Background to Impact Starts With Me

This is the second in a series of posts describing the background to the first books in The Transition Chronicles series. Today, I am describing the background to Impact Starts With Me: The Path of Self-Discovery.

Where It All Started


To describe the background to Impact Starts With Me, I have to start with why I wrote my first book, Circle of Impact: Taking Personal Initiative To Ignite Change. Impact Starts With Me is an extension of the first. Here’s why.


My career has been built upon asking questions. I see things and I want to understand why. Several of these questions continued to go unanswered for decades. It is one of the reasons why, in the mid-1990s, I started my own consulting practice.


One question concerned the origin of the problems that organizations brought to me. When you ask questions, you become a problem solver. What do you do when the problems show up in all types of organizations? The simple explanation is that wherever you place your focus will determine the areas that you will miss. In many organizations, the principal reference points for success were internal numbers related to sales, profit and loss, and market research. I’m not saying internal numbers were not important. Only that number are too easily manipulated to avoid scrutiny and accountability.


A second question I picked up from talking to people within these organizations. They would describe to me how the structure of the organization was the real limiting factor on their ability to do their best work. In simple terms, they were prohibited from solving real problems, communicated widely, and innovating new ways of doing their job. In other words, people as “human resources” were an under-utilized asset in the company. The quickest way to get to this problem is to ask, “What percept of your people’s potential is being realized.” I’ve yet to have any leader give me a satisfactory answer. They can answer other utilization questions, but not the one related to their most important and expensive asset … people.


As I followed the problem-solving path towards a solution, I came to realize that the source of most problems is ideological. It begins with a lack of clarity about values, and the organization’s stated purpose and vision for impact. Defining impact became the key question is helping organizations solve their problems.  to an organization not being clear about its purpose was for it to focus on impact.

The impact question begins with …

“What do you want to change? What is the difference that makes a difference that matters that you want to create?”

When I would ask leaders about the impact of their businesses, rarely did I get a clear answer. Impact was not on their radar screen. Internal numbers defined the company’s purpose and success. It is a principal reason why I wrote the Circle of Impact book.


The Transition That Matters


For three and a half decades, I asked questions, sought answers, and created a leadership model for the 21st century. The Circle of Impact represents the transition in leadership away from the assumptions of the 20th century. For I came to realize that the approach that most business people had been taught was out-moded and counter-productive to the realities of the 21st century.

This transition is represented by the focal point of impact and the leadership center-of-gravity shifting from the executive suite to the people of the company. Companies were leadership starved. The key to seeing this transition is that leadership is no longer a function of role and title within an organizational structure, but rather a function of the performance of each person within the organization.

In other words, “all leadership begins with personal initiative to create impact that makes a difference that matters.” The key to making this shift happen is by changing how an organization is structured. You do that by equipping and supporting every person to solve problems, freed to communicate with whomever they need to perform their job, and to innovate better ways to fulfill the organization’s purpose for impact.

Conceptually this is easy. Practically this is hard. Because change doesn’t happen because it is a logical step. It happens when the problems become so obvious that you have no choice. Or, as I tell people when the pain of change is less than the pain of staying the same.


What Came Next


In September 2018, after Circle of Impact was published, I hit the road to promote sales of the book. I spent the next year talking to people standing in bookstores, sitting at bars, in laundromats, parking lots, and hotel lobbies. These conversations went something like this.


“Oh, so you are the author of this book?”


“What’s your book about?”

“It is a book for people and organizations that are in transition.”

Then they would give me a surprised look and say, “Oh. … Well. … That describes me.”

Then a conversation would happen where they would tell me a story about who they are, their life experience, and why they felt they were in transition.


I found that people first feel that they are in transition. But they lack a way to talk about it. This feeling rises deep from within themselves. This is especially true if they have either worked in an environment described above where they are simply hired to perform specific tasks or have been out of the workforce for a while taking care of family needs, whether children or elderly parents.


Of all the ways that I could describe the book, speaking about transition resonated most significantly with people. This isn’t just personal. It is also something happening to our society, our communities, and every organization within it. It is a global reality felt at the most intimate level of our lives. It is also clear that some people are better suited or prepared to make transitions in their lives, while for others it is a very tough, hard experience.


Why I Wrote Impact Starts With Me


I wrote the short book, Impact Starts With Me: The Path of Self-Discovery, for all those people I met on my book tour and for all those who I am meeting today who are in transition. I spent most of my time over the past two years thinking and talking about theses transitions. I can also tell you that I feel that I am only scratching the surface. I say this because I believe we are at the beginning of a level of change that is not evident to people, especially people in power and leadership in the world.


So Impact Starts With Me: The Path of Self-Discovery is a step in the process of understanding what transition means and how we are to address it personally, institutionally, in communities, and on a global scale.


In the book, there are three steps to identifying how impact starts with me. Understanding who you are. Believing in yourself. Following a process that creates a vision for you how your life can make a difference that matters. In other words, the first intentional step in transition is a change in self-perception.


Until you decide to be a person of impact, it will be difficult to become one. It goes back to my definition of leadership. “All leadership begins with personal initiative to create impact that makes a difference that matters.”


My purpose is to help you do this. My goal is to help you change so that you can do this. This short book describes one step in the process.


The Choice


We each have a choice.


We can be subject to the transitions that come out of nowhere, like a global pandemic, or riots in our cities, or our business moving to a new state.


Or, we can choose to be persons of impact, defining the transition that I want for my life, for my family, and my community.


This choice has always been there for us. Today, it is much harder to make this choice as there are so many people telling us who should be, what we should do, who we should vote for, and what causes to support.


These are all marks of transitions. When the freedom to choose becomes more difficult, it really means that the opportunity to choose has greater potential for impact.


However, it begins with understanding who we are, and what we want for our lives.


This is why I wrote Impact Starts With Me: The Path of Self-Discovery. It will be followed in the next series of books with one on how to plan for impact. It will help to have read this one first.


Welcome to the world of transition. May you find your path to the impact that makes a difference that matters.


Dr. Ed Brenegar is a Leader for Leaders working with individuals, their teams, organizations and communities who find themselves at a point of transition. Ed has developed an innovative leadership model called, Circle of Impact, that clarifies what the impact of their life or the work of their organization can be. From this perspective, impact is the change that makes a difference that matters. Ed. for over 30 years, has inspired and equipped people and organizations to practice this fresh understanding of leadership. All leadership begins with personal initiative to create impact that makes a difference that matters. Everyone within an organization or a community can, therefore, practice leadership initiative. In so doing, they turn what were once leadership-starved organizations into leader-rich cultures that make a difference that matters.

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