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Apr 9, 2015

Have you heard of Edward Lorenz? If you don’t recognize his name, you probably have heard of his catch-phrase that described his work in the lab, which was translated to popular culture.

His concept: Small events can have large, widespread consequences.

Lorenz’s research suggests that a massive storm might have its roots in the faraway flapping of a tiny butterfly’s wings. That tiny alteration utterly transformed his long-term forecast, a point Lorenz amplified in his 1972 paper, Predictability: Does the Flap of a Butterfly’s Wings in Brazil Set Off a Tornado in Texas?

Small acts can make a huge impact

While I’m not a meteorologist and know little about predicting the weather, I have experienced the butterfly effect in relationships.

Small acts, even brief one-time interactions, can have a huge impact on others.

CBS aired a story about Chris Rosati who is suffering from ALS and is spending his remaining days focused on making the world a better place through small acts of kindness.

Even small acts like making eye contact with the cashier at the grocery store, asking THEM how their day is and offering some small compliment brings a big smile and sometimes a response of, “Thanks, that really made my day!” It’s so simple, costs nothing and lifts up another person.

Imagine the type of positive impact you can make?

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be known for offering opportunity, inspiring greatness and recognizing people for their value?

Those are big ideas, but can be accomplished in simple acts:

  • Offer encouragement – When we show faith in another person’s ability to Viceroy butterfly (Limenitis archippus) accomplish something, it can be transformative. “Success” doesn’t always come as quickly as we’d like and it’s easy to get discouraged. Taking time to say a few words of encouragement by highlighting another’s skills and abilities may be just the boost they need to keep plugging away. Something like, “Nick, you are so good at building & maintaining relationships, I think you are the right person to work through the solution with this client.”
  • Don’t rain on parades; throw confetti – Contribute to the celebration when someone has achieved a milestone or completed a project. Many times we say, “That’s great, BUT …” going on to highlight what could be done to make it better. Next time, just stop at, “That’s great!
  • Look out for the interest of others – This covers several situations:
    • Positioning and supporting someone deserving a promotion or new opportunity;
    • NOT speaking negatively about someone not in the room and having the courage to stop others from doing it;
    • Ensuring that the right people are given credit for the work they’ve done.
  • Pay attention and be present – Look up and pay attention to those around you. Making eye contact and acknowledging people verbally forces you to slow down and notice them. Does it seem like Sally is upset/having a bad day? Stop and ask how she’s doing. Take time to have a conversation if needed. And when you are with people, be present. Put the phone away, look at them, not your computer and stay focused on that other person. They will walk away feeling connected and respected.

Confidence can make the difference

All of these things send the message that screams, I VALUE YOU! When you make people feel valued, it boosts their self-worth and confidence.

That confidence can make the difference in what they feel they can accomplish to make their mark on this world.

It is the butterfly effect in leadership — simple acts with huge impact!

This was originally published on PeopleResult’s Current blog.

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