Leading with Influence

By | Culture, Grow Your Career, Professional Development | No Comments

Good leadership is essential to the member-based nonprofit movement, but sometimes you need to lead when you don’t have any direct authority—such as when you need to motivate your community to action to support a new program or initiative. In those cases, leading with influence can help you inspire the action that’s necessary to fulfill the mission and goals of your YMCA, JCC, or community centers.

Leading with influence is all about taking engagement to the next level. It’s about engaging your community and then leveraging that engagement to drive the specific outcomes that you’re looking for. What is the point of engaging others or in making connections if you are not influencing them toward meaningful action? A fruitless interaction – or worse, a negative interaction – does nothing to deliver your mission. Every interaction should be influential: it should motivate people donate to your organization, sign up for your program, or just take charge of their own health and well being.

leading-with-influence-post1Simon Sinek, the author of Start with Why says, “…the first criterion for any leaders is that they should have the desire to lead. And by ‘lead” I don’t mean that the would-be leaders simply wants to be in charge or stand as the figurehead; true leadership is about service, accountability and sacrifice.”

To communicate or lead through influence, one must:

  1. Imagine a better tomorrow – When you are leading through influence, vision is necessary. When we think of people with vision, we think of people like Gandhi, Malala Yousafzai, Martin Luther King, Jr., Teresa of Calcutta, Eleanor Roosevelt, and George Williams (founder of the YMCA). Casting yourself in the same light as those visionaries can be paralyzing, but there’s good news: your vision doesn’t have to be that big. All of us, every day, catch a glimpse of ways in which the world could be better. What if you found a way to teach more kids to swim and reduce drownings in your community? What if you could work with local doctors to get prescriptions to participate in your programs? A great example of a small vision is the Little Library movement. People place boxes in their neighborhood that neighbors can use as a lending library. People are invited to take a book, and leave a book. The idea is simple and small, but it has a huge impactful in the community.
  2. Inspire others to see it – Once you’ve caught a glimpse of a better tomorrow, don’t ask others to join your team. Instead, convince them that you’re already on the same team by showing them the vision, letting it resonate with them, and having them get excited. Letting people see your vision as their own won’t convert everyone into a champion of the idea, but it ensures that those who do see it really, truly see it. But practice some discretion in who you try to win to your cause. To lead with influence, you have to have a basis of trust and relationship. Jim Rayburn, the founder of YoungLife, recognized this in his work with American high school students in the 1950s. He saw adults expect to be listened to just because they’re adults, and he realized that no one had an intrinsic right to be heard. We each have to “earn the right to be heard.”
  3. Foster a common identity – Once you have people rallied behind the cause, you have to forge them into a community that can execute together. Imagine this like a pick-up basketball game. Nobody organizes a pick-up game; people just come to the park, sort themselves into teams, and have fun. Leading with influence can be the same way. You give people a chance to connect and do something together, but you don’t mandate how. This can be tough, as we’re taught in western culture that the leader is the decider. But to see your better tomorrow become reality, you don’t have to have perfect alignment; you just have to share the vision and be headed to the same endpoint. Leading with influence is directional, not prescriptive.
  4. Let go of control – To truly be directional, you have to be willing to give up control. Leading with influence is all about finesse. Captain David Marquet of the US Navy understood this when he took command of the Santa Fe, which was, at the time, the worst performing US nuclear submarine. Under his leadership, the Santa Fe went from “worst to first.” Marquet didn’t accomplish such an astounding turnaround by tightening his grip, revising the standard operating procedures, and mandating compliance. Instead, he loosened his grip, trusting people to make good decisions, and letting them organize themselves within the bounds of their common goal. As a leader, this approach can be terrifying and counterintuitive, but if we want to grow the capacity of our organization to act in ways that drive the mission, it’s essential. “When we give away control, followers become leaders, and doers become thinkers,” said Captain Marquet. In volunteer-led organizations, more leaders means more mission impact.
  5. leading-with-influence-post3Lead from the trenches – At a certain point, leading with influence goes viral. You’ve inspired people to see a better tomorrow, rallied them to be a team in pursuit of that vision, and given them the chance to lead themselves in pursuing it. From that point on, you take a back seat role and let things play out. But that doesn’t mean you become passive. Instead, you keep your eye on the vision, periodically assessing the group’s efforts towards that vision, and tweak, nudge, encourage, and finesse as need. Your goal, ultimately, becomes to help the people accomplish the work. As Lao Tzu wrote, “A leader is best when people barely know he exists. When his work is done, the people will say, ‘We did this ourselves.’”

Leading with influence isn’t easy, but it’s one of the most effective methods of leadership for bringing about change in a group of people or a community, and it can help you engage the people around you in your organization’s mission and purpose.

leading-with-influence-post2

 

Will S. is a product strategist and designer who measures real life objects in pixels and pinches to zoom on his paper edition of Wired magazine.

Leading with Influence

By | Industry, Leadership, Mission Delivery | No Comments

Good leadership is essential to the member-based nonprofit movement, but sometimes you need to lead when you don’t have any direct authority—such as when you need to motivate your community to action to support a new program or initiative. In those cases, leading with influence can help you inspire the action that’s necessary to fulfill the mission and goals of your YMCA, JCC, or community centers.

Leading with influence is all about taking engagement to the next level. It’s about engaging your community and then leveraging that engagement to drive the specific outcomes that you’re looking for. What is the point of engaging others or in making connections if you are not influencing them toward meaningful action? A fruitless interaction – or worse, a negative interaction – does nothing to deliver your mission. Every interaction should be influential: it should motivate people donate to your organization, sign up for your program, or just take charge of their own health and well being.

leading-with-influence-post1Simon Sinek, the author of Start with Why says, “…the first criterion for any leaders is that they should have the desire to lead. And by ‘lead” I don’t mean that the would-be leaders simply wants to be in charge or stand as the figurehead; true leadership is about service, accountability and sacrifice.”

To communicate or lead through influence, one must:

  1. Imagine a better tomorrow – When you are leading through influence, vision is necessary. When we think of people with vision, we think of people like Gandhi, Malala Yousafzai, Martin Luther King, Jr., Teresa of Calcutta, Eleanor Roosevelt, and George Williams (founder of the YMCA). Casting yourself in the same light as those visionaries can be paralyzing, but there’s good news: your vision doesn’t have to be that big. All of us, every day, catch a glimpse of ways in which the world could be better. What if you found a way to teach more kids to swim and reduce drownings in your community? What if you could work with local doctors to get prescriptions to participate in your programs? A great example of a small vision is the Little Library movement. People place boxes in their neighborhood that neighbors can use as a lending library. People are invited to take a book, and leave a book. The idea is simple and small, but it has a huge impactful in the community.
  2. Inspire others to see it – Once you’ve caught a glimpse of a better tomorrow, don’t ask others to join your team. Instead, convince them that you’re already on the same team by showing them the vision, letting it resonate with them, and having them get excited. Letting people see your vision as their own won’t convert everyone into a champion of the idea, but it ensures that those who do see it really, truly see it. But practice some discretion in who you try to win to your cause. To lead with influence, you have to have a basis of trust and relationship. Jim Rayburn, the founder of YoungLife, recognized this in his work with American high school students in the 1950s. He saw adults expect to be listened to just because they’re adults, and he realized that no one had an intrinsic right to be heard. We each have to “earn the right to be heard.”
  3. Foster a common identity – Once you have people rallied behind the cause, you have to forge them into a community that can execute together. Imagine this like a pick-up basketball game. Nobody organizes a pick-up game; people just come to the park, sort themselves into teams, and have fun. Leading with influence can be the same way. You give people a chance to connect and do something together, but you don’t mandate how. This can be tough, as we’re taught in western culture that the leader is the decider. But to see your better tomorrow become reality, you don’t have to have perfect alignment; you just have to share the vision and be headed to the same endpoint. Leading with influence is directional, not prescriptive.
  4. Let go of control – To truly be directional, you have to be willing to give up control. Leading with influence is all about finesse. Captain David Marquet of the US Navy understood this when he took command of the Santa Fe, which was, at the time, the worst performing US nuclear submarine. Under his leadership, the Santa Fe went from “worst to first.” Marquet didn’t accomplish such an astounding turnaround by tightening his grip, revising the standard operating procedures, and mandating compliance. Instead, he loosened his grip, trusting people to make good decisions, and letting them organize themselves within the bounds of their common goal. As a leader, this approach can be terrifying and counterintuitive, but if we want to grow the capacity of our organization to act in ways that drive the mission, it’s essential. “When we give away control, followers become leaders, and doers become thinkers,” said Captain Marquet. In volunteer-led organizations, more leaders means more mission impact.
  5. leading-with-influence-post3Lead from the trenches – At a certain point, leading with influence goes viral. You’ve inspired people to see a better tomorrow, rallied them to be a team in pursuit of that vision, and given them the chance to lead themselves in pursuing it. From that point on, you take a back seat role and let things play out. But that doesn’t mean you become passive. Instead, you keep your eye on the vision, periodically assessing the group’s efforts towards that vision, and tweak, nudge, encourage, and finesse as need. Your goal, ultimately, becomes to help the people accomplish the work. As Lao Tzu wrote, “A leader is best when people barely know he exists. When his work is done, the people will say, ‘We did this ourselves.’”

Leading with influence isn’t easy, but it’s one of the most effective methods of leadership for bringing about change in a group of people or a community, and it can help you engage the people around you in your organization’s mission and purpose.

leading-with-influence-post2

Leaders, Assemble!

By | Culture, Life at Daxko, Professional Development, Talent | No Comments

We take leadership development pretty seriously at Daxko. Every team lead participates in an extensive training program, called Leadership Academy, that teaches us how to be better leads with classes on topics like performance planning and active coaching.

But just like the good old days of college, Leadership Academy doesn’t last forever. Eventually, you graduate with your M.D. (Masters of Daxko).

On a recent trip, Lisa H. (a fellow M.D.) and I were talking about how we missed the interactions with other leads that we enjoyed in Leadership Academy. After we graduated, we found ourselves so focused on leading our teams that we spent little time thinking or talking about how we led—and we both agreed that kind of stunk.

Bacon Gate 23

Over a sub-par breakfast at gate 23 at Midway Airport, we decided to do something about it. We joined forces with Daxko’s People team and created a new venue for our peers and us to talk about the issues that we face as leaders: the League of Extraordinary Leaders. (It’s OK; you can laugh. We know it’s a silly name, but we embrace our silliness at Daxko from time to time.)

The League is intended to be organic and conversational—a complement to Leadership Academy’s more formal structure. We wanted to create a place where we could share openly with other leads, talk about our struggles and worries, seek each other’s wisdom, and support each other as we lead our teams. It’s one part conversation, one part knowledge sharing, and one part group therapy.

Our first meeting — a fishbowl discussion about balancing tactical and strategic leadership — was this week. As facilitator, I worried that we’d have awkward lulls in the discussion, but we kept a lively and helpful discussion going for the full hour. That hour reminded me that I work alongside some phenomenal people, and I went about the rest of my day with renewed energy and sense of purpose for the work we do at Daxko.

We’re going to keep it up with meetings once a month on topics that our peers surface and vote on. We’ll change up the format some to keep it fresh, I’m sure, but we won’t waver in our commitment to helping each other grow.

After all, if there’s one thing we at Daxko know and believe beyond doubt, it’s this: we are “all together, better.”

Will S. is a product strategist and designer who measures real life objects in pixels and pinches to zoom on his paper edition of Wired magazine.

Why I Love Birmingham

By | Culture, Life at Daxko | One Comment

You read the job description, you think “these people get it,” and then two words stop you cold: “Birmingham, Alabama.”

Look, I get it. I used to think just like you. I could sooner see myself relocating to Antarctica than Alabama. But before you nope out of here, listen to what I’ve learned in my year in Birmingham – an amazing year that has transformed me from a reluctant transplant into Birmingham’s #1 fan.

When I joined Daxko, I was the first hire in our Atlanta office. I’d been in Atlanta for about three years, having been relocated from my quiet hometown of Augusta, GA. I grew up in and loved Augusta, so when I moved to Atlanta, I was caught off guard in a good way. The ATL was spectacular!

Atlanta was buzzing, alive, cosmopolitan. I loved going to shows at the Fabulous Fox Theatre. My wife and I were members at the High Museum and the Museum of Design Atlanta, and we liked to ride Marta down to take in the exhibits at both museums.  My kids loved the Atlanta Zoo, and the Georgia Aquarium is absolutely magical.

So when I got the opportunity to take a promotion that would require me to be in the Birmingham office, I paused. It was a huge leap forward in my career, but, again: Alabama? It wasn’t a total deal breaker, but it was close.

Ultimately, my wife and I weighed the options and decided that maybe we could tolerate Birmingham. You know, at least for a little while… for the sake of my career.

We expected to get through it with clenched jaws and stoic determination. We didn’t expect to fall in love with the Magic City, and we certainly didn’t expect it to ever feel like home. But it did, and I want to share with you what it is I’ve come to love about my new hometown.

The real estate market. My family of six (me, my wife, my three kids, and my mom) need space. A lot of space. In Atlanta, it was a pragmatic impossibility—we lived in the farthest ‘burbs and were still at the top of our budget. But in Birmingham, we found a wonderful home with plenty of room in a great area of town close to everything for $60,000 less than our home in Atlanta. We were able to finance a renovation loan, fix up a few things to our tastes, and still come out far better off than Atlanta. And with a strong market in the Birmingham area, our investment is almost sure to pay off in the long run.

The educational opportunities. Like any major area, the schools can be a little uneven, but we’ve found the Hoover City Schools system to be an incredible place for our two school-aged daughters. Their school is a wonderfully diverse community shepherded by talented, caring teachers and administrators. My daughters get plenty of opportunities to learn and experience new things—Lego robotics club, chess club, choir, taekwondo lessons. We loved our school in Atlanta, but there’s no comparison. My daughters are excelling far more in Hoover than they would have in Atlanta.

But it’s not just the schools. Birmingham also boasts some incredible educational institutions like the McWane Science Center, the Birmingham Zoo, and the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. One of my family’s favorite hidden jewels is Aldridge Gardens—a serene preserve in Hoover than we can walk to from our house.

The music scene. In the year we’ve been in Birmingham, we’ve seen more of our favorite bands perform live than in all the years we were in Atlanta. The Lumineers, Over the Rhine, Ben Sollee, Tegan and Sara, Indigo Girls, Sixpence None the Richer. I know not everyone’s music tends toward the indie singer-songwriter genre like ours, but we skip far more shows than we attend. With major venues like WorkPlay, Iron City, and the open-air stage at Avondale Brewing, to smaller places like Moonlight on the Mountain, Birmingham is bursting with live music. I don’t know if it’s the proximity to Muscle Shoals, a great location on three major interstates, or the draw of Birmingham Mountain Radio, but if you want a good music in Birmingham, you’ll find it.

The beer. The Free the Hops movement paved the way for craft brewing to take root in Alabama, and Birmingham now hosts some of the best breweries around. From Good People Brewing Company (try the Snakehandler Double IPA) to Avondale Brewing (the Spring Street Saison is incredible) to Cahaba Brewing Company (Oka Uba IPA is one of my favorites now), Birmingham is seeing a renaissance in craft brewing. Want to cast your net to other Alabama craft beers? The J. Clyde has a fantastic selection of beer from Alabama and all over the world, and the food is incredible.

The food. Birmingham has a tremendous number of local restaurants of fantastic quality: BBQ (of course), Thai, Indian, Japanese, Mexican, burgers, pizza. And, of course, the Southern food (I’ve even learned to love fried okra). There are a number of food trucks that you’ll find outside Avondale Brewing or the Birmingham Barons stadium—I’m a big fan of Off the Hook’s rocket shrimp. But where Birmingham really shines is its fine dining. With world-class chefs like Chris Hastings of Hot and Hot Fish Club and Frank Stitt of HighlandsChez Fonfon, and Bottega, Birmingham boasts cuisine that rivals the best of any major city.

The parks. With more green space per capita than any other city in America, Birmingham has a park to match every style. The award-winning Railroad Park anchors downtown Birmingham with an urban oasis. Ruffner Mountain gives you a chance to break away for a relaxing hike. Oak Mountain State Park, just south of town, is great for an impromptu weekend camping trip. Want something a little more adventurous? The zip line tour at Red Mountain Park will get your blood pumping.

So that’s just a sampling of what we’ve fallen in love within our year in Birmingham. Now, I won’t lie to you. There’s a bit of culture shock if you’re not from the South. Trucks are big and plentiful. Drawls are rich and thick. But the people, and the town, are far from what you imagined when you first let those two words stop you from looking more closely at Daxko. I’m sure if you give us a chance, you, too, will come to equate the words “Birmingham, Alabama,” with “home, sweet home.”

Will S. is a product strategist and designer who measures real life objects in pixels and pinches to zoom on his paper edition of Wired magazine.