Guest Post by Patti Johnson

Unexpected contributors

Emma Scheffler had big plans to play soccer and have a high school experience to remember. She and her family learned why she hadn’t been feeling well during a four day stay in the hospital. She was diagnosed with diabetes. Could she carry on with her love of soccer and play on her team? Lead a normal lifestyle? Or feel good again? She had so many questions. While her family received lots of medical information about diabetes she most wanted to know what her life would be like from that point forward.

After some time to adjust, Emma asked herself how she could make something good come from her setback. Her question led to the creation of Insulin Angels so that when kids are diagnosed they had the option of meeting another student who had diabetes to share what’s ahead and offer realistic encouragement. Emma started working with other high school kids who believed in this cause too.

For me, the important part of this story is that Emma wasn’t in a position of authority and she didn’t have any experience in what she wanted to do. Yet, she found the way to find a positive outcome in a situation she didn’t choose.

Unexpected profile of Wave Makers

I have learned that those who make a difference at work or in their communities aren’t anointed by their title, years of experience or a wealth of knowledge.

Make WaviesWhen I began writing my new book, Make Waves: Be the One to Start Change at Work and in Life, I decided to include research about Wave Makers – those who had started changes in work, communities or in the market. I made my own list and started asking people I trusted, ‘who do you know that is a Wave Maker?’ Most had answers.

The list that I assembled from many sources and my personal experience was the most eclectic mix of people you can imagine. It included the manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Clint Hurdle; new entrepreneur Allen Stephenson, of Southern Tide; Lindsay Pender, a nurse beginning her career; Lori Myers, a Mom who found herself as President of Chase’s Place School for children with disabilities; and, Emma, a high school student.  The common characteristics of this group weren’t years of experience, expertise or an important title. It was a combination of their thoughts and actions toward making a positive contribution.

3 simple questions for finding progress:

Wave Makers rely on their version of these three key questions in how they approach their work and life:

1 – What can I do?

This is a simple but powerful question. It sets aside disappointment, frustration or fear and goes to what is in your control and influence. Secondly, it implies you will take action. The combination of looking for the path to progress and then deciding how to get started are so powerful.

Not long ago I spoke to a recent college graduate just starting her career. She had ideas for improving her work, but shared that she was too new, too inexperienced to have much influence. Yet, when we made a list of possible answers to the question of ‘What can I do?’ She came up with several viable options that worked for her and she got started.

2 – How can I help?

This constructive question keeps you off the sidelines. You may not be in charge of everything, but find your way to contribute to the greater good. Rather than think that someone else will do it or is better qualified, ask how can I help make things better? It may be helping your team collaborate more, organizing contributions for the tornado victims or making sure that the new team member is included.  Roll up your sleeves and get started.

3 – What if?

I find it interesting on both big and small changes to keep dialing backward to see where it began – what was the very first step? It often started with one or two people asking the right questions and experimenting with new ideas.

In my research on Wave Makers, I found that natural curiosity and voracious learning creates a perfect mindset for moving past the ‘way we’ve always done it’ and baked in conventional wisdom.

Be willing to step out with a new idea. And, if the parade doesn’t start behind you (and it won’t), keep sharing and adjusting until you find the path to progress.

The answer to these questions will put you in charge of you and toward a contribution that matters. Don’t wait for the promotion or until you have the right title. How can you get started today?

This includes excerpts and content from Patti Johnson’s new book, Make Waves: Be the One to Start Change at Work and in Life.

On June 24, 11:45 am, Dallas, Texas, join Patti Johnson at our monthly Authentic Leadership Dallas Meetup. RSVP today!

Guest Author

Patti JohnsonPatti Johnson is the CEO of PeopleResults, a change and human capital consulting firm she founded in 2004. She and her team advise clients such as McKesson, PepsiCo, Microsoft, 7-Eleven, Accenture, BNSF, Frito-Lay, and many others on creating positive change in their leaders and organizations. Previously, Johnson was a Senior Executive at Accenture and held numerous global leadership positions. Patti is an instructor on Leading Change for SMU Executive Education and was selected as an instructor for the Bush Institute Women’s initiative. She has been featured as an expert in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Fast Company, MONEY Magazine, U.S. News and World Report, Entrepreneur, and many more.