When was the last time you gave serious thought to this question? You could you be sabotaging your influence without even knowing it.
Most individuals may have never given serious thought to what influence is and what it is not. Influence is:
- 24/7. This means consistent actions all the time, in all situations. When your message, actions and presence are consistent, your influence grows. Consistency means that no matter whom you communicate with or what medium you communicate through, you’re always seen as influential.
- Built on verbal and non-verbal communication.Communication is the foundation to everything we do. Virtually every message impacts positively or negatively our ability to influence others. Without effective communication, influence cannot occur.
This definition may sound simple to you, yet many leaders fall victim to these three misconceptions about what influence is.
1. I have an important title, so I must be influential.
Many believe that our titles determine the level of influence we have. However, influence is much more than a badge of honor. A CEO recently confessed to me: “An individual’s title doesn’t predict influence, which is a problem, especially for someone in my position. I often wonder, ‘Are people telling me what they think I want to hear because I’m the CEO?’” Anyone has the ability to become influential if they’re willing to do the work.
2. I feel influential, therefore I am.
Leaders often tell me that they believe they’re influential because they know what to say and they feel comfortable during a conversation. Leaders mistakenly believe that if they feel influential, others perceive them this way. The truth is that real influence is only evident by the results it produces.
3. I have received positive feedback, so I must be influential.
After a meeting, presentation or conversation, you may have asked others, “How did I do?” The common response is, “Good” or “Nice job.” This isn’t constructive feedback, however. A CEO I recently mentored watched himself on a video playback and told me, “I bet you wonder how I ever became a CEO.” When I asked him why he felt this way, he responded, “I have never received honest feedback. I’ve always been told that I’m a good communicator.”
When this CEO watched his playback, his message lacked brevity. His body language communicated that he was uncertain and lacked confidence. The distractions he created through his body language made him question others’ trust in him. But he never received constructive feedback that shared the truth of how he was coming across. Avoid falling into the trap of determining your level of influence based on vague feedback.
When we stop paying attention to whether or not our verbal and non-verbal communication is consistent during all interactions, we run the risk of others guessing our effectiveness. Most leaders I have worked with haven’t given a great deal of thought to their level of influence, much less taken the steps to increase their awareness of how their audience truly perceives them. That is why self-awareness is the first step to greater influence.
I should warn you that the critical first step toward greater self-awareness requires you to be open-minded, vulnerable and committed.
Influential communicators acknowledge that they don’t know everything, and they are open to self-discovery.
It is a natural human tendency to base our opinion of ourselves on how we feel when we communicate, rather than on how we actually look and sound. Our thinking is, “I feel good; therefore, I am good.” However, more often than not, what we feel inside doesn’t translate to what listeners are seeing and hearing. We may believe that we are better communicators than others think we are. Or, the opposite may be true. Others may see us as more influential than we think we are.
To enhance your influence, evaluate your communication based on facts, not feelings.
Get to the heart of what is really going on by experiencing your communication through the eyes and ears of your listeners and readers.
You have to be “all in” to make impactful changes in life, and improving your communication is no different. Make a commitment today to increase your awareness and grow your influence by following the four steps below.
1. Seek honest feedback.
Make sure you’re receiving constructive feedback. Prior to a meeting, presentation, face-to-face or virtual conversation, identify someone you trust to tell you the truth. Tell this person, “I want to make sure I’m clear, concise and am perceived as trustworthy. Would you give me feedback following our meeting?”
If the feedback is simply “Good” or “Nice job,” ask, “What did I say or do where you gained the greatest value? What can I do to improve?”
2. Take action.
Create or download a self-awareness checklist to help evaluate your message and body language. Document specific actions you will take to improve your communication and grow your influence. Hold yourself accountable to practice these skills regularly.
3. Find an accountability partner.
This week, ask someone in your personal and professional life to be your accountability partner. Choose someone whom you feel comfortable receiving feedback from (e.g., a leader, co-worker, friend or family member).
Decide how often you’ll meet with your accountability partner, and make it a part of your regular schedule. You could meet for 15 minutes once a week after your team meeting, every other week for one hour, or even just once a month, either in person or virtually. However, if you are unable to meet on a weekly basis, I recommend a weekly accountability email.
Without these four steps, it’s extremely difficult to have true, consistent influence. You need individuals you trust to give you feedback on when your communication is or isn’t consistent and when you may be sabotaging your influence. You may possess all the necessary skills, but if you can’t communicate with influence, none of it matters.