I’m on a long flight to a client. I’m in full on introspective mode.. I got the upgrade. I had a red wine.. I got that Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis last week. I just spent a week with my #SQLFamily. I never cured the homesickness from being gone for a week and am off again. It all adds up. But this blog post has been rattling around in my head for awhile now. It just got jolted into place looking at a Facebook post from a SQL Server friend, Andy Kelly.
It’s the MVP Summit this week and he was talking about it. I won’t be there this year and will miss the learning, friendship and fun times that come. I wanted to let him know that, but what came out was a reflection on how I am where I am in part because of him. Now I’ve actually blogged about this a few times before (here and here)
Here’s the deal. His passion for SQL. His passion for helping people and giving back? It was infectious. It was inevitable that I would be where I am with a mentor like him at a key stage while new career synapses were still being fired.. This is a positive example, but there can be negative examples as well. That’s the point of this post – the choice.
I don’t care who you are.
I don’t care where you are in life.
You are an influence to someone else. This is not a choice – it’s a fact. I’m a Dad. A husband. A business partner. A consultant. Sometimes a mentor. You influence people. Probably several more than you imagine. I even have some influence over the person sitting in the seat next to me working on some project right now. This is a fact we have no control over. Your opinion or attitude or choice matters not here – you are an influence on others.
What we have, though, is a choice in how.
How Do We Influence Others?
This is a good question to ask ourselves from time to time. How do you influence other people? I heard a speaker once give an example of how we can impact others. He said go into a crowded area where people are waiting.. The experiment is – act impatient. Start tapping your toes, start wrapping your fingers, sigh a few times. Shake your head in disgust at the wait. Do that and watch. It’s infectious. I’ve tried the experiment and it’s crazy how fast it works!
A SQLFamily member asked me a question that floored me and humble me at PASS last week to be asked. It was basically “I’m gonna be a dad soon for the first time. Give me some tips.” I wanted to say “what?! Me? I’ve not arrived there yet.” but I started thinking on things – and I talked about time management, about not worrying about too much and realizing it’s a fun and exciting process. But this post could have been part of that advice.. “You set the tone” Here’s what I mean. When I come home from a client, or head downstairs from the office – I can choose to be stressed out and overreact to challenges, stresses and behavior challenges. I’ve often caused a “Mike Storm” and found myself after the fact saying “whoops” to myself in frustration. Here’s what I mean. I can redirect stress or pressure on loudly “parenting” by barking orders or letting frustration out in the voice.. That quickly sets the tone of the house. And it’s a crappy night. For everyone.
I can be a production DBA and have a natural distrust and frustration towards developers. I can be the angry “White Knight” who feels like he works hard and deserves praise and when it doesn’t happen he gets cranky and takes it out on anyone. When I do that, though, I’ve created an environment that is competitive, noisy and selfish.
Here’s the point – our attitudes, our cares, our demeanor. This can set the tone for others. And it can do it quickly.
Harness It For Good
But it doesn’t have to end with the bad examples!
Let me tell you what I saw in my first “DBA Manager” ( I was in SQL a bit before but never with the official title. Andy was the first where I had that actual title). He was a SQL Server MVP (whatever that meant…). He knew everything (well he said he did.. 😉 ) but he was passionate about SQL Server. He was excited to learn. Excited to teach. Excited to give back and answer questions on the newsgroups. I saw this. I saw his attitude about these things. I was someone influenced by him. It stuck. Here I am 16 years (!! where the heck does the time go?) into a career with SQL Server. I’m a Managing Director in a successful Microsoft Data Platform consultancy. I’ve spoken at SQLPASS three times now. I run a user group. I’ve been an MVP for 5 years now and maybe 6 in April. This came because I left that first DBA job with a case of acquired SQL Community passion. A case of a passion for always learning and always growing. A desire to help others grow and give back.
I’ve had many great managers – but one in particular, George K. at a job about 7 or 8 years ago was at the right time. I was letting my knowledge base turn me arrogant. I was influenced by negative influencers. I let myself be negative an arrogant. George was an amazing influence for positive change and maturing growth there. He was able to make me see and realize what I had for potential and how I was wasting it. He did it by calm and cool influence.
I’ve been on some absolutely horrible ambulance calls or fire scenes as a volunteer firefighter and EMT – but I’ve always kept this in mind and tried to influence a patient or their family towards calm and serenity. Inside? I was pegged out on adrenaline. Training taking over, paddling ferociously under the water – but calm, cool an collected on top. I’ve been on calls with the panic struck cluster …. Those calls suck. You get stressed out just being around that person.
That’s the point… A few words of closing. So the point should be clear. We carry influence. Whether we want to or not or think we do or not. At home. At work. In public. With customers. With coworkers.
Each day we can choose how we spend that influence we’ve been given. We can waste it and sow negativity and confusion. Or we can be a bit more thoughtful and sow positive influence. For me? My default is probably negativity if I had to be honest. It’s work to choose to use it for good. It’s effort. But the results? So worth it. I gave a talk for beginners at PASS this year again. I love that – because I love being an influence on people who are starting out. I want them to take a little of my passion. I want them to feel comfortable, To feel concerned for. To leave with knowledge but also a sense they can do it and a desire to go and do it.
So.. Let’s go and do it. Ask yourself how you can use your influence for positive instead of negative. Ask yourself where you don’t. I suspect you already have an idea. Now Do.