Are You Ready to Be Influential To Others?

Renee Collins, retired Vice President Owner Sales for Johnson Controls, opens up about how her definition of influence has remained fluid as her life goes through different seasons. She also discusses when influence becomes discipleship for Christian leaders in the workplace.

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As a mother, business leader and Christian, I have been working to improve my “influence skills” my entire life. I have learned over time that influence is a critical skill of leadership. But as Christians, are we asked to do more than simply influence others? The transition from influence to discipleship seems like a huge, scary step, but I believe that discipleship starts with living out your faith every day in your current relationships at home, at work and at church. I will admit that my views on influencing and discipleship has changed and evolved through different stages of my life. Recently, I feel as though God has been asking me to use my influence skills to disciple others and grow as a disciple myself.

Over the last 40 years, I have dedicated most of my waking time to raising four boys and work. Both required strong influence skills. When I married a second time to a wonderful Christian man, building a trusting relationship with his two sons was imperative. They had lost their mom tragically a couple of years prior to me marrying their father. My two sons had survived a divorce. My husband and I were forced into an influence role to build a blended family.

Building trust required empathetic listening because each boy had different feelings and needs. It required endurance and patience because it was stressful at times and we had to be persistent. My husband and I also needed critical thinking to keep in mind we were putting the boys in a new environment. At times, this meant we needed to interpret their irregular behavior and decide how to respond and support. Our common interests in skiing and golf brought us together as a family, but our faith created a bond that is ever lasting. The influence and discipleship that situation required came in the form of family prayers, confirmation, youth groups, work trips, and community outreach. So, my circle of influence started with my family.

In my professional life I worked for Johnson Controls and rose to a senior executive role after 39 years. When I retired, I led the strategic direction and performance of the North America service business. My roles prior to this had been general management roles where I had direct responsibility for a regional business segment. My last role was broader but ALL influence. My success depended on strategic thinking, active listening, and emotional intelligence, as well as knowledge of the internal business and external environment. I had to earn the right to be heard. I earned my influence with ethical leadership, giving more than what was asked, leading with my heart, and modeling generosity. Still, I wasn’t quite to the point of discipleship.  

My transition to retirement has now caused me to think about how to serve others in a different way. With God’s direction, I have expanded my network to include more Christian women. With their guidance, I am studying and reading the scriptures and praying more and somehow, more opportunities are rising up for me to serve others. I have reconnected with friends and family who are dealing with personal challenges. I have had opportunities to mentor professional women, serve lunches for the Salvation Army, and was recently asked to sit on Board for Michigan State College of Engineering Alumni to improve alumni outreach and women participation in STEM.

“How and when did I decide to influence?” is a challenging question. For me, the answer to that question is constantly evolving and changing. Prayers have helped give me direction. God knows my steps, so I continue to look to Him for direction on how I can be an influence and disciple to those around me.

Renee Collins is retired Vice President Owner Sales for Johnson Controls. Johnson Controls is a global leader in delivering outcomes that make buildings smarter through systems, digital solutions and services. Smart buildings are safer, more comfortable, more efficient and more sustainable.

In her most recent role Renee was responsible for the strategic direction and performance of service business, designed and facilitated sales management coaching practices and sales training to improve productivity, and led transformation initiatives executed across North America.

Renee began her 39- year career with JCI after graduating from Michigan State University. After her initial role as a sales engineer, she progressed in various roles sales and general management roles. Most of her career was dedicated to developing high performance teams responsible for safety, customer excellence, employee engagement and profitability and growth of the business. These roles included Michigan Area General Manager and Central Region Vice President & General Manager.    

Currently, Renee serves on the Michigan State University College of Engineering Alumni Board. This board advises the Dean and administration to improve programs and encourage alumni engagement in the university.

Renee is married and has four sons, one daughter-in-law, and two grandsons. She enjoys tennis, golf and down-hill snow skiing. She is looking forward to more travel with her husband in the near future.