Influence over a cup of coffee
Recently I wrote, “Initiating High Impact Relationships.” Today, I’m explaining the easiest, quickest way to positively impact young, undeveloped leaders. It’s buying someone a cup of coffee, a mocha latte, hot chocolate, or diet soda, asking questions and telling a story.
After buying the preferred beverage, start asking about their plans and goals. Where would you like to be in a year, two, or five? If you’re lucky, they won’t have a clue. They’ll give you that “deer in the headlight look,” shift their feet, and silently wonder what the heck you’re after. That’s when you politely pounce.
In my case, I’ll begin the story of my biggest mistake in life. By this time, moving the spotlight from them to me seems to ease their discomfort.
I’ve honed my story to include this statement. “If I could change one thing about the last twenty years and only one, I’d go back and live a vision driven life.” Then I’ll pause, look at them and say, I don’t want you to make the same mistake.
Admittedly, an hour in a coffee shop isn’t the place to develop life-vision. However, I’ve found one “cup-of-coffee-conversation” yields positive results within 60 to 90 days. Within that timeframe I frequently see young, undeveloped leaders begin stepping up in new ways.
Sometimes the conversation is a onetime event. Occasionally, a deeper connection begins. Frankly, I’m not concerned about the outcome. I’m concerned about pouring from my cup into theirs. What happens after that is their opportunity.
Everyone reading this piece is older and more experienced than someone else. Everyone has learned from a mistake. Is it time for you to buy someone a cup of coffee?
Has a short connection had long-term positive impact on your life? Can you suggest other quick, easy techniques that seasoned leaders can employ to pour their experiences into another person’s cup?
I appreciate your comments about influence and this is something my wife and I were talking about last night. At some point in your career and personal life you have to realize that the most effective way to do this is to take personal initiative to act. No corporate program or group can be as effective as you determining as a person to make a difference by taking an interest in the success of someone else. That includes professionally, spiritually, relationships, etc.
Thanks for the post.
I was recently asked what were my greatest successes and my worst failure in ministry. Without giving five seconds’ reflection I rattled off the names of many people whose lives God touched, through me, to draw them into significant positions of ministry – many vocational and many voluntary. I vaguely recall reading somewhere (in the Bible?), “You are our joy and crown.”
Thanks for the great post to start off my day! First of all, thank you for including the diet soda as an option. I am not a coffee drinker but I am a diet coke connoisseur!
It is amazing what you can learn and share when you take the time and change the environment. I encourage managers to get out of the office with their employees and talk, just talk. One role of an effective leader is to show interest and share experiences. It’s about pouring from your cup into theirs, as you eloquently pointed out.
Wow. Very few things that I read on-line leave me with this level of inspiration. I wish I’d had a cup of coffee with you 20 years ago! I’ve had some remarkable mentors in my life. I appreciate your challenge to step up to the plate and be that mentor for someone else…share a cup of coffee.
You have an amazing way with words: “I’m not concerned about the outcome. I’m concerned about pouring from my cup into theirs.” What a beautiful image.
Thank you for sharing your insight.
In one of my first jobs, I was a “staff assistant,” (essentially a clerical position). I was overwhelmed with assignments from multiple sources and as doing a poor job organizing everything.
My Bureau Chief (equivalent of 4-5 rungs up the food chain) called me in, sat me down, and had me make a list. Then she helped me prioritze it. She could have told me to make a list at my desk, but the act of doing it WITH her, with her role modeling how to prioritize, made a huge difference. It wasn’t what she taught me, it was how.
I have always appreciated that and remembered it, hopefully with positive long-term results.
Hi Dan, I too like the words, “I’m not concerned about the outcome. I’m concerned about pouring from my cup into theirs”. Someone once said, its the little things that count. Going for coffee might mean nothing to many, but its amazing to see how many great relationships, be they personal or professional, started in Starbucks. You might not discuss a life vision over a cup of coffee, but remember, a journey of 1000 miles begins with one step.
Thanks for continuing to inspire me.
I have had the privilege of mentoring a number of new leaders over the years. Many a wonderful relationship has begun over a cup of Joe. One thing that I always share is this: “No one cares about your future as much as you. And if you don’t care, no one does.”
It amazes me how consistently that phrase will turn on the light bulb over their head.
Thanks for sharing this wonderful insight. I agree that more gets done over a cup of coffee than in a formal confinement of a meeting room.
A great way to break barriers and put your point across.
The metaphor of ‘breaking bread’ or now, sharing a cup of coffee can have multi-layered meanings. It evens the playing field and creates an environment that disarms and engages at the same time. There is an underlying message that “I value our interactions beyond work to the point of sharing my time, food, or drink.” There is no distinct ‘turf’ or hierarchy of a desk between you and the other person.
You can add to the impact of that moment if you are able to walk, together, to that coffee shop or restaurant. The simple act of walking together, of sharing the same physical view during that walk can also engage on several levels. The walk is a great way to build listening and discussion points. (Great time to appreciate the person for taking the time to join you for coffee, food, etc., too!)
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I developed a 1-to-1 process that develops a deep emotional relationship of mutual trust and respect within 30 minutes (coffee optional) with most people. It was developed with the help of hundreds of top producing salespeople and a few professional therapists.
The process takes about 10 hours to learn and requires plenty of practice. It consists of asking a series of personal questions with no attempt to develop commonality or rapport. It’s very easy on the subject, but not for the person asking the questions – until they have done it at least twenty times.
a good tips. I would certainly try. thanks.
Wow! It’s almost scary reading this…as far as the timing is concerned. I’m currently in the middle of summarizing a recent experience that relates to this…closely!
One of the most important events of my life was when I had a cup of coffee with a mentor. When I look back, it had happened at a very transformational period of my life and one that I will always remember. It’s amazing what becomes from questions and listening.
Thank you for this…great post.
This has really made me take a step back and think about when its appropriate and developmental to share my wisdom and experience, “pouring my cup into theirs” As a coach I have held back to ensure I am giving them the cup and supporting them to fill it for and with themselves!
As usual, what you say is thought provoking. I want to explore how much and when to share about me, and when to keep it all about them. I agree that it can ease the pressure on young leaders. Maybe this is a different perspective for me as I usually work with older experienced leaders who are paying me to stretch and challenge them and get out of their comfort zone.
Having said that, when I ask people what they would say to their 16 yr old selves it usually produces inspiring and valuable stories. Which is another way of tapping into that wisdom.
I must say my first reaction from reading your article was a desire to be 25 yrs younger and have you as my mentor!
I do follow you…..I have learned a lot of stuff frm you.