Personal Influencers

Written by Pam Lefkowitz on June 9, 2022

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Influencers were around LONG before Insta and TikTok made them a thing. We just called them by different names — mom, dad, friend, mentor, teacher, etc.

We are who we are because of the influencers in our lives. They are the ones who helped shape us, who helped us grow, who held our hand when we were scared, who offered a shoulder when we were in despair. They helped us grow into the adults we are today. We hold them in our heads and our hearts and, so, they likely still guide us, educate us, and inspire us. 

I have grown to not hate (notice I didn’t say “like”) introspection. I like drawing lines between events in my life to see how one thing influences another. Today’s social and political climate have given me reasons to dig deep into the influences others have had on me. And while there are some questionable people in my orbit, I have done well avoiding their gravitational pull. 

I feel fortunate to have had some amazing positive influencers in my work, in my business, and in my life generally. Here’s what I learned from them (in no particular order… except my kids – they are always first).

My kids:

Letting go is hard. 

For any parent who’s had to do a first day of kindergarten, for every parent who (like me) became a puddle in the hallway of the dorm on check-in day – wowzers do I feel you. You invest so much time into the kid project that when it’s time to let go it’s really hard. But that’s when the magic happens. You’ve done the work, now be proud and watch it take flight.

Families are complicated. 

Home families, work families, friend families – they all have their baggage. We carry that baggage with us into each of our family-types. So be kind to each other. Peopling is hard and you don’t know what baggage your co-worker is carrying to work each day.

Try everything once.

My rule for mealtime was that they didn’t have to eat everything, but they had to at least try everything. It broadens your world and increases your confidence to try new things.

My best friend:

Observe first

I have a tendency to jump right in and get too close too quickly. My bff showed me how standing back and taking it all in first is smarter. It gives the time and space to get a good picture of the situation that allows me to assess the cadence of conversations.

Listen for understanding rather than for responding. 

The things you hear when you stop formulating a response in your head while the other person is talking. I’m an interrupter…it’s what happens when you grow up the youngest in a loud family. It takes everything I have to reel it in at work.

Fortunately, we’re all remote so I have a crutch in the form of the mute button. Even then, listening – fully listening – is a struggle. But when I really do it, the conversations explode in a mass of creativity and understanding. It’s remarkable.

Give people space to share their personal stories in their own time. 

Be patient –  relationships take time to grow. I am an adult, but I am still learning to wait until others are ready to share their stories (or receive mine!) before becoming too casual. I’m a work in progress.

Read everything. 

It doesn’t have to be things related to your work. Just read everything – fiction, nonfiction, poetry, just everything. It broadens your vocabulary, expands your worldview, and it makes you a better communicator.

You don’t always have to be right — even when you are right. 

This is about losing a battle in order to win the war. It’s about swallowing pride to accomplish the bigger goal. Sometimes winning doesn’t come in proving that I’m right; instead, it comes in handing out enough rope to someone else and letting the situation work itself out that way.

My clients:

You will be better at listening when you get regular sleep, proper meals, and less stress. 

See “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead”. Basically, this is the HALT recipe. Your best self doesn’t shine when you are Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired.

Build rapport before tackling the tech. 

For the most part, when I signed a client on for services they stuck with me. I built relationships with them that transcended business. I didn’t recognize it immediately, but when I realized that I had clients who were still with me at the 10 year mark (and then 15, 20, and 25) I took it to heart that I was just 1) really good at what I did and 2) really good at building relationships.

My business consultant:

“Cash” is king.

While A/R is good for planning, it’s not money in the bank till it’s money in the bank, y’all. In this day and age, it’s comforting to have something to fall back on. I’m not going to give any financial advice. Most Americans will experience poverty in their lives. Further, 40% of Americans would struggle to cover a $400 emergency. I was one of those people. Until I hired my consultant, I was lax at billing my clients and overly generous in collecting debts. 

While this is not a financial discussion/advice piece (I am NOT a financial advisor in any way, shape, or form), it appears that as of this writing (week of May 9) discussions in board rooms are changing to adopt more of a “cash is king” mindset in an attempt to reduce debt. Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi stated that “Uber will now focus on achieving profitability on a free cash flow basis rather than adjusted EBITDA, he added.”

Know your numbers! Your historical numbers help you project your future numbers. 

Projecting future numbers was the hardest thing I had to do as a business owner. It took months for me to gather the historical numbers and do the calculations and graphs. I had to learn my business’s circadian rhythms to know that certain months were historically better than others. I did learn how to do it though and the benefits were clear in charting growth.

Reward people who bring you business. 

I had to learn that a referral wasn’t just a reward for my doing good work. People are people and they do better when rewarded. Learning to thank my customers for their word of mouth referrals was a program I adopted. 

My boss:

Trust — your peers, your employees, your leaders. If you can’t trust the people you work with, find another job. 

It’s no wonder so many people are unhappy with their jobs. Corporate life is too often still filled with “isms” and mistrust and micromanagement. We need to be better. 

Enough companies have shown that work from home works. Employees work better when they feel they are trusted to get their work done. Teams work better when they come together for a purpose. Managers have more productive teams when team members feel empowered and trusted. 

If you’re not feeling the trust, it’s time to find a new gig. Be picky. You deserve to be treated respectfully; you are more than just a KPI.

Everything is fluid, mistakes can be corrected. 

The most honorable thing any of us can do is to be able to admit we’ve made a mistake and do a course correction. Making amends is more than just saying “oops, sorry;” it’s making the correction to do the right thing. A humbling experience, for sure, but one that will show you really care about the people around you and the company that employs you.

Good work should be rewarded.

Everyone does something right. Reward those somethings. Publicly praise the people in your circle when they do something well. Hard work should be rewarded. Yes, we all get paid to do our job, but if you want to build relationships and solidify work ethics, reward those around you – whether they’re working for you, with you, or up the line from you. Show them you appreciate them. 

Oh, and always be kind.

My teammates: 

Ask for what you need. 

I get to work with an amazing team. I was so used to working alone or as a boss for so long, I had forgotten how great it can be to work with a team. It’s taken a bit of time for me to get into the swing of things, I’ll admit that. I was so used to making the decisions and then living with the consequences (good or bad) that it was hard for me to ask for an assist. Truthfully, it takes practice but asking for input from others has helped me beyond measure.

Offer a supportive hand. 

The flip side of asking for a lift is offering a hand. The give and take that happens on a well-functioning team lifts everyone up. 

Be open to having my mind changed.

C’mere, I’ll tell you a secret. I’m not always right. Shhhhhhh! Don’t tell, ok? 

But, seriously friends, an open mind makes all things possible. My teammates have helped me look at the tech business differently. I came here with strong opinions (surprising absolutely none of you, I know) but taking a step back and actively listening to the others helps me grow.

Wait quietly and patiently for your turn to talk. 

I am amazed at what good poker faces my teammates have. I’m pretty good at reading people’s reactions. At least I thought I was until now. Every person on my team is skilled at keeping a pokerface. And they’re quiet, taking in everything until it’s time for them to say something.

I work with a bunch of smart, thoughtful people. And our rule is to stay on mute and raise our virtual hand if we have something to say. This avoids crosstalk and, truthfully, gives everyone a chance to fully say what they need to say. It’s hard for me but I really appreciate it.

Always be kind.

Disagreeing is normal. My team is living proof that we can disagree on choices but still keep moving forward. We can work through our differences so long as we are always kind and respectful to each other. 

My high school English teacher:

Be bold.

Take a chance. Step out of your comfort zone and try new things. Eat new foods, see new places, learn a new skill, do something completely out of character.

Embrace your true self, without hurting others.

Be unapologetic about your convictions so long as they don’t hurt others. 

Stand up, speak out.

Never be afraid to stand up for yourself and for those less fortunate than you. Be a beacon for truth and justice.

My dog:

Don’t forget to eat and drink. 

Play in the mud whenever possible. 

Enjoy the sunlight warmly streaming through the window. 

Curl up next to someone you trust. 

There’s nothing more satisfying than a proper ear scritch. 

What have you learned from the people (or pets) in your life? IT Admin life is more than just IT. Admin Life is people. Come share with us in the JumpCloud Community.

Pam Lefkowitz

Pam is an IT Columnist at JumpCloud where she uses her experience as a consultant and MSP to write about IT admin life and tech. Outside of (remote) work hours, she spends her time with her dog, visiting her kids across the country, and being creative with fiber.

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