Steadman Harrison is a CEO.
He’s worked closely with companies and organizations all over the world. If you asked him what he does, he’d simply say, as he did to a group of local Ugandans in 2005: “I teach leadership development skills.”
At which point just about everyone perks up and responds, “Come to our business?”
To which the Ugandans added: “Come teach our youth?”
Steadman’s work has shown him two truths about workplaces everywhere:
People want to learn how to lead, or want to be led by good leaders.
Leadership development is about a whole lot more than the workplace.
If you’re a leader in a company or organization, or a parent, or an active member of a community, this post is about your work.
It’s about how the reach of what you do every day is far greater than you ever thought possible.
And it’s about Steadman, who we love working with, who has given us a glimpse of what ‘possible’ can look like. (Think big: It’s global.)
Forget everything about work as you know it.
Steadman could have coined a leadership development strategy, cemented the presentation, and called it “mission accomplished” years ago.
That’s not what he did.
Steadman is ‘a subscriber’ to the narrative mindset we talk about here on the blog. He believes that the stories we tell ourselves about our work are powerful.
In fact, Steadman actually wrote a mantra for his work story: “from - here - towards.” In other words, he sees his work as something that’s evolving and changing, as opposed to saying, “Okay, now I’ve arrived.”
When we talked with Steadman, he mentioned the importance of perspective shifts. He said that he actually seeks out the experiences that will cause a shift in his perspective. Why?
When your perspective shifts, you get an even bigger picture.
The bigger the picture, the more you understand your context.
The more you understand your context, the bigger your story gets.
The bigger your story, the more important your part.
That last line may sound a little bit like a paradox. But remember cumulative toll? When you know that your work contributes to a larger story, you know that your every interaction impacts that end.
Every interaction has an impact, every day. When you know this, your work takes on a new, powerful meaning.
So yes, your work matters.
And the more you can shift your perspective to see your work in a new light—conflicts and pain points, included—the more you’ll be able to maximize its impact.
Here’s a perspective shift for you.
The average American spends 90,000 hours at work over their lifetime, according to Business Insider.
Think of all the interactions that take place during those 90,000 hours. (For parenting, it’s a whole lot more.)
What’s the cumulative toll of 90,000 hours of work?
On your mindset? On your relationships? On your energy level?
On your decision-making? On how you value and treat others?
At ⅓ the total makeup of your lifetime, your work is changing you.
And after work? You go home, or go to dinner, or take your kids to practice, or make a phone call...Naturally, by extension, your work impacts your family and your local community.
Not only is your work changing you, but how it changes you matters.
What indirect impact is your work having?
When you express gratitude for a coworker, and they feel appreciated, they take that appreciation home. Your expression of gratitude indirectly impacts your coworker’s family, roommate, neighborhood, community groups, and everything else within their sphere of influence.
This is not an exaggeration.
The positive impact you’re having on your workplace is having a positive societal impact. Of course, the reverse is also true: Negative impact in the workplace translates to negative societal impact.
The better we develop leaders in our workplace, the greater our communities will be. This is the power (and the urgency) of workplace leadership development.
So think about it: What impact are you having on your people?
What direct impact could you (and your team) be having?
“In the midst of uncertainty, leadership development offers hope.” —Steadman Harrison
During a leadership development exercise with more than 50 representatives from the Civil Society Organizations that represent more than a million constituents across Ethiopia, one participant said,
‘If we could have our nation do this exercise together, we could achieve peace and unity.”
There are people like Steadman who are looking to directly impact communities—who take their tools (leadership development, mentorship) and teach them on a community level.
If you’re a leader in any capacity, the call to action is to consider:
How can you take the positive at work and translate it into community engagement?
And if you and your team (your coworkers, your community group, your family) were to take on that question together—with your combined resources and creativity—how big do you think your story could get?
If you’re interested in leadership development resources, be sure to visit GOInnovation’s website and follow Steadman’s work on instagram: @talk2steadman.
And as always, reach out to me through my contact page. We can chat about how to Get Started.
Counterstories is a blog collaboration between conflict resolution specialist Steve Beck and writer/editor Rachael Schmid. If you have a powerful story of forgiveness or peacemaking (or just want to share your thoughts on this post), we’d love to hear from you. Reach out at email@example.com.