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What is the Fragrance you Leave Behind?

There are various people who come into your life. Most will leave a memory, and for some, it will be a lasting memory - good or bad.

Photo by Cristian Newsman - Unsplash

"Happiness radiates like the fragrance from a flower and draws all good things towards you"

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi

Fragrance or smells are there to help us. They can quickly warn us "off" something or someone, they also attract us to lean in towards something or someone. For example, when your favourite dish is put in front of you, or the perfume that reminds you of that special person in your life.

For me, it is the cologne that my best friend's mum always wore. The smell triggers a sense of 'being loved and accepted' for who I was, no matter what mischief my friend and I would get up to!

Allow me to use the analogy of smells to describe the various ways people can influence the environments we participate in. Do you recognise any of these?

Let’s start with STINKY people.

You smell them coming, and when you are with them, they spread their “excrement” everywhere. They can literally give you the xxts! The smell or the memory of the smell often lingers long after they have gone. You will do whatever it takes to move them out, or yourself, as quickly as you can.

However, there is a positive spin. Because real stink is hard to mask, it acts as an early warning system. You quickly know “something is up”, especially when you observe the reactions of other people (often with looks of worry on their faces). This allows you to take actions to resolve the situation as quickly as possible.

I was conducting a brand review on a client who was well known to be difficult because of her accusing style of communicating. The majority of the respondents gave the usual negative feedback about this one behavioural trait, however one person surprised me when answering the following question:

When you hear her coming down the hall to your meeting, what thoughts go through your head – the immediate response was, “we all look at each other and say oh-no what haven’t we done that we promised!”.

The outcome of the review was, yes, this woman needed to round out her communicating style. However, it was clear that she held strong to the value of ‘doing what you said you were going to do’, especially when others were counting on you.

When it starts ok, but soon sours.


Do you relate to this famous quote from Benjamin Franklin: “Guests are like fish, after three days, they start to smell”?

Often these people can be quite unpredictable, being fresh one day, and then ‘off’ the next. Their contributions often start well, but can sour because of the following:

  1. They have a high need for attention and recognition.

  2. Their contributions tend to be fleeting, only hitting the surface with no real depth.

If used well, however, these people can make great contributions. At their best, they add value in the moment, bringing a sense of positive energy and the initiation of ideas into the room. When working in a project situation, they bring great value in the ‘setting up and engagement phases’, however, it’s good to recognise the signs for when you need to move them to other places they can best contribute.

Sacrifice so that you can savour.

What do I mean by sacrifice? The best way I can describe this is to have you thinking about most herbs and some flowers. They are beautiful to look at, but without some form of heat, bruising, crushing or pounding, their true fragrance and flavour can’t be experienced.

Like herbs in a dish, the right person or group of people can add to, enhance and even change the state of a situation.

The essence of a wise word, the heat caused by a powerful question, and the pounding of excitement from a brave decision.

When you get the combination right, the results will be savoured for a long time.

A key to getting the best out of these people is to ensure you manage role expectations, either at the start of the role or the project so that there are no negative surprises when the ‘heat’ inevitably comes on.

Photo from Vero Photoart - Unsplash

"Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that had crushed it."

Mark Twain

Ahh, the sweet smell of success.

These people, like a beautiful bunch of flowers, literally brighten every space and experience they participate in. They know how to manage themselves and others ensuring that their fragrance enhances or complements.

Their fragrance is strong, and therefore may not be to everyone’s taste; too much and they may overpower. They come with a clear agenda, and everyone knows what is expected of them. Most often they are in leadership positions, and they are strongly aware of the impact they bring, but most importantly the legacy of the fragrance that they will leave behind.

As you reflect on 2018 – what fragrance are you leaving behind?

With a few weeks left, how can you bring some “sweet smells” to the important people in your life and work?

Begin to think about 2019. What seeds will you begin to plant and cultivate that will have you growing and blossoming in a way that enhances the world around you?

Make contact with me if you need any help with this.

My best wishes.

Shirley Reeder

Coming in 2019 - I am creating an online tool that allows you to complete a Brave Readiness Assessment.

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