Making a Positive Impact in Business with The Ripple Effect
“Our personal ripple effect is the power of one generating hope and change in others for a better world. Like ripples radiating across the surface of a pond when a pebble is tossed in, kindness is powerful and has far-reaching, positive ramifications that bring about a tremendous sense of joy.”
― Laurie Buchanan, PhD
The ‘Ripple Effect’, a small act of kindness that propagates beyond what you ever imagine or may ever know. Once in a while, we get to see the effects of your ripple. Hopefully, it’s a positive, but you will never know how many people were affected more often than not. A ripple effect occurs when an initial disturbance to a system propagates outward to disturb an increasingly larger portion of the system, like ripples expanding across the water when an object is dropped into it.
My Personal Experience of Receiving the Ripple Effect
The year was 1981; I was working my first corporate job at Harris Bank in Chicago. I worked in the Trust Fee department as an entry-level Trust Fee clerk. Harris Bank was established in 1907 by Norman W. Harris and now 74 years later to my amazement, his grandson Stanley G. Harris was the President/CEO. I had heard stories that Mr. Harris would walk around the bank every Friday afternoon. Apparently, he did this for 2 reasons. First, he liked to see how the bank looked to those that didn’t work there. Did it look clean? Was it inviting and professional? Second, and probably more important, he wanted the employees to know that he was approachable. He would pick a person here or there and sit with them to learn about them and what they did for the bank. He inquired on how they liked their job, and the environment. This one particular Friday, he was walking by our department and for some reason decided to sit at my desk. Of course, when you are an entry-level Trust Fee clerk, all sorts of things go through your head, including the intimidation factor that this was the President of the bank sitting at my desk and it was important not to look like a fool. He introduced himself, shook my hand, sat down, and began to ask me about my job. Specifically, what position I held and how I liked working at the bank. After a deep breath, I proceeded to give him the play-by-play of what I did. To my surprise, not only was he interested, he asked me if I had any suggestions on things we could improve about the job. He asked me a couple more questions about myself, then he shook my hand, thanked me for what I did for the bank and he was off. The ripple effect from that chance encounter is still being felt 40 years later in my life. I learned a valuable lesson that day that I have carried throughout my life. No matter what your title or position, no one should be unapproachable. As my boss at that time told me, “don’t be intimidated, they put their pants on one leg at a time, just like you do.”
As the leader of a company, it’s important to connect with your employees across all levels. Business owners have a tendency to only associate with the leadership team and the other people/employees can feel left out with no voice. I have applied this lesson across every business I’ve ever been part of and the ripple effects continue to roll out to those who I have touched.
Causing the Ripple Effect
In the early 2000s, I was traveling 2 to 3 days a week, every week. I was the CTO and Co-Founder of FreeDrive.com, a web-based storage site. We were growing by leaps and bounds with 18 million users and counting by 2001. To keep up with the demand, I would fly around the country to meet with companies, review their technology and see if it would fit into the FreeDrive platform. I spent a lot of time in airports and on planes. This is where I honed my ‘Ripple Effect’ skills. You see, I’ve always been patient and caring of others, but when you travel and especially when you get delayed, I followed a rule my dad taught me, “you get more with sugar than with vinegar”. In other words better to be kind and caring than mean and condescending. So, I learned immediately always to be nice to the ticket agents and even apologize for the actions of others. A small act of kindness, that caused a ripple effect. They were always more willing to help me get where I needed to go. The big question is why do people think that raising their voice or talking down to a ticket agent, which by the way have very little control over delays or canceled flights, is going to change the situation? Ticket agents can, however, get you rescheduled or bumped to the top of the standby list, which is exactly the effect I would receive by treating them the way I wanted to be treated. This was never more prominent than a time at LaGuardia Airport in NY. I had been there several times and always ended up with the same ticket agent, Mylady was her name. The first time I met her was during a delay out of New York to Chicago. The person in front of me was screaming at her because they were going to be late for an appointment in Chicago. When it was my turn, I apologized for the person in front of me, talked to her for a few minutes then asked what the possibilities were. She gave me some options, none were all that great, but she was able to push me to the top of the standby list for a flight that was leaving in an hour. I thanked her, smiled, and encouraged her to have a good day.
One week later, it was almost like groundhogs day, the flight was delayed, Mylady was at the counter and the person in front of me was yelling at her. When it was my turn, I walked up and smiled. She looked at me and said, “hey blue eyes, I saw your name on the list so I moved you to the next flight already, here is your seat.” I couldn’t believe it. I thanked her and left to go to the other gate.
Using the ripple effect, you never know who it will touch or when it may bounce back to you. What I can tell you is that it can be both negative and positive, but I have always chosen to cause a positive ripple effect and I would encourage you to do the same. I have more stories than I could possibly share with you and others that I may never realize. But the result for me is the same. You never know how far your ripple effects can go, like one small drop of water in a pond, the effects could be endless, but first, you need to start the ripple.
A Few Suggestions to Create an Influential Ripple Effect
Be Intentional. Recognize that the smallest of actions creates a ripple.
Attitude is Everything. Imagine you are sitting at your desk working on a time-sensitive matter and an employee or co-worker approaches you with a question.
Realize Your Impact.
Take at least one day a week or a month to intentionally cause a ripple effect
Make a goal to consistently make a positive impact
Incentivize your employees to make ripple effects of their own
Do you have a story about a ripple effect in your life? We would love to hear from you. Please reach out to Jeff at email@example.com
About the Author
Jeff Sesol has over 30 years of business and entrepreneurial experience. He is an experienced Business, Executive and Leadership coach. His passion is to help people be the best they can be in business and in life. If you’re a business owner and you are struggling with what that looks like, reach out. How is your business doing? What is your culture like? Do you appreciate your people? Where do you want to be in 3 to 5 years? Where do you want your business to be in 3 to 5 years? All good questions, right?
It’s time to Pull the Chute and start the conversation.
Jeff@pullthechute.net - 615-572-9500