At MarchFifteen, we are fascinated by business literature on leadership and influence. It is our role to have the most current business knowledge and awareness to best help you every day of the week.
We recognize that there are many things that create influential leaders, and part two of this blog consists of a set of ‘ingredients’ you might want to add to your ‘influencing mix’ to improve it. These include the following:
- Anticipating Impact
- Stakeholder Management
- Speaking the Language of Others
- Knowing Your Audience
- Paying Attention
Anticipating Impact – It is easier to understand the impact we are having on others if we think through what their body language, their tone of voice and the level of their voice are saying to us. When we listen, we need to listen with all of our senses and notice how what we are saying is being received. We can do a number of things if we notice that things are either going well or running aground. We can ask questions and can make extra statements to see how we are doing with the other person in the conversation. This is great communication. We are talking far less often than we are listening and we are ‘in the conversation’ with the other person, noticing what impact they are having upon us and more importantly, what impact we are having upon them.
“The meaning of communication is the response you get. If you are not getting the response you want, change what you are doing.”
– Genie Z. Laborde, Influencing with Integrity
Stakeholder Management – Managing and engaging stakeholders, in relationship to you and in relationship to projects that you are managing, just makes logical sense. This skill involves appropriately managing expectations and agreed upon objectives, again in relationship to you or in relationship to projects you are managing. Sometimes people find it helpful to map their relationships onto particular projects or to form specific agreements around communication such as ‘we will speak each Tuesday to the managers in charge of the project’.. These ideas are excellent ways to improve stakeholder relationships and we find they can work really well for both parties.
Speaking the Language of Others – We have all experienced the concept of mirroring others in our speech and actions as a form of engaging them in what we are saying. It is a trite sales concept, but on a higher plane, speaking the language that people are interested in hearing is crucial to being able to effectively communicate with them. A quick example of using the information that people give you to continue the next leg of a conversation – Edyta says: “I love tea it has a calming influence” and we could say “I agree that anything that keeps us calm is worth having” as a bridge to our next part of the conversation. This technique is a simple device, not often done well.
Knowing Your Audience – Research is often the most underutilized skill we have in our toolkit. It is not difficult to go to a person’s website and see what is there before we meet them, and it is not difficult to express interest about a contact or colleague through others who may know them. Often however, we don’t do either and even when we do arrive cold, we forget to take the time to get to know someone in the first couple of minutes of a meeting through small talk and by expressing genuine interest in what they are doing and need. That extra 10% effort pays off for us in spades if we make it. Try it out.
Paying Attention – Paying attention can yield great results and influence. We are all busy and we live crazy lives in this era of the handheld and the computerized. It is often difficult, as a result of the pace of events in the workplace and also the interest we have in our gadgets, to hold the attention of one another or to actually be engaged with someone else. Listening and paying rapt attention to others is a great way to build relationships, build business and value other people. It will pay-off big time in the way of influence if you listen to, retain and feedback facts others have mentioned to you. It demonstrates a number of things. It says that you care, that you are ‘with the other person’ and often it means that you can get to the ‘right answer’ in order to help that person with their next issue or challenge.
Today, from self-help gurus to business leaders and scientists to politicians, many talk about mindfulness which in a way, I equate with paying attention.
Mindfulness has been described as “bringing one’s complete attention to the present experience on a moment-to-moment basis” (Marlatt & Kristeller, 1999), and as “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally” (Kabat-Zinn, 1994).
Influencing with integrity, tact and great communication skills is an art, and that art needs to be used judiciously so that what you are influencing about and for is of benefit to the other person. If what you are trying to do is manipulate the other person, then that relationship is bound to break down sooner rather than later, and all of your efforts will have been for not. Try out these skills one at a time, have some fun with them and feel free to tell us what we have missed too.