We all have IMPACT. The words we choose; our facial expressions in response to another, our willingness to listen to ideas, and our open heart. At times I forget the IMPACT that these actions have on another and then something occurs that brings me back into focus when I see the result of our IMPACT.

This week marked 10 years that I have been teaching HR Certification courses at a local college. I teach the first and the last course, and have a six week window in between. At the beginning of the first session the students come in and spend time checking each other out, checking me out and getting back into the groove of learning and life. They find their seats and typically stay in them throughout the entire series; we are creatures of habit. They are cautious about speaking out in class, thinking they have to “get it right”. I tell them to “soak in the information” and determine what areas of human resources may resonate with them in a future role, i.e. employee relations, benefits, compensation, training, etc. Throughout the course I weave in my experiences in human resources and life in the hopes that I can IMPACT their future journey.

Sitting at the back of the room is a gentleman who is a bit older and more senior than many of the other students. He is in the military, takes copious notes, asks questions and frequently shares his thoughts and experiences. He raises his hand every chance he can and his enthusiasm for the topic and learning is obvious. He is very serious about the course and wants to gain as much information as possible. The other students listen to him and show him respect. He has IMPACT.

At the completion of the class I bid farewell until the final course.

I walk in the room at the beginning of the last class, excited to see my students and hear their “key take away” from the last six weeks before we jump into the next topic. What did they learn? What had IMPACT? I am teaching Total Pay and the aspects of performance management, benefits and compensation but I apply it to their life. I ask them to create their ideal job; reality can leave the room as I give people an opportunity to dream and determine what they would do if they could do anything. One fellow is a world renowned tennis player; one is the Director of Operations for Dior; one starts a not-for-profit; one is in HR for Google, and many are entrepreneurs. Everyone is excited about their future; anything is possible.

During the class I notice that the man in the back of the room is uncharacteristically quiet. He is not raising his hand or offering input. I call on him a number of times and he has very insightful information to share. He has stepped back and does not appear to be as engaged! I tell him that we miss his ideas and invite him to participate. By the end of the series he is “back to his former self” and is raising his hand, smiling and participating. He is making an IMPACT on the other students. So, what happened?

I learned that another teacher had set ground rules for the course and one of them was not to “monopolize” the conversation. Whether the ground rule was stated in the class or said one-on-one, it had IMPACT! He assumed it was meant for him and it shut him down and changed his behavior in a way that IMPACTED his learning and IMPACTED the learning of the others in the class. This action/result had me think about our role as a manager and leader of people.

Long ago, I learned about a management principle “The Shadow of the Leader”. Just imagine, you walk outside on a sunny day and look down to see your shadow and it is always much bigger than you are…often 2-3x your actual size. What if you knew that everything you do has that type of a shadow? When you make a statement to another it has IMPACT! When you give a “look”, it has IMPACT! When you wrongfully judge, it has IMPACT! When you are not purposeful in your coaching or feedback, it has IMPACT!

THE LESSON – Yes, your mother was correct! Think before you speak; understand that people are observing and listening and that you have IMPACT. Choose your words wisely and carefully as they can move another to greatness, hurt or unintended consequences and actions. Interactions matter, they can change a life!

At the end of the final class, they gentlemen in the back of the room walked up to me to shake my hand and had something in his hand. He asked that I not look at it until the end of the class. When I looked in my hand, I was holding a Marine medallion that was the size of a 50 cent piece. I asked him what this was and he said it was a challenge coin, “You give this to people who are worthy. I have learned a lot from you.” I had IMPACT just because I gave this man his voice and the permission to share his wisdom. He has IMPACTED me, I have made a difference in the life of another. I will always carry this medallion. Never forget the IMPACT you have on another as a leader, manager, coach and friend. You make a difference!