Several years ago at Christmas, when my boys were very young, we placed their new riding jeep outside in the snow covered backyard and told them Santa had left it there for them. To validate this claim, My dad put his boots on, climbed onto the roof and then marched around the backyard creating a path of footprints that led right to the gift.
When my boys saw this, they shouted with great joy “Santa was here, you can see his boots!” Nothing more needed to be said. They believed because they simply followed the footprints.
Footprints are important to leadership and to business because they validate our beliefs and values. They show where you have been and where you are headed. These footprints are not the ones that can quickly be covered up by new fallen snow or washed away with an incoming tide; rather they are the decisions and the choices that leave long lasting impressions on both clients and colleagues. They impact their choices on whether to choose or follow you. Let’s take a look at some critical trails of footprints.
- Where we have been. I believe experience is a great teacher. We can learn and move on from it or it can keep us from succeeding. I have a great friend who is one of the best physicians around when it comes to diagnosing problems. He is called in on countless consults because of his great success. His experience over the past 20 years has allowed him to become what he is today, his footprints have brought him here through his dedication to detail, knowledge and a relentless passion to help his patients. It is no wonder he has such great success!
- How do you handle success? Remember your last great success? How did you handle it? Did you cherish it too long and stop making footprints forward? Years ago I knew a young salesperson that his first sale was huge! It was so big that it catapulted him not only financially but also to the top of the sales charts. Instead of moving forward with this momentum, his footprints led to two very harmful decisions. One, he had enough income to sustain him for months so the sense of urgency to continue prospecting stopped; two, he believed that every sale should be a BIG one. After all, aren’t they all? Because of these two very identifiable set of footprints he fell far behind on new sales and because he no longer pursued the daily “bread and butter” approach to all sales, he eventually packed up his office and moved on…and not down the path he originally started!
- How do you handle failure? When things go wrong, when you lose the one you counted on, does your path take you to surrender or do you find the next opportunity? You have heard this countless times but I believe it to be true, your measure of character is not found in your successes but in your failures. I have made a personal commitment to myself that when I lose a deal, I immediately begin the search to replace it. Do I find it every time…no but my footprints will demonstrate my decisions to “run to the next opportunity” rather than stand idle in the quicksand of defeat!
- Where we are headed. Great hunters know where the hunted are going by tracking their footprints. Clients and colleagues are watching every move you make to determine their willingness to choose or follow you. You cannot mask a footprint, it points directly to your location. Your footprints prove your commitment to your service, your company and those you work with and those you work for. Not much more need to be said here. It is critical we understand that people will follow in your footsteps if they believe in the footprints and the direction they see ahead of them.
Our footprints say a lot about us, they make us who we are and lead us to what we will become. Just as important, they influence those around us and give validation for them to choose or follow us. We cannot take our decisions and choices lightly for we never know who is right behind us watching and waiting…because of this, we all have pretty big shoes to fill.