How To Make A Difference

It takes character to put others before yourself, and do the right things for the right reasons. It takes courage to make the difference, especially when nobody else around you is standing up to the plate.

In 2008, I was beginning to deliberately adopt the leadership traits that you are reading in this article and in my other articles. One of the traits that I found difficult to adopt was “Have Courage.” I think a lot of people find this trait difficult.

As a highly effective leader, courage is a trait that you must have, and there will be times when you have to have courage in ways you never thought about before. For example, at times of change, highly effective leaders take the lead from the front and change what is required.

1. Lead By Example

Leading by example takes courage, especially when you are leading without authority through changing times. I had to do this on numerous occasions, and I have worked with a small number of people who done this too when we felt the need for change.

The reason for this was because our teammates were not doing anything to change things, even though they were unhappy.

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Let me tell you a story to give you an example of this.

A friend of mine called Kevin worked with me in Liverpool for their train operating company. He was an outstation engineer, which means that when a train failed in service, he would attend the train to try and fix it, and get it back into service.

It was a demanding job because of the pressure from customers who were stranded on the platform, and were delayed in getting to their destinations. Sometimes he was hurled abuse from some customers. There were even some dangerous situations, especially when the customers were football (soccer) fans.

Anyway, Kevin had worked in the rail industry for about 20 years in 2010, so he had a lot of experience and knowledge.

The training for new and existing employees at our company was not the greatest in 2010, and there were a lot of complaints from people as you would expect. However, the people who were complaining had a lot of experience and knowledge too, and did absolutely nothing to change this situation.

The reason for that is because they were low performing leaders. They blamed the management and leadership for the lack of training, when they could have put a training package together themselves.

One day Kevin and I were having lunch and he asked me, “How are you getting on with your degree and graduate training?” I said, “I’m getting on fine, but I need to learn more about the engineering and operation of the trains. I don’t feel my knowledge is where it should be.”

So Kevin decided, “Right, after lunch I am taking you onto a train and we are going to start on building up your knowledge.” So, straight after our lunch that is exactly what Kevin did. He did this for a couple of weeks until my knowledge was in a better place.

2. Know What Kind Of Difference You Want To Make

I really thanked him for that, and I suggested to him that he would make a good technical trainer. And when I said that, he told me, “That is exactly what I want to do Tom.”

But, there was no position available or vacancy for a technical trainer, or any kid of trainer in our company at this point. However, this was a burning desire within Kevin and he wanted to change things to help out all of our teammates within our depot.

So, Kevin started doing to others what he did with me. He searched for people who needed to improve or refresh their knowledge on certain parts of the train, or in depot processes, and he taught them. He did this all off his own back, and people were improving.

But, most importantly people were happier that someone was training them. He was getting no extra pay or anything, he just did this when he had spare time in his day. Or, he would stay behind after work and teach. It was remarkable and very inspiring to see.

It was also very brave, because some people may have got the wrong impression and got offended because they had more experience than Kevin. The management and leadership may not have liked it either, but Kevin didn’t care.

He had the courage to do this, because he had the passion and the desire to do it. Performance of the teams was improving, and also the trains were staying longer in service without failing because they were being maintained better.

However, he had to keep this quiet at first because he wasn’t a qualified trainer, and the managers didn’t really know yet. Lots of the other engineers suggested to him that he should go to the managers and especially Kevin our director, and tell them what he had been doing.

3. Work Your Hardest

But, tell them with the recommendation that they make him the technical trainer. Now, this would take a lot of courage because he was doing this training without permission.

So, Kevin put together a document and presentation proposal which outlined what training he had been doing, why he was doing it (most important), and the results that the depot were having following his training. He then arranged a meeting with the depot manager and the engineering director so he could present to them his proposal.

Kevin had not really presented before in his career, especially to a senior manager, and a director. So he practiced his presentation to me and a few other trusted teammates, and we all worked with him to make it the best it could be. He needed to make a few tweaks to his presentation and his delivery, but nothing major.

This would help him with his confidence, and most of all help him maintain his courage to go for this. We were all behind him, and we believed in exactly what he believed. We believed that we worked for a great company, but we needed a new technical trainer and training team. We believed that Kevin was the man to do it.

It was a Tuesday morning, and this was the day of reckoning for Kevin to pitch his proposal to the depot manager Paul, and the engineering director Kevin. So, he went into their office, fired off his presentation to them confidently, and then sat down to be questioned.

The first question was, “Why have you been doing this, and why do you want to become technical trainer?”

Kevin answered, “I first started this by training Tom Lawrence because he told me that he was lacking knowledge in the technical areas of the trains. So I helped him. I have a passion for where I work and who I work with, and I want us to be the best we can be at what we do. The training facilities and trainers are not good enough at present, and I am the person to change that.”

4. Don’t Give Up

Kevin was asked a few more questions, and then was told that they would think about his proposal and get back to him. Two days later, the depot manager Paul and engineering director Kevin got back to him and agreed that he should become technical trainer.

Kevin was over the moon, he was ecstatic, and so was the rest of the depot. We were going to have the training department we wanted, and it was all down to our highly effective leader Kevin.

Kevin was a highly effective leader because he put his teammates and the depot before himself. He wanted to provide a platform for us so we can improve our knowledge, and most of all improve ourselves on being the best people we could be. I will always be grateful to Kevin for everything he did to help me.

When Kevin eventually took up the role as technical trainer, he created training packages and presentations for classroom training. These packages also included exams that had to be taken when the particular training package was completed.

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The company put him through college so he could gain the training qualifications he needed. Then he needed to recruit a couple of people to help him put the training facility together. Overall, it was a huge success, and he is still working as technical trainer today and loving it.

A highly effective leader understands that they have the ability to change things for the right reason, at the right time. They know that do that takes courage, and a highly effective leader knows how to build up that courage and implement.

A highly effective leader doesn’t just make the decision to make a difference, they actually make that difference. It takes action not a decision to make a difference. It takes courage to make a difference, and it takes courage to be a highly effective leader.

If you think you have a weak leader, what are you going to do about it? This is your opportunity to take over and be the leader you wish you had.

I welcome hearing how this post has influenced the way you think, the way you lead, or the results you have achieved because of what you’ve learned in it. Please feel free to share your thoughts with me by commenting below.

Check out my other articles by Clicking HERE

All the best,

Tom (LeadGrowInfluence)

22 thoughts on “How To Make A Difference

  1. Thanks for this post, you raise some really important point about leadership. Too many leaders have no idea how to be defective. Maybe I will share this with my boss!

    1. Hi Chris,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m happy that you found the article helpful.

      Please do share this article with your boss and let me know his thoughts.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  2. This is a great article with some great advice. I will tell you a similar story of a girl who got a job straight out of high school with a company that had several different entities under it’s umbrella. Having no experience in the working world or life in general, she started on the lowest rung possible. She was always willing to step up to the plate when there was a need to be filled. If she knew how to fill the need, it was easy. If she didn’t know, she learned. The more she stepped up to the plate, the more she learned, the more experience she gained. She always kept the interests of the company in the forefront of her mind and remained professional when she was opposed by those that would think she was trying to “show them up” or “brown-nose” to management. Now? She’s second in command at one of those entities. All because she was willing to step up to the plate.

    You’re advice is spot-on. Keep up the good work!

    1. Hi Cynthia,

      Thank you for your very thorough comment and kind words. It’s great that you found my advice valuable.

      Thank you so much for sharing your experiences with me through comment. I hope many people find this article and can also learn from your experiences too. I’m guessing that the girl you are talking about is…you? 🙂 You really have climbed the leadership ladder and know where you wanted to go. Keep going.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  3. Hi Tom,

    This was another nice, interesting post of you! Good job!

    I couldn’t agree more that you need deeds, not words, to make a difference. Too often I notice that there is a lot of talking and consultation on the work floor (mostly managers), which makes starting to take action unnecessarily long.

    Thanks for sharing!

    1. Hi Catherine,

      Thank you for your comment and kind words. I’m so pleased you found the article nice and interesting.

      It is my pleasure to share my experiences with you through my articles and videos. If you need any further help or advice then please don’t hesitate to contact me.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  4. Hi Tom,

    Thank you for your article. Another great article for anyone who would like to be a great leader. The advice you have given is on point. You need to lead by example in order to motivate others to follow your advice. And of course, never give up as eventually you will succeed.

    Kind regards,
    Yoana

    1. Hi Yoana,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m really pleased that you found the article valuable.

      You are so right, leading by example is one of the most important leadership traits there is. I always do my best to lead by example with my teams and help others to do the same.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  5. Great article! You’re right, it certainly takes courage to make a difference and be a highly effective leader. Your coworker Kevin definitely exemplified that and made a plan to get there. He didn’t just go straight to management with his demands. He made a plan and set it in motion so that it would show upper management that he did have the skills set and determination to be the best fit for that job. Thanks for this encouraging post!

    1. Hi Dana,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m so happy that you found the article encouraging.

      Yes, Kevin is a highly effective leader and when he has devised a plan, he follows that up with action. That is the message I am sharing through all of my articles too. But with this, making a difference is definitely the main message.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  6. Blown Away! Great life tips. I really read through till the end and I was fulfilled. Awesome advice. Will be following you from now on, looking forward to more!

    If you wrote a book, I’d probably read it lol keep rocking!!!!

    1. Hi Thomas,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m so pleased that you are blown away by the article and your kind words have blown me away.

      It’s great that you will be following my site, and if you have any questions or would like any further advice then please don’t hesitate to contact me.

      All the best,

      Tom

  7. I worked in an IT company for 17 years before I quit. I quit because of my boss. In fact, majority of the people quit because their immediate leader is bad. Some leaders happy just to offload their own work to their subordinates and pretty much do nothing. Wish more and more leaders read this and start leading by example.

    1. Hi Prav,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m really pleased this article resonated with you.

      Thank you for sharing your experiences on your role with the IT company. Most people do quit their jobs because of their boss, I am one of those people on numerous occasions.

      I hope more and more leaders visit my site and read my articles too because I want to help them. I want them to want to work on themselves to get better every single day.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  8. Hi Thomas

    The moral of the story and the content are both very good indeed, and thank you.
    I would keep the font sizes and type more consistent as I found there to be too many variations and the images seemed to be too big.
    Please take these comments in the manner they were meant and I loom forward to more posts from you.

    1. Hi Trevor,

      Thank you for your comment and constructive feedback.

      Please do return too and let me know if you learned anything.

      All the best,

      Tom

  9. Hi Tom! I really enjoyed this article. When you said a leader doesn’t just make a decision to make a difference, but makes the difference themselves, it reminded me of people I’ve known who like to make “smart”, “respectable” decisions, but don’t want to be the one to make it happen. That’s not true leadership.

    Kevin definitely had great wisdom in achieving his goal as an instructor. His determination reminds me of one of Stephen R. Covey’s “7 Habits”: Begin with the end in mind. Kevin started with a goal in mind, was confident he could get there, he worked hard doing what he loved, and was eventually offered the role he wanted where he could help others. What an awesome example!

    Thanks for the encouraging and life-giving words. I will implement them.
    Darrin

    1. Hi Darrin,

      Thank you for your comment and your very kind words. I’m so pleased that you found the article valuable.

      You are right, a leader who makes “smart”, “respectable” decisions does not usually involve his/her team. You know this because no action is taken, as you said. When action is taken by the team to strive towards the decision or the vision, that is when you know it was a team decision.

      The seven habits is a great book, and beginning with the end in mind is one of the most important habits for me too.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  10. Hi Tom,

    I agree 100% with your advice here.

    If a company has a general attitude where nobody wants to change anything, it can be very difficult to do things on your own. So easy to get stuck with what others are doing. In the worst case, you could even end up losing your job if you stir things up too much. So it takes courage.

    Best Regards,
    Joonas

    1. Hi Joonas,

      Thank you for your comment. It’s great that you agree 100% with the article.

      It always is very difficult to do things on your own, no matter what situation you are in and building courage is a MUST for any leader.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  11. What a nice post you wrote ! I really enjoyed reading it and could not be silent about your post so I decided to leave my comment here and say Thank You for sharing this quality post. Actually I was looking for information about the making a difference and when I landed on your website and read this post, it answered all my questions in details and it was exactly what I wanted to know.

    I’m happy that you’ve decided to write about this topic and share it with others. It’s very useful post in my opinion and can definitely be used as a great source for everyone who is interested to know about this topic.

    I will definitely come back to your site again to read more posts. Keep up quality articles! 🙂

    Best,
    Ali

    1. Hi Ali,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m so pleased that you enjoyed reading the article and that you landed on it after looking for ways to make a difference.

      If you need any further help or advice on this topic then please don’t hesitate to contact me, and I will do my very best to keep up the quality articles as you say.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

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