Any Person, #3: Develop a strong sense of personal dignity.

The second trait to making a positive difference in your organization is to develop a strong sense of personal dignity.

With a strong sense of personal dignity, you can make a positive difference in your organization. If you lose your personal dignity, it’s going to be very, very hard for you to make a positive contribution. In the book, Maslow on Management, Abraham Maslow essentially said that true self-esteem rests on a feeling of personal dignity, the feeling that you are in control of your own decisions and your own destiny.

No matter how bossy your boss may be and no matter how much you are told what to do by other people, you can still maintain a very strong sense of personal dignity. Let’s make this as practical as we can.

You can always choose to control two areas: your mouth and your brain. You get to choose what you eat and what you drink. You get to choose what you say. You get to choose what images and ideas you allow into your brain and you get to choose your values, beliefs, and attitudes. For example, you get to choose during your non-working hours what tv shows to watch, what to look at on the internet, what books to read, and what music to listen to. Even if those are your only choices, you can still strengthen your sense of personal dignity by being in control of them.

If you choose to let other people tell you what to eat, what to drink, what to say, and what to think about, then you have made that choice. Just know that at any point in time you can make other choices.

The key here is that when you consciously make choices in some aspects of your life you automatically increase your sense of personal dignity. You are now becoming more in control of your own decisions and your own destiny. The more you do this, the stronger your sense of personal dignity becomes.

Remember: dignity is increased by making conscious choices.

Any Person, #2: Maintain the desire to make a positive difference in your organization.

Since some people become positive difference-makers and others don’t and we can’t determine based on their labels who is going to be in which group, what is it that causes some to make a positive difference and others to not? I think the difference between the two groups consists of internal traits.

The first trait is maintaining the desire to make a positive difference in the organization.


I believe that the vast majority of people start out wanting to make a positive difference in the organization they work for. They don’t start out their careers or start out in a new job saying to themselves, “I’m just going to earn a paycheck and I’m not going to try to make any contribution at all.”

So why do some people lose their desire to make a positive difference?

First, it has nothing to do with their labels. I’ve seen exceptionally intelligent people from great universities with big titles and significant incomes lose their desire to make a positive difference. They literally used up all their time and energy complaining about their employees, their customers, the government, the economy, their industry, and on and on. It was their way of avoiding having to try to make a positive difference. After time it became clear to me that they had no desire to contribute. At the same time I’ve seen other people with virtually the same labels work every day to try to make a positive difference.

I think people lose their desire to be a meaningful contributor for two reasons: the culture at home and the culture at work. When they were growing up, or possibly in their current home situation, they may have received a lot of negative subconscious programming regarding their career. They may have heard over and over again to “please the boss and don’t rock the boat” or “get what you can get because it’s a jungle out there” or “we’re not the kind of people who lead groups; we’re more the doers than the thinkers” or “why aren’t you in there fighting for a raise like everybody else?” Also, the culture at work may be one of constant fighting between employees and departments. It becomes like a silo mentality on steroids. Everybody is fighting their turf wars with nuclear weapons and blowing up each other’s careers. Any trace of idealism the person had coming into the organization has been wiped away.

How can you combat negative programming from your home life or work life?

I believe you need to find a purpose in your work beyond just making money. And then I encourage you to remind yourself of that purpose frequently. Why do you do what you do for a living? If you don’t have a very strong sense of your purpose for your work, you can quickly lose your desire to make a positive difference in your organization because of the negative subconscious programming you are receiving or have received from other people. If you really, really care about that purpose, you will rise up above all the negative energy flow and continue to try to make a positive impact.


Any Person, #1: The Premise

When I think about organizations my thoughts are built on a single premise that says most people want to make a positive difference in their organization and any person, regardless of his or her title, can make a positive difference in an organization of any size.

To me, a positive difference is doing something or saying something that causes other people to act in ways that generate better sustainable results for the organization.

Any person can make a positive difference, but not every person does. We can’t tell who the positive difference-makers are going to be based on their labels. We can only figure it out by looking backward at what kind of an impact the person had on the organization.

Make a list of 20 people whom you consider to be positive difference-makers. Have the names of 10 famous people and the names of 10 people you personally know whom you felt made a positive in their organization. Write the 20 names down the left side of a sheet of paper. Then on the right side write down each person’s gender, race, height, personality type, degree of formal education, name of the university or high school they graduated from, industry in which he or she worked, title, and role in the organization.

When you get all done, compare the labels of these 20 people and see if you can find any common denominators. My experience in having worked with thousands of people is that there is no correlation between their labels and the amount of positive difference they made in their organization.

I believe this means that any person in an organization can make a positive difference. We just don’t know which ones those people will be. I think we are vastly too quick to label people. Employers spend a lot of time interviewing candidates trying to find just the right person for their organization, and then within six months they’re labeling these new hires as “Top 20%” or “Bottom 10%” or “a real sales person” or a “detail worker, but not a big picture thinker.” Rather than labeling people, try to get out of their way, and in some cases help them get out of their own way, so they can make the difference that they are capable of making.


Dan Coughlin’s free Leadership Idea Center

Here is a link to my free Leadership Idea Center: The topics are leadership & teamwork, strategy & execution, and innovation & branding. There are dozens of articles, audio recordings, and video messages. If you find practical value in the ideas, feel free to share the link with others. Take care and have a great day.

Book Recommendations, Part Three: Innovation and Branding


These books focus on creating more appropriate value for your customers (innovation) and strengthening the customers’ perception of value that they receive from your organization (branding).


Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

The Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs by Carmine Gallo

The Art of Innovation by Tom Kelley

The Innovator’s Solution by Clayton Christensen


Winning the Story Wars by Jonah Sachs

The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell

Positioning by Al Ries and Jack Trout

It’s Not What You Sell, It’s What You Stand For by Roy Spence with Haley Rushing