Characters in your story
I picked up the phone and answered with my customary, “hello”.
“Hello Colin, CJ here.” The voice was distinctive. A little older, slightly frailer but still the definitive Cyril ‘CJ’ Wearn. Now 83, he had called to thank me for a copy of my newly published book that I had sent him.
To a group of teenage lads in the 1980’s he is an absolute legend. As our youth leader he would run club night every Friday and introduce us to the world of 20p bottles of fizzy pop, 5p bags of crisps and weekly games of pool and table tennis. In the summer he would take us on ‘wide games’ out into the woods for chase the flag and then camping trips.
Characters of Impact
“I think you have oversold me in the book,” said Cyril as we chatted about his impact. Still the same wonderful humility exuded from him.
“None of us know the impact that we have on others,” was my reply.
Iain was one of those teenage lads who was part of that youth group. Now a man in his late 40’s who lives and works in America. And yet, on his last visit to the UK last year, he made sure he visited Cyril to say hi and catch up.
It is true that none of us truly know the impact of when we invest into the lives of others. Cyril invested in me as a teenage lad. I learnt from that example and I now too invest in others. Cyril’s impact of investment then goes to the next generation and the influence then continues.
The truth be told, there are so many people that invest in us and have impact. In my book, in the credits (the bit many people ignore) I thank those who impacted on me and the book.
My parents, my wife, Cyril, my grandad all impacted and shaped my character. Starting from the point of relationship.
People like Lauren, who worked with me for 5 years influenced the book as she proof read it and gave honest feedback that allowed me to make improvements. All possible because of building relationship and developing trust.
Ian, Lorna, Steve, Margaret, Dave, Miranda all people who walked alongside me as I left education and established a new leadership and coaching company. Supporting and encouraging through the challenges of establishing something new. All possible because of building relationship.
If I think back in my leadership career, I can think of other leaders like Roger Wilson, the first headteacher I worked for who modelled authority and gave me my first breaks in teaching and leadership. I can think of Mike Payne who gave me lots of opportunities and encouraged me to take over from him as an acting headteacher when he retired.
My book is full of people that I have met, each of them in some form or another influencing me and my story too. My thanks for their influence and agreeing to be int the book.
And here you are, a leader. Think back in your story so far. Who are the characters in your life that shaped your story? How did they influence you? How do you carry on that influence?
Relationship built on trust
In chapter 3 of my book, I explain 5 key areas that help us build trust and develop relationship with others.
Authenticity – being real and honest
Reliability – doing what you say and when you say you will
Intimacy – being open and sharing highs, lows and how you manage them
Selflessness – serving others with honest humility not seeking to gain from others
Expertise – sharing your wisdom and experience in a way that lifts others up to better things
Chances are that the characters in your story that were positive influencers and had impact on you, had most if not all of those qualities. We can tend to think that we need to be perfect leaders. Most of us aren’t and that is ok. In fact, honesty when it goes wrong can be a great example to those we seek to influence.
The aim now is to be a character in other people’s story that continues that impact into another generation.
So, who can you influence today and be a character in their story. It doesn’t have to be massive. Like Cyril it can be something as simple as encouragement over a game of pool and a bottle of fizzy pop!
This is the fourth in the ‘Leaders write the story’ series of blogs.
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