Reading Kevin Powell’s appreciation of Don Cornelius, creator and host of the great 70’s TV show ‘Soul Train’, I was moved by the closing sentence: 

“The ultimate tragedy is that I doubt whether this man ever completely grasped how much joy and sunshine he had brought to others in his lifetime.”

It got me thinking: how would you know how much of a difference you have made to others? Occasionally, on Facebook or wherever, someone who attended one of my NLP courses mentions in passing how they’ve turned some aspect of their life completely around as a result. But for that chance remark, I would never have known about it – and yet, it’s tremendously motivating when I do.

Particularly when you work for yourself, it’s sometimes hard to get feedback on how much of a difference you are making. This may be especially true in the UK – Brits aren’t given to gushing. And, of course, some of the changes that people make, on a course, during coaching, or as a result of therapy, may not become fully apparent until some time later.

Research suggests that people feel more motivated when they get to see the difference they make to customers and end-users – see this article by Adam Grant in the Harvard Business Review for example. Positive reinforcement is very important to keep you doing the right things – as readers of Karen Pryor’s great book Don’t Shoot The Dog! The New Art Of Teaching And Training will know.

During tough times, this kind of motivating feedback can make all the difference to your ability to persist – and yet that’s just the time when it’s easiest to forget that you are making a difference and that your contribution is valued by others.

So, here are a couple of questions you may want to explore:

  1. If you manage a team, what can you do to help your people stay aware of the the difference they are making to end users? 
  2. On a personal level, what can you do to find out where you have made a positive difference?

Platforms like Facebook and Twitter make it a lot easier to stay in touch with your customers and/or students. Quite apart from the effect on your motivation, sales experts tell us that existing customers are much more likely to buy from you, so it’s a good idea to connect with them to remind them that you are still there.

Let’s turn this around and look at the people whom you appreciate for the difference they’ve made to you. I like to think I’m a fairly demonstrative person, but I’m sure that there are some people who don’t realise how much of a difference they have made to me – how could they, if I don’t tell them? So, the final question:

  1. What could you do to let people know that they have made a difference to your life or your business?
Are you overlooking the difference you’re making to others?

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