” and their Awaken training helped open my eyes to the ways I was living that weren’t serving me well and inspired me to think about how I wanted to approach my life in a new, more empowered way.
3.What is the outcome of your influence? How do you gauge success? When do you stumble in your influence and what does it look like to get back up?
The outcome of my influence will have a ripple effect as people take it out into their lives after encountering the powerful conversation they have in coaching with me. I gauge success through the feedback that I get from the people that I serve in my work. Knowing that because they had a powerful conversation with me, they went out and created new things in their lives and in the world that wouldn’t have been there otherwise is a humbling role and one I’m truly grateful for.
I think I stumble in my influence when I start to believe it’s about me and therefore I’m not enough for people. It’s so not about me and that’s when that belief leads to a disempowered way of approaching my life which ends up serving no one (other than maybe my own pride.) When I stop focusing on serving others and make it about my own agenda or my own needs, I lose influence with people because I’m making it about myself. Getting back up looks like reconnecting to what I’m committed to cause in others and to who God created me to be.
Bio: Laura Leffelaar- B.Ed, Executive Coach with Novus Global, Mom to 3 littles, pastor’s wife, church volunteer and creator of community building opportunities.
Now I’m not a coach and I don’t know that world. But what stood out to me were these phrases:
“As a coach, I hold space for people to look at what they’d love to create in their life.” Hold space. For the imaginations of others. We don’t fill in imaginations – we hold space for people to have their own. wow. wow. wow.
“My goal is to powerfully serve people who are discovering.” Serve those who are discovering – look for those who are discovering and serve them. Serve discovering!
“Creating opportunities for them to experience the world and failing beautifully within it is a way I’m excited to create resiliency and hope in them.” Failing beautifully. That’s good.
“I think I stumble in my influence when I start to believe it’s about me and therefore I’m not enough for people.” Maybe influence is not about us, but throwing the power back to others. We will never be enough to influence it all. But empowering others might just change something. Wow. Wow. Wow.
I’m excited guys. This is going to be good.