John Maxwell is Wired (7.24)

GET CONNECTED By Dr. John C. Maxwell

When I was growing up, I was pretty good at getting into trouble.

I wasn't a bad kid.  But I did have a high energy level and a creative mind, which, as you can imagine, often led me into all kinds of mischief.

Once, when my fourth-grade teacher was playing the piano with her back to the class, I talked all my classmates into sneaking out of the room and into the hallway.  Mrs. Tacy didn't even know we were gone until she finished her song and turned around.

That kind of behavior might have caused some teachers to write me off as a troublemaker, but not Mrs. Tacy.  Despite all the orneriness I displayed in her class, she saw my potential.  And she loved me in spite of my conduct.

Back then, Mrs. Tacy was my favorite teacher.  Even now, her memory
brings a smile to my face because she truly made a difference in my

As a leader, I’m attracted to people who make a difference.  I’ve
found that these individuals – I call them "make-a-difference people" –
are greater on the inside than they are on the outside.  They think
differently – their minds are like crock pots, not microwaves.  When
they talk, their words inspire, probe, challenge and move.

Beyond all that, make-a-difference people encourage me.  They expand me.  They engage me.  And they empower me to become better.

As leaders, we should all strive to make a difference – at work, in
our communities, with our families, and so on.  Beyond that, if we want
to be truly successful, we all need to have at least a few
make-a-difference people on our teams.  That’s easier said than done,
of course.  You can’t always tell by looking at someone if she has what
it takes to contribute something significant.

I’ve already given you some characteristics that set such people
apart.  Before I add to that list, however, let me share two traits
that do not automatically place people in the make-a-difference
category.  First, it’s not about giftedness.  I have known some
extremely talented people who never accomplished much because they were
lazy, undisciplined and self-centered.  And secondly, it’s not about
position or title.  Just because someone has an impressive resume does
not mean he will make a difference on your team.

If I had to think of one word to describe what sets
make-a-difference people apart from everyone else, it would be the word
connected.  I’m not talking about being connected in a name-dropping
sense; it goes much deeper than that.  Here are three key ways that
difference-makers are connected.

1. Make-a-difference people are connected to the leader.
don’t wait for this connection to happen by itself, either.  They take
the initiative, because they understand that everything rises and falls
on leadership.  If you want to be successful, find a leader who makes
good things happen and get close to that person.  It doesn’t have to be
your boss; in fact, it could be someone in a totally different
profession.  Just hook up with a leader who makes a difference, and
soon you will be making a difference too.

2. Make-a-difference people are connected to the vision.
John Sculley said, "The future belongs to those who see the
possibilities before they become obvious."  Vision isn’t just something
you see; it’s something you hear.  What should you be listening for?
Let’s start with three voices.

  • The inner voice.  This is the voice inside that pulls you above
    the mundane and says, "You were born for something better than this.
    You were created to do something great."
  • The unhappy voice.  This is the voice of discontentment that says,
    "I don’t like things just as they are."  Great leaders create change
    because of the internal voice that proclaims, "Things could be better.
    Things should be better.  And there’s something I could do to make it
  • The successful voice.  This is the inspirational voice of somebody
    who’s already climbed the mountain and is saying, "I’m up here and
    there’s room at the top.  Come on up—you don’t have to stay down there!"

3. Make-a-difference people are connected to others who want to make a difference.
who want to make a difference spend time with other people who want to
make a difference.  And people who don’t care about making a difference
hang around with other people who don’t care about making a
difference.  Like attracts like.

If you want to be a make-a-difference person, get connected to a
good leader, a powerful vision, and other people who want to make a
difference.  And then get busy.  As Mrs. Tacy’s example proves, no
matter who you are or what you do, you have plenty of opportunities to
make a difference in your world.

If you spend much time in the
business/leadership section of your favorite bookstore, you’ve probably
noticed that the genre is thriving – to say the least.

Fast Company reports that 5,301 titles "claiming to be about
business" were published last year, up 30 percent from three years
ago.  When it comes to subject rankings, business books are now the
third most popular category, trailing only romance and religion.

That’s all well and good.  But with so many books to choose from and
so little time to read, it’s often difficult – not to mention
frustrating – to get the most out of any given title.  Fortunately,
help comes in the form of a handy little Fast Company article titled
"How to Read a Business Book."  Here are a few highlights:

  • Take what you read with a "big grain of salt."  "Business books
    are necessarily about generalizations; your company is necessarily all
    about specifics," writes FC’s Jennifer Reingold.  "No one strategy or
    approach to marketing, no matter how brilliant, can be an exact fit.
    So don’t just Xerox every page and try to perfectly replicate every
    single example."
  • Find the main idea.  Consultant and author Ram Charan advises
    readers that to figure out a book’s key idea, you need to "determine
    under which conditions it’s a good idea and under which conditions it’s
    a bad idea," then identify the next logical idea that springs from it.
    "That’s how you get to creative solutions," writes Reingold.
  • The more you read – from a variety of authors – the more you
    learn.  "The world is such a complicated place," Bain & Co. partner
    Darrell Rigby tells Fast Company.  "Nobody has a monopoly on business
    truths or effective business principles."

Leaders who have been longing to
sharpen their saws with more life-management wisdom from bestselling
author Stephen Covey got an early Christmas present in November when
Simon & Schuster released the long-awaited print sequel to "The
Seven Habits of Highly Effective People."

Appropriately titled "The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to
Greatness," the book instructs readers how to "find your voice and
inspire others to find theirs."

"Simply, Habit 8 asserts that everyone has an inner longing to seize
the day and live a life of contribution," USA Today’s Del Jones writes
in a recent article about Covey.  "It requires heavy lifting, and Covey
challenges readers to get there."

His challenge isn’t necessarily a quick, easy read – "The 8th Habit
is 50 pages longer than the original seven combined," Jones reports.

Given Covey’s international popularity, "The 8th Habit" is a shoo
-in bestseller.  But only time will tell if this much-longer discussion
of one habit will be as popular with readers as "The 7 Habits," which
has sold 15 million copies in the 15 years since it was first published.

This article is used by permission from Dr. John C. Maxwell’s free
monthly e-newsletter ‘Leadership Wired’ available at