3 Tips for Powerful Influencing

For several years, I’ve asked senior executives, “what’s the one thing you can do that would make the biggest positive difference in your leadership effectiveness?”

Their most common response? “Get better at influencing.”

Here are a few overall influencing tips from Michael Zigarelli–author, professor, and consultant–along with my own 2 cents:

1.  Be a person others want to follow.

Yeah, yeah, yeah…we know this. Lead by example, character before competence, walk the talk, have integrity…The sayings and the concept are basic and ancient. But don’t blow by this too quickly.  You will have more influence – regardless of the techniques and the words you use – when people know you are the real deal.

If you think you have this covered, do a quick and honest gut-check:

  • Would your colleagues say you’re good at what you do?
  • Would the people who work with you say you genuinely care about them?
  • Can people count on you to follow through on your commitments?

And how are you doing in the following areas?

  • Do you say things about others that you would not say to them directly?
  • When was the last time you genuinely apologized for a mistake or offense?
  • Do you energize and inspire people or suck the life out of them?
  • Do people admire you, fear you, tolerate you, or dismiss you?

2.  Serve others’ needs.

Many of us have heard the saying, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” And few things say you care more than meeting a need they have.

Offer a ride to the airport. Ask if there’s anything you can do to help prepare for a presentation or meeting. Offer to make an important introduction. Volunteer a recommendation for a doctor or dry cleaner to someone new to town. People greatly appreciate these gestures, and they help build connections and influencing opportunities.

3.  Use a metaphor.

If a picture paints a thousand words, why not use a word picture or metaphor to help someone see an idea, perspective, or proposal in a new light?

In a coaching session recently with a senior leader, we were discussing how critical and helpful it is for this executive to stay focused on a few key interpersonal reminders in order to have the influence he wants to have. He wrote bullets on a post-it note that he reviews prior to each important meeting. And he came up with this helpful metaphor:

“It’s like driving on a race track. If I am not focused on where I want to go [i.e., relating and influencing more effectively], I will look at the wrecks around me and wind up getting off track.”

Is there a situation you currently face where you can demonstrate you are a person who is worth following? Is there an opportunity to meet a need or use a metaphor to strengthen your influence?

Joe Baker is a Partner with PeopleResults who spends a good chunk of time coaching leaders to improve their influence. You can reach him at jbaker@www.people-results.com or on Twitter @JoeBakerJr