Behavior changes more easily when we are with people, in the same physical space doing things, over consistent periods of time. John Maxwell calls this The Law of the Picture in his 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. Simply put, it’s the idea that more is caught than taught.
With my 1-year old son, I see this exchange happen everyday. Like when he picks up the remote controller and puts it up to his ear imitating me talking on the phone. Other times it’s less endearing as he throws himself on the floor pitting his will against mine, like I do with my husband (although my tantrum is less physically demanding . . . throwing oneself on the floor could hurt).
As an adult, I follow the cultural trend in leaning more to the taught route. I want to be taught through my reading and researching – which I think is being responsible. But honestly it’s because it protects me from admitting what I don’t know to another person. What has happened is that my ignorance-protection-mechanism has separated me from interacting with fellow humans.
For example, I often find myself on my phone, computer, iPad, or reading a books to learn about the best way to hack life, have the best house organization, and 10 tricks to get my profile noticed on LinkedIn. Since I’m busy researching, I don’t have time to recognize the significant people surrounding me from whom I could catch some of this much-sought-after knowledge.
This Spring, I learned about Geraldine Laybourne. She understood the Law of the Picture when she started inviting women to walk with her at 6 AM, in New York City. Laybounre was an American media icon and women wanted to get together with her to catch some of what she had. So she invited them to be with her on her daily morning walk. Her behavior change of inviting women to join her started The Vital Voices Global Mentoring Walk – an international movement connecting women to other women for 9 years.
Even now, I’m thinking about what significant humans are already in my life and who I want to go on a walk with to catch some of their behaviors.
To get a summary of Maxwell’s 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, download this PDF.