It’s a hot day in Barcelona. 

We order a vermouth on ice with a plate of Manchego cheese and find a small table under an umbrella, as people shuffle to make space for us to sit down. It’s on this crowded cobblestone street in El Born where I settle in to sip my cinnamon infused beverage and soak in the smells and sounds of a new city. 

This is my idea of a perfect vacation afternoon.

It’s a busy day and people of all ages are chatting, laughing, eating and drinking. Business people are out for their lunch, families visiting with young children, teens meeting up, couples sharing a drink. I love the vibe. 

These are the types of places where I’ve earned my master’s degree in people watching. 

As my husband gets up to fetch another vermouth (don’t judge), I pick up that damn phone. I shouldn’t because I’m on vacation and don’t need to, but I’m only going to look at my Instagram after all. That’s okay, right?

The pause in that moment was real. It can’t be true. Devastating news of a mass school shooting. I slowly look up and let the phone slide down into my bag. I am mad and sickened and sad.  

I can’t really wrap my head around why or how this could happen. The feeling of so much hatred and division out there in the world. An abundance of issues that become too overwhelming to digest so instead just weigh us down with negativity and fear. 

The news is too much to know, the things that are happening are too big for us to figure out.

But wait though, is it our job to figure it all out?

Being informed and educated is important, just as taking action on the things that are important to you are. But knowing something and not being able to do a damn thing about it is taking a toll on our mental states.

In that moment, in that place, watching the people around me animated with energy and love, I know that I can’t think about that horrible traumatic event any further. I can’t allow the news of every tragedy and problem in the world make me feel so overwhelmed and helpless, I have to start smaller. 

So I start smaller. I look over and smile to the people at the next table, a big stupid smile that probably makes them think I’m a weird tourist but I don’t care. They say ‘hola’ and smile back. My superpower in this world isn’t to fix all the problems, it’s to create positive momentum around me, for the people and problems that are within my grasp.

Each one of us holds the power to change our world. 

When we become leaders who support, nurture, teach and guide those around us, it creates a positive ripple effect. And I strongly believe that our businesses can do better to become places where people can make a living, but can also feel supported, valued and heard. 

We need to teach leadership skills to those around us so that each of those people go out into the world and spread those skills. If I can allow dialog, trust and respect to grow in the people who work in my office, they will leave here each day and multiply that change with the people in their lives. 

Each person in my company has the ability to pay it forward. 

If leaders micro focus on the people in their businesses, we can change things. Maybe not the really big things, but the things in our homes, companies and communities. We can create successful businesses and also create places where people are healthy, accepted and have positive support, simultaneously.

For example, here’s a few ideas we could incorporate into our offices:

Talk to your employees and coworkers.

Ask them personal questions, it’s okay. Give them the space to know they can chat to you about their kids, dogs, boyfriends, whatever they choose. Imagine how much change that makes to someone who might not have any family in their lives.

Create spaces where gathering can happen.

A kitchen area, community lunch tables, couches, it doesn’t matter what it is. Somewhere people can be together and form friendships. Creating a space where community can thrive is important to our mental wellbeing.

Do a daily check-in.

We have daily huddles. And some days (I won’t mention any names), but someone is late. I don’t threaten to fire them. Instead, I threaten to call 9-1-1. If someone hasn’t checked in on time for huddles I care more about if they are okay than if they are late from school drop off.

Stand up for your people around you.

When you know someone has your back, you feel empowered to do the same. Don’t allow customers or others bully or threaten. Don’t let other employees pick on or talk down to each other. Let’s protect our people from the tiny scars at least. 

Be open minded to others beliefs.

Okay, so there’s these two vegetarians. We don’t see eye to eye on the whole veggie front. But that doesn’t mean that I hold hatred or discount their beliefs. I accept what they believe and listen, it’s what makes your community strong and makes people feel safe and accepted. 

But what if, you ask, people quit? Then what’s the point? 

Guess what? People are going to quit. People are going to leave or change. Just because they are only in your world for a short period of their life doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t strive to be the best leader you can be. 

If you can make an imprint on people around you during the time they work alongside you, when they leave maybe—just maybe, they’ll pay it forward at the next company they go to, teaching and leading others, creating tiny, positive changes.

Let’s be the change. 

Let’s make our businesses the micro epicentres of our community. Let’s all strive to be the leaders the world needs by making imprints on the people around us, empowering them to lead, to connect, to care. 

I finish the second vermouth as the lunch crowd starts to clear. As I stand up I notice that the table that said hello to me previously is now talking to the people next to them. Did my smile make that happen? 

I believe it did.