Many people do not realise the ripple effect of the actions they take and the words they speak every day. This is especially true for people who are big picture thinkers, who tend to decide and act intuitively. In the D.I.S.C. personality model these people are D’s and I’s and are in the majority with regard to leadership roles. These people see and articulate vision well; they are confident with people; they are risk takers; and they make decisions quickly.
However, they do not naturally think through the ripple effect of decisions. This is a skill they have to learn.
Case Study – A client of mine who is an ‘ID’ was hiring a new staff member recently. He was so excited about the possibilities of bringing the new person on board, and what that was going to give his company. He found a suitable person, had a quick discussion with the immediate line manager for this new role and agreement was made for a starting date. However, he had not thought through the dynamics of the team this new employee was joining. He had not defined the boundaries of the role, and how this role would affect other team members. There were also some distinct culture differences between the new guy and the rest of the team. He added the new team member. The ripple effect of this decision then caused issues for other people and for the business. This surprised and frustrated the business owner who was only focused on the potential results of his decision, not the ripple effect.
A new employee’s presence takes space, and changes the dynamics of a team dramatically. That is why it is very important to think things through carefully and to have a formal induction process in place.
What causes the ripple effect?
- How we dress – How you dress and groom affects the way people view you and treat you. I remember the different way I was treated as an Australian attempting to open a bank account in England wearing a suit and tie. I had tried the day before in another bank wearing casual clothes and been refused. This is the ripple effect.
- How we speak – if no-one else swears in the workplace and then someone new comes in with a different attitude to swearing, it changes the dynamics between people. Some are not comfortable. It starts the ripple effect. Someone needs to set the culture of what is and is not acceptable.
- How we greet people – We set the tone in our relationships and our workplaces by the way we greet people. Better to be positive and look people in the eyes and say ‘Good Morning’ than to grunt or ignore. The more you realise the potential effects of what you do, the more control you can have over the outcomes. If you are consistently outgoing and positive then it will rub off on others and helps set a good atmosphere.
- How we act – Sometimes you have to earn respect. I remember working in a plastic extrusion factory when I was at university. The workers there disliked me from the start. If I was at uni then I was supposed to be smarter than them, so the standard answer I got when I asked a question was, “you’re a uni student, you should know.” They knew I was there for 8 weeks and they were determined to have some fun at my expense. It took me about 4 weeks of just proving I could learn, work hard, push through, and most of all, take a joke…. and I finally earned their respect. In the last 4 weeks I was there we had a good time. They even told me when I left that for a uni ‘smart ass’ I was not too bad a bloke. High praise indeed! My persistent actions enabled a bridge to be built between people who would normally not associate easily.
The ripple effect of your words and actions has been going out every day for years. The question you need to ask yourself is what sort of ripples are you causing? Are you sending out shock waves that hurt and cause discomfort? Or are you sending out waves that lift people and make the world around you a better place?
My experience tells me that we do not always realise the ripple effect from our lives. There are probably both good and bad waves going out from each of us all the time. The challenge for all of us is to engage in the uncomfortable process of becoming more self-aware. We can do this by asking those who are directly around us each day how we affect the atmosphere of their world. Don’t get defensive. Just listen and learn.
If you can make the ripple effect of all the small actions and reactions of your life to be mostly positive then perhaps you can start a chain reaction that could change the world.