Tue | Feb 20, 2018

The impact of Footprints

Published:Sunday | April 16, 2017 | 12:00 AMTrevor Smith

The impact of footprints

In our daily lives, we are constantly faced with the footprints of those who have gone ahead of us - be it parents, siblings, previous job holders, or team representatives.

Those footsteps have implications for our choices. We may not have given this careful thought, but earlier footprints may be influencing our behaviour.


One common influence is for us to strive to follow in the footsteps of those that we admire. We want to be like Dad or to wear the number of a star player. We study them and work to emulate them.


Another approach is to place as much distance as possible between our behaviour and the actions of a predecessor.

"I don't want to be identified with X."

This inspires a mindset that rejects anything that could be a reminder of X, potentially excluding even desirable traits or actions.


Some of us set about life with the intention to create new paths. The focus is on going where others have not gone.

This inspires innovative, and thinking out of the box. It also prompts a drive to achieve new heights, set new standards and extend boundaries.


Unfortunately, many spend much of their existence in the shadow of others. They are constantly faced with being compared with their predecessor.

They face criticism related to those who have gone before: "Why can't you be like your father?" or "You are just like your good-for-nothing father."

The shadow is so dense that it shuts out self-expression and the individual might lose the desire to chart their own course and leave their own footprints.

"Boys who witness family violence are more likely to batter their partners as adults, and girls who witness their mother's abuse have a higher rate of being abused as adults. These commonsensical observations are facts, not myth - 'Battered Families ... Shattered Lives', Georgia Department of Human Resources Family Violence Manual, January 1992.

On the other hand, the footprints can also be a platform for personal success of those who follow. The success of the Marley offsprings in the musical sphere is a good example of building on the foundation of those who have gone before. ATL/Sandals and Wisynco are examples on the corporate side.



The workplace, teams, marriages and relationships are faced with footprints from different sources. This is a major cause of conflict and interpersonal challenges.

Not only are there different footprints, but the stakeholders may also bring diverse responses to the footprints. One party might be committed to emulating someone, while another is dead set on putting distance between their actions and the same individual.

A new leader is installed - loyalists to the previous leadership resist every action that is not aligned to how things were done. Supporters of the new regime feel a need to remove all vestiges of the way things were done, often including rejection of people identified with the replaced leader.

In the family, there is the battle to establish which footprints, if any, are going to be followed or skirted by husband or wife.

One huge challenge relates to those who are not integrally involved in the decision-making process but have to endure its consequences. Consider workers who are impacted by being tossed to and fro as a result of the contending strategies of a divided leadership team.

Children are also caught up in the confusion and mixed signals that come from the clash of cultures and stubbornly held views as to the path that is to be followed going forward.

Without due care (not excluding wise outside intervention), these situations could end up with individuals taking entrenched positions in defence of or opposition to footprints and effective communications becomes impossible. Egos and personal agendas then take over and replace team, family or organisation goals.

Homework: Read again and reflect on how footprints are impacting your life. Take corrective action.

Share with me if you wish.

• Trevor E. S. Smith is a behaviour modification coach with the Success with People Academy, home of the revolutionary FinxS Platform from Extended DISC. Hire Smart with FinxS Behavioural Assessments. Conduct employee-satisfaction surveys, 360 performance evaluations and team reports using logistics-friendly technology. Email: info@swpacademy.com