This blog was written during Atlanta’s 2020 racial strife…
My heart breaks for our nation and the great city of Atlanta. We must unite and create positive change. The time is now. It’s time to love. It’s time to lead. But how? Where do we start? I’m going to make a bold statement. Maybe even provocative. You may not want to hear it. But here it goes.
The solution doesn’t begin with what we do, it begins with who we know.
The world will not change unless your heart changes first. The only person that can change the human heart, bring it from death to life is Jesus. If I’ve piqued your interest at all, I recommend you keep listening or reading. If not, I get it. You can tune me out or turn me off. But if I’ve got your attention and you want to learn how a transformed life can transform the culture, stay with me. . .
The solution doesn’t begin with what we do; it begins with who we know.
If you’re a believer and disciple of Christ, your mandate is to make more disciples and influence the culture. A discipled leader’s conversion to follow Jesus must be demonstrated in your daily life and not be kept private. Through your transformed life, you must impact your world. Discipled leaders transform cultures through their own transformed lives.
Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:13–16 ESV).
To be salt means to preserve the culture. To be light means to show the way. To be both means to influence your entire world. As J. I. Packer wrote, “Christians are to involve themselves in all forms of lawful human activity . . . . As Christians thus fulfill their vocation, Christianity becomes a transforming cultural force.”
Can something so large and complex as a culture—even your work culture—be transformed? Yes! But it starts with you. In How Now Shall We Live?, Charles Colson, former special counsel to President Richard Nixon and founder of Prison Fellowship and Breakpoint, wrote:
“Cultures can be renewed—even those typically considered the most corrupt and intractable. But if we are to restore our world, we first have to shake off the comfortable notion that Christianity is merely a personal experience, applying only to one’s private life. No man is an island, wrote the Christian poet John Donne. One of the great myths of our day is that we are islands—that our decisions are personal and that no one has a right to tell us what to do in our private lives. We easily forget that every private decision contributes to the moral and cultural climate in which we live, rippling out in ever-widening circles—first in our personal and family lives, and then in the broader society.”
In other words, a discipled leader ought to be the same person on Sunday morning as he or she is on a Monday afternoon. There’s no sacred-secular divide. There’s only being a disciple and leading others toward Christ and discipleship—every day.
It is a discipled leader’s job to take Christ’s message to the world and, through that message and the power of the Holy Spirit, to change lives and change the culture. When you became a disciple of Christ, you became his ambassador and change agent through Christ. “A Christian is a mind through which Christ thinks; a heart through which Christ loves; a voice through which Christ speaks; a hand through which Christ helps.” Through Christ, you can make a difference in the world.
It’s not about a cause; it’s about Christ. Be bold, vocal, and stand for Jesus. Will you join Jesus in the Great Commission of making disciples and transforming the culture?
Do you want to discover how to grow your influence and make a positive difference? Visit my website, prestonpoore.com, today!
 Packer, J. I. Concise Theology.
 Colson, C. How Now Shall We Live?. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale, 1999.
 Tan, P. L. Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times. Garland, TX: Bible Communications, Inc, 1996, p. 336.
After completing my short-term stint with Hershey’s Sales Development department, I anxiously awaited my next assignment. I’d invested two years learning everything about the confection business and knew that my new role could be anywhere in the U.S.
The phone rang. “Hi, Preston. This is Dave. We’d like you to become the Giant – Carlisle key account manager and stay in the Hershey area.”
My heart began to sink because I’d heard how difficult it was to call on Giant.
Dave continued, “Your role won’t be easy at first. As you know, Giant is in our backyard. A majority of our employees shop in Giant’s stores. You’ll be under a microscope.”
Microscope? – I imagined thousands of Hershey employees complaining about something.
“And, our company has a lot of baggage with Giant. Things haven’t gone well with them over the past few years. We’ll want you to “bend the trend” – restore relationships, turn the business around and deliver results. Are you up to the challenge?”
With a lump in my throat, I quickly processed the opportunity and said, “yes.”
Dave said, “Great, and welcome aboard. I’ve already set up a meeting with Giant’s confectionary buyer tomorrow. I’ll brief you on the way to the meeting. No better way to do than to begin.”
Boy, this will be a quick transition. It’ll be sink or swim.
Dave briefed me on Giant and Matt, the candy category buyer, in the car ride to our appointment. He told me that Matt was one of the most stringent buyers in the Northeast. In his opinion, Matt was arrogant, very demanding, and hard to get along with. He was ambitious and only approved innovation or promotions that made him look successful. No one at Hershey had been able to materially breakthrough with him. The most recent Key Account Manager was run over by Matt and was highly ineffective.
The two company’s relationship was purely transactional with little hope of developing a strategic one. To complicate matters, our key competitor took advantage of Hershey’s challenges with Matt, and he showed a preference for their brands. It didn’t look or feel good having our key competitor beating us in our home market.
Dave and I met Matt for lunch. Right off, Matt was defensive and began telling us all of the things that were wrong with Hershey’s customer service. He said we had great brands, but we didn’t deliver on promises; he’d throw us out if he didn’t absolutely need us.
The conversation turned to the “baggage” Dave mentioned. Giant made big plans to promote Hershey brands during last year’s Halloween season. However, Hershey couldn’t deliver the product due to an untimely SAP data platform conversion; multiple candy truckloads were “lost” in the system and never made it to Giant’s warehouses. And as a result, Giant lost millions of dollars in sales. Matt felt burned – he didn’t receive an incentive, and he’d lost favor in management’s eyes.
After lunch, Matt looked at me and said, “I’m not sure you want this role. I’m not going to be of any help to you or Hershey.”
Leaving the meeting, I wasn’t fearful; something arose in me, and I embraced the challenge. I figured if I could somehow breakthrough with Matt, we could turn the two company’s relationship and business around.
I began with a series of short sales calls to connect with Matt. I asked him questions about Giant’s strategy, operating model, and what mattered to him. I listened to him with an open mind and a solution bent.
After learning what was essential to Giant and Matt, I began proposing promotion or new item opportunities aligned with Giant’s strategy. . .. He said “no” to me so many times I lost count, but I kept plugging away.
Matt continued to keep me in the penalty box because of the previous year’s Halloween delivery debacle. To prove his point during my first few months working with him, Matt only ordered 10% of his regular Halloween candy order. The small order put our business in a huge hole, and I needed to figure a way out of it.
I decided to take a different approach and win Matt’s heart first; then, I’d ask for his hand. I took a risk and invited Matt and his girlfriend to a Washington Redskins football game. Why? Matt told me that he was a huge Redskins fan but hadn’t ever been to a football game in D.C.
My wife and I rented a chauffeured limousine, picked up Matt and his girlfriend, and made our way to the stadium. I secured four company tickets in the second row. Matt wore his Redskins jersey; he was like a kid in a candy store (pun intended). He was genuinely excited and seemed to loosen up. I was very intentional not to bring up business during our conversations and wanted to connect with him personally.
Shortly after we arrived at our seats, Matt brought up business. He told me that I’d been in the penalty box too long; “nothing personal,” he said. He’d seen how hard I’d tried and really appreciated some of the business opportunities I’d shared with him. I asked him what it would take to turn our business around and restore the relationship between Giant and Hershey. He told me, “do what you say you’ll do.”
I responded, “Ok, I’ll do everything in my power to deliver. With that in mind, what can I deliver?” We began brainstorming ideas for a game-changing promotion where both companies would benefit. He shared best practices other manufacturers used to help grow Giant’s business. I listened to all of his ideas, and we aligned on a plan. I asked him if Hershey delivered on our collaborative concept, would Giant be aligned? Matt answered, “yes.”
I went to work with my cross-functional team to develop a “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” movie tie-in and partnership with Coca-Cola. We developed a shopper marketing program before shopper marketing was cool. The program included joint POS, in-store merchandising, an exclusive movie premiere, and supporting radio promotion.
I presented the plan to Matt, and he loved it. I showed him how the plan’s execution would grow his business and align with Giant’s strategies. The proposal met all of the promotion elements we discussed. Only hitch. . .. The moment of truth. . .. The close. . ..
I took a risk and asked for an unprecedented order. I asked Matt to quadruple his Holiday candy order versus last year. I knew that If Matt did, the order would overcome the Halloween deficit and put Hershey over our annual plan. Matt didn’t hesitate and said, “Ok. Write a suggested store level order and have it to me by next week.”
“One other thing,” he glared and demanded, “you’d better deliver!”
I confidently grinned and replied, “We’ll do what we said we’re going to do.”
And, we did. The promotion was a smashing success. Giant and Hershey both exceeded their annual business plan. It was gratifying to play a role in bending the performance trend and restoring relationships. To boot, my team won Hershey’s prestigious “President’s Cup” – the highest sales performance in the company versus the prior year. And Matt got promoted.
What about me? Well, that’s a story for another time. Let’s just say that bending the trend sometimes comes with a price.
If you are faced with the opportunity to drive positive change, I recommend you:
- Connect with Others. John Maxwell’s Law of Connection states, “Leaders touch a heart before they ask for a hand.”  Begin implementing a change by getting to know the key stakeholders. Find out their interests, ambitions, hopes, dreams, challenges, and fears. Listen intently and be authentic. Make changes based on the feedback you hear. You’ll find trust and credibility begin to develop as you make the genuine effort to connect with others.
- Create Momentum. Once you know what makes someone tick and understand what they want, help them get it. Secure quick wins that will help you create and build momentum. Work hard and follow-through; deliver on your small commitments, and they’ll have the potential to turn into big ones. Create momentum and consistently pursue your goal. You’ll eventually experience a breakthrough and go beyond what you thought possible.
- Be Persistent. Change doesn’t happen overnight. Don’t give up. Always be willing to try something new if what you’re doing isn’t working.
If you’ll connect with others, create momentum and be persistent, you’ll become a trend bender too.
Want to discover more about becoming a leader others will gladly follow? Please visit my website, prestonpoore.com, today!
Maxwell, J. C. (2007). The 21 irrefutable laws of leadership: follow them, and people will follow you. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.> Read More
Ever get one of those meeting invites, and something seemed a little fishy? I did.
The meeting invitation subject line read, “Summer Promotion Planning Session.” The purpose of the meeting was for directors, like me, to present our Summer promotion plans to the Marketing Vice President, Edward. No other description or direction was provided.
While Edward was a brilliant and accomplished marketer, he had a reputation for being volatile and flying off the handle at any given moment. He’d been known to verbally abuse his team when someone didn’t know the answer to one of his questions or work didn’t meet his expectations.
I had a number of my peers ask me why we were summoned to the planning session. I told them I had no idea but encouraged them to have their facts together; the meeting could be rough.
Because of a scheduling conflict, I attended the meeting virtually. I logged onto the meeting website, and I could see my peers sitting in the quiet room, looking a little apprehensive. Edward stormed into the room, sat down, and asked who wanted to go first. One poor soul raised his hand to volunteer.
Before the first presenter could get a word out, Edward began peppering the individual with questions. Edward’s tone was condescending and became more intense as the dialogue progressed. The first volunteer didn’t have some of the answers to Edward’s questions.
Edward stopped the individual in mid-sentence and said, “Either you are incompetent, or you don’t care. Which is it?”
I felt like I was watching a shark that smelled blood and began circling its prey.
After a long, uncomfortable pause, Edward said, “You obviously don’t know your business. What are you worth? I ask again whether you are incompetent or don’t care. Which is it?”
The first volunteer’s face was bright red, and steam came out of his ears. However, out of fear, he didn’t respond.
Edward turned to the next person and demanded, “How about you? What are your Summer promotion plans?”
As the next person bravely began presenting, Edward pounced on the individual with pressing questions. The person became flustered and couldn’t spit her words out.
Edward sarcastically asked, “You too? Either you are incompetent, or you don’t care about our business. Which is it?”
Edward then proceeded to ask everyone around the table the same question. When he finished, Edward stood up and said, “I think I made my point. Everyone had better know their facts next time!” He stormed out of the room just as quickly as he entered.
I was spared the berating because I attended virtually, and Edward didn’t call on me. I couldn’t believe what I just saw. It wasn’t right. No one should be marginalized like Edward did to the team; it was utterly demoralizing.
The next day, I told my manager what had happened. He told me that he’d already heard the negative feedback and assured me that Edward’s behavior would be addressed.
Then, I got a wild idea that I could positively influence the situation. I thought to myself, “Meetings don’t have to be like the one Edward just held. They can be productive, effective, and constructive all at the same time while treating people with respect and dignity. Why don’t I volunteer to lead the next plan presentation meeting and show there’s a better way?”
I mentioned the idea to my manager. He paused and asked, “What will you do differently?”
“I’ll let people know upfront what’s expected of them, create a positive environment where ideas can be exchanged, and feedback can be given,” I replied.
My manager smiled and said, “I like it. Let’s give it a try on our next go around.”
To make a long story short, my approach was successful. I reached out to different VPs to align with my proposed format. I developed and provided a plan report template outlining information expectations. Lastly, I facilitated a planning meeting with all of our cross-functional partners in a very positive environment.
I received great feedback, including a note from someone that worked for Edward, “the plans shared today were excellent, and definitely instilled the confidence for success against this critical initiative. Thank you for all of the collaboration with your customers in building out the details.”
Because I influenced the situation, which led to a positive outcome, I was asked to lead other innovation launch and program plan presentation meetings. I proved that there was a better way to do things by treating people with dignity and respect.
As Christians, we are called to be salt and light (i.e., to influence). The Bible says,
“Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth… Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:13-16 The Message)
It’s our job to shine and influence the world around us. So, what does it mean to be salt and light, to influence? Vocabulary.com defines influence as “the power to have an important effect on someone or something. If someone influences someone else, they are changing a person or thing in an indirect but important way.” To be influential means having the ability to shape and mold people, events, or the environment around you. Influence is leadership.
How do you grow your influence?
- Build Trust. Walk with integrity and establish people’s confidence in you – Do what you say you’ll do. Trust others and be trustworthy.
- Care About Others. People won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Treat people with dignity and respect. Take time to listen to people genuinely. Also, determine what interests others and motivates them, and help them get it.
- Lead by Example. Remember, actions speak louder than words.
In the above story, I influenced the situation and the people around me by building trust with the team, creating a positive work environment, treating folks with dignity and respect, and leading by example.
How about you? When you see something that isn’t right, do you have the influence necessary to make a change? If not, what will you do to become influential and make a positive difference in your world (e.g., business, community, school, or church)? If you build trust, care about others and lead by example, you’ll become an influential leader.
Do you want to discover more about becoming an inspirational leader? Please visit my website, prestonpoore.com, today!
Preston> Read More
I’m a disciple of Christ and an executive at a Fortune 500 Company. In my blog, The Discipled Leader, I draw on my diverse business experience to help Christians connect their secular and spiritual lives at work.
As a certified coach, speaker, and trainer with the John Maxwell Team, I help others grow their relationship with Christ, develop their leadership skills, and understand how they can make a positive difference in today’s chaotic world.
Let me help you reach your potential.
I draw on my diverse business experience to help Christians connect their secular and spiritual lives at work. I invite you to subscribe to my blog and learn how to develop Christlike character, influence your culture and change your world.