How to develop your influence to make a difference
No matter what area of your life you examine, if you want to make a positive difference you need to learn the skill of INFLUENCE.
Influence is the key to bringing others onboard, keeping them onboard and to removing resistance. Therefore, it doesn’t matter if your talking about managing a team/a business, selling, coaching, teaching etc. ultimately you will reach your goals faster if you develop your skills of influencing people.
It is easy to assume that influence is an innate ability but the reality is those that are good at it work on this skill honing it until they achieve a high level of expertise.
When you think of the greatest influencers in history they follow a well-worn path. They challenge us to explore three areas:
Most of the best selling books in history are ones that challenge the way we think. A great example being Think and Grow Rich. Ask people to name great influencers they will come up with names such as Winston Churchill, Martin Luther, Mother Theresa, His Holiness, The Dalai Lama. The list is very extensive but one thing they all share is that they consciously set out to teach their followers how to think. This is what makes us follow, believe in, and admire them.
Our knowledge and skills.
The human brain was designed to be challenged. The science of neuroplasticity has taught us that the brain is far more adaptable than we ever thought. When someone challenges us they influence us. Particularly a challenge that demands us to stretch our knowledge, skills, and abilities.
They walk the talk.
We don’t believe the message if we don’t believe the messenger. Who you are, how you show up in life, the actions you take and the values and principles you enact are closely watched by the world.
That’s what an expert influencer achieves.
But as I said above influence is a skill that you can develop. Like most skills it has layers. You start with the basics and then gradually become more accomplished. So let’s look at the layers before moving on to what you can do about becoming a better influencer.
The eminent John Maxwell describes these layers well. I’ve slightly adapted his language, whilst keeping to the spirit of his work.
Level one is that you influence by what you do. This is the first and most immediate impact that you can have.
Level two involves motivating people. Great motivators appeal to an individual’s emotions. That’s how to have maximum impact.
Level three influencers, have reached the stage where they can see the long term changes in those that they are influencing.
And ultimately we reach level four. Level four influencers teach others to influence too. They maximise their impact by empowering others to make a difference.
So, what can you do to develop your own skill as an influencer. Anders Ericsson is one of the greatest writers and researchers in the field of skill development. He defined the difference between practice and deliberate practice. Anders argues that the popular concept that 10,000 hours of practice makes you an expert is too simplistic. He suggests that if you practice the same thing over and over again, you are not in fact going to reach mastery.
Instead Anders proposes the concept of deliberate practice. This is where you consciously construct your practice to stretch you, to challenge your weaknesses etc.
As a coach, I couldn’t agree more. Therefore I would like you to practice your influence skill but use a deliberate practice methodology. That means consciously focusing on five areas:
1. Describe in detail the long term benefit as a broad picture for everyone.
2. Describe in greater detail the daily benefit for the person you are talking with.
3. Talk about who else will benefit. Aim to include people who matter to you audience.
4. Briefly touch on the downside if this doesn’t happen.
5. Generate real deadlines for action.
If you really want to influence others these five areas are the gold standard. The structure is very important, you need to go through each stage before moving to the next.
Give it a go!
About the contributor:
Alex is a coach, author, public speaker and is recognised as an international figure in leadership development, leadership/business coaching and positive psychology. Furthermore he is a Director and founder of the International Centre for Leadership Coaching. A organisation that specialises in assisting leaders and managers to utilise coaching skills to enhance their leadership abilities. In this role he has trained hundreds of managers/leaders in the practical implementation of coaching and how to embed a coaching culture.