We all understand that the idea of “paying it forward” is a good thing. We know that when someone does something thoughtful for us, we should make a conscious effort to spread that goodwill by lending a hand to someone else in turn. But it’s critical to remember that every interaction, no matter how small, offers you a choice to pay forward something either contagiously positive or infectiously negative.
Remember What’s Important
Sometimes this choice is easier than others. It is easy to choose kindness when someone has already done something nice for you—you’re already in a great mood! But it’s also important to be conscious of not paying forward our negativity. Nobody wants to be that person who kicks the metaphorical dog after a tough day, especially in business when every impression counts.
I am sure that you can think of examples of how small person-to-person interactions have changed your view of an entire brand. Think of it this way: When it comes to crafting a customer experience, which restaurant chain does it better, Chick-fil-A or Burger King?
Now, you might have a stellar meal at Burger King depending on the location and how well your cashier slept the previous night, but I have to say that Chick-fil-A has every fast food company beat when it comes to service. That’s because courtesy is the cornerstone of its company culture and not something just paid lip service to. It all comes down to making the most of personal interactions—you will never catch a Chick-fil-A employee saying, “You’re welcome.” Instead, they will smile and graciously say, “My pleasure!” Chick-fil-A marketing consultant Kristin Hunter explains, “We provide second-mile service. The first mile is the foundation; good customer service, hot food hot, cold food cold. The second mile is what we do that’s remarkable.”
In the same way, we have to remain laser-focused on the positivity we can pass along, or we might catch ourselves drifting off course. If paying it forward isn’t already a part of your company culture, I suggest making it a part of your personal culture. As leaders, we may not always be on the front lines interacting with every customer, but this concept should always be a part of our big picture because we have the power to drive change in ways both big and small.
For my organization’s big picture, I try to keep in mind that every finalized economic development project the Southwest Michigan First team constructs creates a wide-reaching ripple effect, and in that way, our efforts are paid forward. In fact, for every new direct job that is created in the community, 1.5 indirect jobs are also born in industries such as retail or hospitality, paying progress forward. For example, Pfizer recently announced that, with the support of Southwest Michigan First, it plans to build a new state-of-the-art medications facility, creating a minimum of 450 new jobs. That number alone means countless dollars injected into our local economy as families buy houses and plant roots in our region.
[bctt tweet=”If you want to lead, go to the back of the line and find out how you can help.” username=”@ronkitchens”]
No matter your industry, your work also has a profound impact. And when you grow, the community thrives as a result. But paying it forward shouldn’t end there.
Every senior leader I have ever met was at one time lifted up and guided by a mentor who had been in their place before. I believe that if you want to lead, go to the back of the line and find out how you can help. We all should mindfully strive to use our strengths and abilities to create a ripple effect of our own. Especially as a leader, your actions and decisions have a tremendous impact. By staying focused on spreading positive change, you can use that influence to spread success, and ultimately, others will be empowered to lead on their own. Great leadership is always the best recipe for even greater leaders.
Think about the entire ecosystem surrounding you as a leader: clients, guests, customers, community members and employees. What impressions have you left on them? How are they better off having met you?