Contagious Culture

"Your ability to grow others, hold space, and truly optimize impact is highly dependent on your presence, your own growth, and your relationship with yourself. So, in order to lead others, you must lead yourself first."

- Contagious Culture, page 10

I’ll admit, when I chose Anese Cavanaugh’s Contagious Culture I thought was choosing a book that would help me learn how to contribute to creating a strong positive culture within my organization; a culture that was, like its name suggests, contagious.

Little did I realize I was picking up a book that was not only about how to create strong, intentional and impactful cultures in our workplace, our communities or our homes, but, perhaps more importantly, about how we must focus on ourselves in order to be the ones that show up each and every day to drive that culture.

The Big Idea

The Big Idea: The biggest takeaway from the book

Intentional Energetic Presence (IEP)

"The more leaders take care of themselves and are responsible for the energy they bring to the table, the easier it is for them to have the energy and stamina to show up powerfully and keep leading."
- Contagious Culture, page 48

This book centers around the idea that by being intentional about how we show up allows us to create a positive impact around us while, at the same time, feeling good and energized.

If you’re like most of us, you’ve probably been led to believe that it’s your capabilities that create your most significant impact.

But what if it’s not?

What if a much larger part of your impact lies in your presence? It’s what the author calls Intentional Energetic Presence (IEP).

Your IEP is about how you show up in the world and to others. It’s about being intentional with the energetic presence you project, and setting yourself up to show up well through intention, healthy positive energy, and solid presence.

Having impact is about being intentional with the energy you put out into the world and the second is about setting yourself up well so that energy is helpful to others.

The more intentional we are about the impact we want to create, the easier it is to have that impact. #Winning.

So how do we do that? How do we show up every day, as leaders, and create positive impact? The author makes a powerful statement in that it’s not enough to just have great impact or take great care of your people; it’s essential that you take care of yourself as well so that you can sustain and optimize that leadership and care. You can’t effectively lead others if you’re not doing what you need to be doing to lead yourself.

Taking care of yourself is a foundational part of the IEP model—it allows for greater access to all aspects of strong leadership: personal energy, creativity, wisdom, and intuition.

Having IEP is choosing, with awareness, how you want to show up, what impact you want to have, how you want people to experience you, and what you want to create. It’s about deciding—consciously—how you want to create space for yourself and honour your own needs so you have the strongest foundation to lead from.

What you need to know about your IEP:

How you show up matters – Regardless of everything else, your presence and intention with people can undermine everything else.

You are the common denominator – If you don’t like something, look at how you’re contributing to it. Of all the common denominators, you are the fastest path to creating contagious impact in the rest of your life.

External motivation is exhausting – Check your motivation and be honest about it. Want impact and the “why” even more than you want money or the promotion—those things will follow as a result.

It’s a choice we make every day – Showing up. Having positive presence. It’s the choice that makes the difference.

Insight #1

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

You are Contagious

"We pass our energy onto each other without even thinking about it."
- Contagious Culture, page 22

Whether you’re aware of it or not, you are contagious. Hopefully it’s in a good way, but, if we’re unaware and unintentional, it’s often not.

Even if you’re not the leader, you’re not off the hook. Just because someone walks into a meeting with low energy doesn’t mean that we’re helpless and not responsible for what happens next. We’re all responsible for how we let other people’s energy influence and impact us.

What Cavanaugh helps us to understand is that the more aware you are of your presence, and the stronger your energetic field, the easier it will be to decide intentionally who and what gets in and stays out. It’s totally your call.

Your energy is contagious and it compounds – meaning your energetic field becomes stronger or weaker depending on how you nurture and hold your own space and IEP.

All of this contributes to creating a positive culture.

Insight #2

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

The Leadership Trifecta

"There is a disconnect of purpose, presence and intention in our daily lives as business moves fast and demands for attention hit hard."
- Contagious Culture, page 39

With more of us seemingly willing to compromise our health and relationships and more of us burning out, the implications of not taking care of ourselves are detrimental.

The challenge is often not just about taking better care of ourselves, but how we create the right balance of impact, self-care, and people-care. How do we get results, thrive personally, and grow our teams in intentional ways?

It’s not easy. The author provides us with examples of the three main kinds of challenges we can face:

  1. Impact but no self-care. This is one of the greatest challenges we have as leaders doing awesome stuff: To push the company, the team, the product—to rock it. And balance it all with quality time with our spouses and kids and friends. Approaching our lives this way has a cost. And it can be done better. Through presence, intention, and choice. It doesn’t have to be hard, but it does have to be intentional.
  2. Self-care but no impact. If you’re reading this, you’re not the kind of person who wants to show up each day taking great care of themselves but having little to no impact on those around you. This also has a cost. It requires the same solution as the first challenge does: Presence, intention, and choice.
  3. Impact through leaving dead bodies behind. If you want to create sustainable, positive impact you’ve got to bring your people along with you. You can push them, pull them, inspire them, challenge them, call them out…but it has to be done with presence, care, and intention.

So how do we do it?

First, to handle everything you’re doing, you need to eat really well. You have to eat with intention. It becomes about making everything about quality over quantity.

Second, you have to consider others. Period. You have to see your people for what they really are: human beings. When that happens, people will want to give you their best, daily.

Third, try making agreements with your team to do what’s needed when it’s needed (e.g. stay late when you’re all working on a big project and to leave on time when you’re not).

Contagious Culture opens up a whole new world when it comes to creating strong, positive and intentional cultures. If you’re looking for a book to support the development of your culture, you won’t be disappointed.

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Matt Tod

ABOUT Matt Tod

Matt Tod is an international speaker, leadership facilitator, published writer and is passionate about helping people reach their full potential. Matt is the former Executive Director of Youth Programs for the Institute for Health and Human Potential and the current Director of Training & Development for North America’s largest youth-run Charity and Educational partner, Free The Children the innovative social enterprise, Me to We...
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