The Best Way to Influence OthersApr 25, 2023
When you think about the people who have been most influential in your life and your career, what is it about them that made them so?
Several people come to my mind – my dad, a special teacher, an effective leader I worked for. And while each of them taught me things I have always taken with me; it was their behavior and their presence with me that was most impactful.
They were great role models. They had qualities I wanted to emulate and habits of behavior that inspired me.
My dad always volunteered when my school or my girl scout troop needed another driver or chaperone. He wanted to be present in activities that were meaningful to me. It really made an impact on me.
Both the special teacher and the leader challenged me in ways that were beyond my own expectations and encouraged me to rise to their expectations. This caused me to question my limiting beliefs and habits and explore what was possible.
As a certified high-performance coach, I help business leaders apply both the mindsets and the habits that enable success above standard norms consistently over the long term.
Influence is the key element of leadership. The practices that lead to increased influence include being an effective role model, and as I think about those who most influenced me, I realize I wanted to be like them.
Here’s a question: what kind of example are you setting for your team, your family, and your friends? What are the words they would use to describe you? What are the behaviors they admire in you?
Behavior is important because people do not believe the message unless they believe the messenger. And your behavior speaks volumes about you.
To be fully effective as a role model, you need to be deliberate about choosing the impact you want to have on others. That means choosing what specific behavior you want people to see, acknowledge and emulate. In making this choice, think about how you want people to feel when they see you, and interact with you.
A helpful way to do this is to choose one memorable word or phrase to describe both the feeling and the behavior - and clearly define what the word(s) means to you. Then, you can be more intentional about “living” that word, as well as consistently sharing and promoting the beliefs it represents. It is also a simple way to think about how you lead and the way you treat others as a leader.
For example, my personal intention is to make people feel valued and special, and appreciated for what they can contribute. Even if they are not in a position to contribute right now, at least being appreciated for showing up. I worked for someone once that used to thank me “for showing up today.” I liked that so much, I adopted it, and my team always got a kick out of it too.
This is a great example of what I call Deliberate Leadership. It’s about being intentional about the way you lead. Choosing how you want to make people feel and choosing the specific behavior you want them to model after your example is a deliberate action. The benefit of being a deliberate leader extends not just to the people you lead, but others they interact with, including friends and family, even strangers. The potential for extended impact is important to remember
As a young woman aspiring to be a leader who could make a difference and have a positive impact, I didn’t have many great role models. I often felt unappreciated and under-valued, and capable of contributing so much more, but not encouraged to do so. The effective leader I mentioned earlier was an exception. So I became determined to learn how to make people feel like they mattered.
I wanted people to recognize and appreciate their gifts and their abilities and their potential to do good in the world, even when they didn’t see it at first. I wanted them to feel seen, heard and understood, supported and encouraged. I worked hard to learn how to do this.
The behavior this requires is to really see and listen to people with the intent to understand, rather than be understood – one of the familiar habits of successful people according to Stephen Covey. It’s about listening with compassion and sometimes, patience.
As a relatively impatient person, I have been given many opportunities in my life to practice patience and compassion. Each time it has been difficult, but I have learned to behave in a patient way, even when I don’t feel patient.
So, what about you and the other leaders in your organization? How do you want people to feel when they are interacting with you? And what behaviors do you intend to model for others? Is there a reason this is important to you? Having a strong “why” provides additional motivation to following through on an intention. Even though it was years ago, I can still feel that sense of being misunderstood and under-utilized. And it’s a great reminder to be the change I want to see in the world.
Increasing your level of influence is a big part of being an effective leader. And building the habit of influence takes practice. Choosing the behavior to model for others is one very important way. If you want to learn more about how you and the other leaders in your organization can increase your level of influence, let’s talk.
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