Keys to Influence Part 1: Towels, Wristwatches, and Donuts

In the region I live there are two high schools: all of my nine children have attended one or the other of the schools for various reasons. I have had the opportunity to serve at different times on the Parent Councils of both of the High Schools over the years. In fact, I was honoured to eventually serve as the Council Chair for both of the councils I served on.

Regardless of how self-serving my comments seem to be at this point, please bear with me until I make my point! The principals of both high schools made similar comments to me during my tenure at each high school: “Jim, you are the best Parent Council Chair we’ve ever had!

I’m not that special as a Chairperson!

I can, however, trace my influence to three simple symbols: let me call them towels, wristwatches, and donuts.


The towel, draped over the arm of a waiter or waitress, is a universal symbol of service.
 Approaching a project with the sole motive of trying to help and serve in whatever capacity possible enlarges our influence. Many people are very insecure; so when you display an attitude that says, “I want to make you and your efforts successful. How can I help?” you set yourself apart and gain huge influence!

It was President Truman that popularized the saying, “There is no limit to what a man can do so long as he does not care who gets the credit!” Serving others with no hidden agenda—only motivated by a desire to help—is the embodiment of the symbol of the towel.


Originally, Council meetings were meant to be one hour in duration. Over time, however (pardon the pun!) Council meetings became horrendously long! Bad meeting habits and weak leadership are always the culprits when it comes to meetings being too long!

By vigorously protecting the time, I was honouring the people in attendance. Everyone appreciated the promptness—and it was this factor alone that prompted the participants to regularly voice their appreciation! Keeping your eye on your wristwatch sends a signal to people that you think they are important—because you are respecting them by valuing their time.


Coming into the High School regularly, I didn’t want anyone identifying me as “that parent that is always complaining about something.” I decided early-on that I could have more impact with encouragement than with complaints. So, when I came into the school office, I brought donuts!

Soon I discovered that people respond to encouragement! Donuts work ☺

Towels, wristwatches, and donuts are symbolic for three key ingredients to influence:
i. an attitude of service
ii. respect for people and their time
iii. practical encouragement

, , ,