Two Ways You Can Enlarge Your Impact and Influence

Bruce Wilkinson wrote a wonderful book a few years ago called the Prayer of Jabez. It was a self help, spiritual, business crossover that made the New York Times best seller list. It’s worth reading, and here’s the Cliff’s notes:  Jabez prayed to God:  “Enlarge my territory.” Most everyone I know aspires in some fashion to have their territory enlarged. You?

I offer two stories of two ways to do that.  For a couple of years I’ve been wanting to grow the size of my class from sixty to eighty students. I think I’ve got it nailed!  Guess how, but be prepared for a really complicated answer.  How?  I asked. Yup.  I asked.  Probably should have asked years back. I’m not kicking myself for not asking sooner, but I am wondering:  Well, what else am I not asking for to enlarge my influence and impact?

What was holding me back?  I suspect the answer is rather simple. I’m pretty sure that most times like this I’ve held back because I feared some kind of rejection.  “Maybe it’s better,” my unconscious offers in its courage-sapping whisper, “to patiently wait for that day when you’ll be asked to lead something great, rather than ask and find out you maybe aren’t all that great.”  We all have an inner limiter, don’t we? A hidden voice that keeps us from striking out on our own, or (to play with words) makes us so afraid of striking out that we decide not to step up to the plate and take a swing.

Oh, there are always reasons not to ask for a bigger shot.  There are always reasons why “they” may not take me seriously. They’ll think: He’s too new to Berkeley, not tenured, too old, too young :-), too political, not political enough, too white, too male, too aggressive, doesn’t fit our plan, and heck we just don’t have enough classrooms. But the limit comes back to me – why am I quitting before I’ve started.  This also leads to the second story and point.

The second way to grow your territory is to grow someone else’s. The fact is everyone has these unconscious instincts that limit them from growing their influence and opportunities. Take my wife (no Henny Youngman jokes…please).  I think the world of her and so do others. So opportunities come her way. But every once in a while, she tells me “I wish I could play a role in…”  She idly said this to me about something last week. “You should do it,” I said, “Go for it.”  “They wouldn’t want me,” she replied and continued, “I don’t even have an email for them.”  I reached out to a friend on her behalf, and within an hour the friend relayed a message back from them: “Jennifer’s welcome to reach out to me on my personal email.”  Jennifer has reached out.

I might not get a bigger classroom, and she might not turn up a viable chance at this opportunity to enlarge her territory.  But we’re both in the game.

Whose territory could you enlarge? Who wishes they could do something, or hasn’t even imagined they could? How could you “lead by two,” enlarging your impact through suggesting, promoting, and encouraging another’s success?  I learned a long time ago that I can make an impact by encouraging others who are way better than I am.

Whether it’s asking on your own behalf or encouraging another,

  • Dan,
    Hi. I very much enjoy your weekly e-mails about leadership. Some may think leadership means one has to become CEO or president of something or somewhere. Leadership can also be small steps that are better than others. These days I am facing an issue in my neighborhood which is bothering me a lot. It was to the point that I wanted to pack and leave to anywhere except, where I am now. In the process I learned I can make very small steps and although I may not be able to make a big difference and change the neighborhood the way I want it to be, I have entered to the game. I am playing. I may lose, but I am playing and this will give hope that I may win it. If I lose it is o.k. too, at least I have learned how to play. It feels good. Thank you and keep writing. Azita

  • Dan you have done it again. Beautiful thoughts. In response to your first point I am very intrigued. The inner limiter is very powerful, but as I have found out it can be overcome. For many years I worked hard and really fit the description “to patiently wait for that day when I’ll be asked to lead something great”. I timidly relented my thoughts to those seasoned, older generation folks who were in charge even though I had many questions about the way they were going about the work of leading. Then, something drastic happened to make me change.

    It was April 13 2004, I had a health bump, more exact I suffered a stroke and the age of 46. This was truly a life changing event. Upon recovery (I say full but my TEAM at work may argue the point) I had a new reality of how to move ahead. Up to that point I had done so many things and been exposed to so much that I knew it was the time that I had to become the LEADER and truly embrace “Leading with my Best Self”. For the past 13 years I have “enlarged my territory” and not just the business. My personal interactions have grown dramatically, my understanding of the world around me has grown to the point that I know realize all of the things that I really do not know. I work everyday to create opportunities for all of those around me. This is where my experience of “expanding my territory” departs and morphs into your number two of expanding or more correctly “grow others territories” with them.

    Along the way, I discovered that what people really want is a LEADER that they can trust, a LEADER that really pushes them to be their best, that does not provide “the answer”, but LEADS them to know how to find the answer, and finally a LEADER that is in the background of the TEAM.

    Really just echoing your thoughts Dan. Thanks for making me consider new ways to look at things!!!!!


    David T.

  • Dan!

    You’re scaring me in the best possible way! Two years ago my yoga teacher did the same thing, in her special way. I hemmed and avoided eye contact until I couldn’t tolerate my own excuses. Then I found a yoga-teacher training. Then I was offered to teach a yoga class. What? How? Yes!

    I’m scared-excited. Thanks friend.


  • As a minister I have certainly wanted to “grow my congregation”. I have struggled with “why does numerical growth count more than say, spiritual growth and a sense of ownership of those who attend?”
    I have come to see that while spititual and emotional maturity in myself and my congregation is my most serious and constant intention, it is in alignment with the good I intend to do by being part of a “shared spiritual movement to transform the planet” to increase the number of people who hear our mesage and add talent, time and treasure to our communities efforts to live out its mission in the world.
    So being bigger in numbers (attendance and money) is a worthy desire. I also learned that my preparation, my behavior, my leadership had to step up to “greater numbers” and “act as if” if that were ever going to happen. If you want exellence, you can’t be mediocre.
    I want to say how grateful I am for your weekly columns and how much they support and inspire me to lead witth my bestt self.

  • Marty,
    I love your comment. It made me think of a more two dimension quality to enlarging territory, i.e., we are enlarging territory but also enriching the territory that we hold. Both matter.
    I also like your point about “being the change you want to see,” claiming the larger territory by acting like that is who/what you are.
    Always enjoy your contributions!

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