Kevin Ames brought tears to my eyes as he shared a story about a school photographer who took on creating impact through her work in a way only someone with her commitment to serving could. It all started with a gift of the book Great Work given to me by Sam Gagnon at O.C. Tanner over a year ago. The book dramatically shifted how I think about appreciation and how leaders cultivate environments that inspire commitment in the people that work with them. After diving into this rich read, I have since shared it with many clients and was reminded of its gifts when I had the opportunity to hear Kevin Ames speak at a conference a few weeks ago.
Kevin is a gifted story teller and in our time together moved our group to emotion many times by sharing stories about ordinary remarkable people and helped us see what they do different. He said, “You can’t cause people to get engaged – you can only create an environment where they want to engage”. And he showed us how people choose to engage through committing to the vision, mission and values of an organization through examples of inspirational every day leaders.
Tina was a photographer who’s story Kevin shared. She is a school photographer for children of all ages who understands what it means to deliver a difference and make the lives of those around her better through her work. In his story, Kevin told us about the end of a long day for Tina shooting photos at a school for special needs kids where she noticed an autistic young man who didn’t line up for a photo. She approached him at the end of the session and inquired about him skipping the photo line. He was missing the necessary forms for the photos and the school secretary let her know that his mother would arrive soon.
Rather than waiting for the paperwork or packing up and heading home for the day, Tina suggested that she get started photographing the young man while he waiting for his mom. None of the initial images met with the vision Tina saw for representing the spirit of this young man so she kept shooting until his mother arrived. Once his mom arrived, Tina took the time to show her each of the images one by one and then the special picture came onto the screen. A single picture that captured the essence of what his mom saw in him. Instead of the standard rushed bad picture, this mom finally had a picture that represented what she saw in her son and the love and pride she had for him. It only came to be because Tina was patient with both mom and son to make a difference.
Kevin too knows how to make a difference. The soul he puts into his story telling is inspiring. He tells each story as if it were a story about his own child. The gratitude, joy, inspiration and admiration he has for each person he tells a story about shines through and makes a memorable impact about not only the lead of the story but also the message he’s hoping you’ll take away from the story.
Here are some key insights I took from the story about Tina the photographer, Kevin’s approach to story telling and the book Great Work on making a difference people love:
Reframe Your Role: The role of a difference maker is available to everyone. It is you that must choose it.
Work with what you’ve got: Take something good and make it better.
Ask the Right Question: “What would people love?” Think out on the edge.
See for Yourself: Look for difference making opportunities others may have missed. Be curious. Observe everything.
Get on the wall: Only the mountain can teach us to climb it.
What will you do to deliver a difference people love?