If Inspiration Had a Name

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That name would be Christopher Wayne Ridenhour. I first heard Chris at a major senior living conference a while back and his message has stayed with me ever since. He’s that inspirational.

Chris is an African-American senior living professional with a regular job in human resources, but he’s also a man who can communicate more with a single raised eyebrow than most folks can with a megaphone. Which explains why his presentations are the stuff of legends.

What unfolded before my eyes for the next two hours was one of the most entertaining yet informative presentations I’ve seen in my conference going career. Chris began by saying he was going to share something that you wouldn’t find in any of the great business or personal success books out there—a bold claim to be sure.  But it was one that he had proven only 15 minutes into his program.

Chris began by saying that effective human relations all starts with the eyes. Then he proceeded to show us what eye power and body language were all about.  The term “emotional intelligence” doesn’t begin to describe it.

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Christopher Ridenhour provokes audiences to consider how interpersonal relationships impact our customer service and organizational culture initiatives.

His message was that we can all be proactive in shaping the moods and climate around us through modeling enthusiasm and interest in others—rather than letting them spoil our mood or us spoiling theirs. He said repeatedly “Whether you’re an extrovert and introvert or just plain shy, you’re still ‘it’ when it’s time to do your job. And you can still have a high impact influence on others.”

He explained that none us has time to go through complex analytical formulas during short and crucial human interactions in senior living. We just need to have a simple tool kit that keeps us in the “ready” mode 24/7, even on those days when we have plenty of worries trying to distract us. Everyone in the room was hanging on his every word. The forty-ish and flamboyant senior living professional then went on explain how all of us maintain a bank account of emotional good will with those around us. And we are continually making deposits to build that good will through sharing and caring—or making withdrawals through acts of selfishness, anger or suspicion. The cost of making consistent deposits is to get out of our comfort zones.

He then had various groups stand up and pose is various phases of senior living:  the loving couple of 50 years, the patient nurse and wheelchair bound resident and the flawless manager holding his smiling staff in absolute awe. Everyone in his skit was frozen in a silent but unmistakable posture of sharing and caring—overlaid with outrageous good humor. “Recognize these people?” Chris asked. “They are your website!” The audience roared with laughter in instant recognition. Chris continued, “This is what your market sees and expects when they come to your community. How many of you think there is often a disconnect between the website and your community experience?” It suddenly got quieter and then a sea of hands went up amid a ripple of nervous laughter. Chris had set a powerful mirror before the group that began opening a lot of eyes.

Chris explained that it really was possible to make your community an extension of the perfect world you show on your web site—if you know how and work very hard at it. Over two hours he shared dozens of incredibly insightful examples of how human beings fail to see the obvious in how to make their vision, gifts and emotions work for them—rather than against them.

His basic premise was that none of us can really change anyone else, but we can chose to model behavior that will influence positive change in others quite effectively. He also shared a simple model for personality mapping that helped everyone appreciate the value of others—even those very different from them—as well as their own unique, individual worth to their organization.

I and hundreds of others came away with a fresh sense of our innate gifts and a sense of how to release those gifts through intentionally focusing on shaping our spiritual, emotional and even physical environment rather than being shaped by it.   I can begin to describe all of the ways the special gift of Chris Ridenour impacted me. But I can give you some very excellent advice. If you ever get a chance to see his presentation, in any context—take it!

Life offers few truly life-changing experiences. But hearing Chris Ridenour is one of them.

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