I heard a sermon by Charles Stanley this past week that was entitled Impression or Impact? He was making the case that impression is short lived and that the goal is to make an impact, referring to that part of the definition of impact meaning transformative. I thought that this was an interesting question to pose given all the messages we are being bombarded with everyday through the political race and social media about what leadership is supposed to look like. Which do you focus your time and energy on? Making an impression or making an impact? When evaluating effective leadership, which is more important to you? The fact of the matter is at least in business, I think you have to do one before you can get to the other, but it is sort of like which comes first the chicken or the egg? Which comes first, impression or impact?
For many people, these two words might mean the same thing. To fully entertain this discussion, let’s look at some literal definitions of the words.
Simple Definition of Impression
- the effect or influence that something or someone has on a person's thoughts or feelings
- an idea or belief that is usually not clear or certain
- an appearance or suggestion of something
Additional Definition of Impression
- an idea, feeling, or opinion about something or someone, especially one formed without conscious thought or on the basis of little evidence.
"his first impressions of Manchester were very positive"
synonyms: feeling, feeling in one's bones, sense, fancy, (sneaking) suspicion,inkling, premonition, intuition, presentiment, hunch
- an imitation of a person or thing, especially one done to entertain.
"he did an impression of Frank Sinatra"
synonyms: impersonation, imitation
What strikes me about these definitions of impression is that they are not always based on truth or facts, yet how often do we judge and have a hard time releasing that judgment based on impression?
Definitions of Impact
Noun 1. The action of one object coming forcibly into contact with another.
synonyms: collision, crash, smash, bump, bang, knock
"the force of the impact"
Verb 1. Come into forcible contact with another object.
synonyms: crash into, smash into, collide with, hit, strike, ram, smack into, bang into, slam into
"a comet impacted the earth sixty million years ago"
2. To have a strong effect on someone or something.
synonyms: affect, influence, have an effect on, make an impression on; hit,touch, change, alter, modify, transform, shape
As you can see, impression is used as a synonym for impact, but I think where I see the greatest difference between the two definitions is that to make an impact, you need to connect with people. There needs to be contact between you and the other person for impact to happen. Who has had the greatest impact on your life? What did they do or say to have that impact? What was your impression of them? Was your impression the same before and after they impacted you? Whose life are you impacting? You can have a positive impression of someone, but if that person has not touched your heart, changed or altered how you think, helped you to modify your behavior to transform or shape you, they probably have not had much of an impact on your life. Everything we say and do leaves an impression and has an impact on more than just the person you are communicating with.
The point Charles Stanley was trying to make in his message is that we are to impact people the same way salt impacts food and light impacts darkness. Salt always makes food taste better and it does not take much salt to enhance the flavor, meaning the little things we say and do can have a big impact. Salt also has the ability to dissolve things and makes you thirsty. When you interact with people, do you leave them feeling at peace with whatever was causing them angst? Do they want to spend more time with you and learn more from you? Effective Leaders have this kind of impact.
Light impacts darkness by showing us the way. We all want to know where we are going and how to get there. Light also reveals things and helps us to see things more clearly, which increases understanding and compassion. We determine the strength of our salt and the brightness of our light and the impact it has by the conversations we have, the character that defines who we are and how we conduct ourselves. As Leaders we have to stand up for what we believe in. Speak up when something is hurting another human being. Be courageous to live by your convictions and not compromise the truth to achieve acceptance. As Leaders, we need to be the Salt and the Light for those we are leading no matter what is going on. If we do not take responsibility for the truth and allow something hurtful to another human being to continue, then we are saying that is okay to do and we are dimming our impact to be the Leader who provides salt and light for their people. Impact is determined by the quality of your life. Will the quality of your life have the impact you desire?
Here is a challenge I have for you. Ask those that you impact, connect with or see everyday how the quality of your life impacts them? Be open to the feedback and see what you can learn about the quality of your life. The first person who e-mails me back with a response will get the first copy of the book I am writing: “Impossible Outcomes R Possible” with T.R.U.S.T., when it gets published and will receive a free Everything DiSC® Assessment. An Everything DiSC® Assessment will impact your life by revealing the truth about who you are and how others perceive you and empowers you to have a higher quality of life, positively impacting your relationships.
When hiring a consultant to improve communication, leadership or teamwork within your organization, or for any kind of talent development, yes, it is important they impress you. What is more important, is to answer the question of what impact you think they will have on your organization and is that impact going to propel you toward achieving your business objectives.
Dana Riker Jackson