Lifted, shifted

I was surprised to see her name on my phone at 5:27 pm on a Friday. I answered immediately wondering what was up, hoping it wasn’t bad news.

“Mary, I have to tell you what happened today… WORDS MATTER. You’ve said it many times. Today I learned they really do.”

I wondered where this was going. Phyl had just moved her family from another state for a new, challenging role in an industry different from the one she’d worked in for 18 years. Last month, she wondered if she’d made the right decision.

She continued… “I can’t tell you how I felt today when this man I hardly know said something to me that made my heart stop.”

She was so animated, I didn’t interrupt.

A manager she knew only from seeing him in a meeting stopped into her office to ask her about something. After pleasantries, he said, “You’re new here. I know that’s not easy. I thought you’d want to know the kind of reputation you’re developing.”

She held her breath.

“People are saying you’re refreshing… I’ve worked here for 15 years. You’re like a breath of fresh air for this place. I thought you’d like to know.”
She swallowed hard. Tears of joy wanted to spring forth, but she wouldn’t let them. She smiled and thanked him for letting her know. In that moment, she knew things were going to be OK.

Phyl left her former employer because being herself was no longer valued. Leaders who appreciated her intelligence, candor, genuine commitment to doing the right thing for the right reason, crossing silos to achieve goals, had moved on or retired. They had encouraged her as she grew in that global company. She missed them greatly. New leadership exhibited different values. Communication she thought she could trust, she learned she couldn’t. Phyl became exhausted from questioning herself after being knocked back for being herself.
In this new global company, Phyl wondered if she could be her true self again. She wanted that more than anything. A trusted friend gave her golden advice: Smile. Phyl’s tendency is to observe first before initiating. She decided to smile when approaching people she didn’t know in hallways and at meetings. Typically, she would be consumed with what she was working on, questions, doubts, decisions, conversation replays. If she allowed all that to consume her thoughts, her facial expression would not be welcoming. She chose to smile.
Her smile, coupled with her naturally sincere candor, self-deprecating humor and seasoned perspective as a black female finance director who values collaboration was developing her brand.
“In that moment, when he said those words, my whole mindset shifted. I actually felt it. His words lifted my thinking and shifted what I know is possible for me here.” She was elated.
That manager didn’t have to say what he did. But by intentionally sharing something positive that others had said, he profoundly impacted her life. There’s no stopping Phyl now. Her comfort level has leaped to where it may have taken months, or longer, to reach.
Words matter. Positive feedback can shift someone’s thinking beyond what you may imagine.

What might you say that could lift and shift someone’s mindset today?

P.S. Pass this on, it may lift someone else’s thinking.
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