You Are a Catalyst
David Freund, Chief Leadership Officer

When I was thinking about a title for this post, I started with “Are You a Catalyst?,” and then I realized that all of us are catalysts. The question really is, what kind of catalyst are you? Let me first take the time to define a catalyst. Here is Webster’s Definition:

1: a substance that enables a chemical reaction to proceed at a usually faster rate or under different conditions (as at a lower temperature) than otherwise possible

2: an agent that provokes or speeds significant change or action

Google added a slight difference:

1: a substance that increases the rate of a chemical reaction without itself undergoing any permanent chemical change

2: a person or thing that precipitates an event

When I look at these definitions, I see that a catalyst is something or someone that leverages a situation and brings about a more rapid change. As a leader, what kind of change are you setting in motion? Will your team grow and get better, or will they regress, shut down, and eventually leave? Remember, people don’t leave companies; they leave bosses. Similarly, people don’t decide to stay in a job because of the company; they stay because of the people they work with. Let’s look at ways to be a catalyst.

A Catalyst for Negativity – If we use the definitions above, we can see that if our actions spawn more negativity and are more critical of others, we are a catalyst for negativity. Since people do what people see, whining and complaining about anything will only encourage more of that behavior. Enough of the negativity; let’s move on.

A Catalyst for Ideas – Leaders aren’t expected to have all the ideas, but they are expected to find and cultivate the best ideas. I recently learned of seven ways to be a catalyst for ideas. For the sake of time, I would like to share two:

  1. Always be thinking about the organization. I’m not saying obsess about the organization, but I am saying that you should be revisiting your goals so often that they remain staged in your pre-conscious thought. Whenever something relating to that goal enters your consciousness, you will recognize it. Your best ideas will often come when you are away from the organization.
  2. Always be asking questions about the organization. Good leaders ask great questions, and the questions you ask others are based on the thinking covered above. Ask others to reflect on your questions and get back to you. When we ask others for their input, they feel valued and more engaged with the team.

It’s completely up to you whether you will be a catalyst that lifts people and the organization up or a catalyst that pulls people and the organization down. If you would like to hear a discussion on the other five ways to be a catalyst for ideas, please join Marisa Norcross and me for episode 243 of The Next Page Podcast.

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