Influencer is one of those words that we often hear bandied about these days. “She’s a Huff Post influencer.” Or “In fashion circles, he’s THE influencer.” These are the people who capture attention and move ideas across broader audiences.
But there’s another type of influencer: one that requires critical skills for anyone aiming to provide executive level value or get ahead in the workplace. This influencer has a keen sense of business acumen, excellent communication skills and is known as “the go-to person” for pushing innovation.
When I was a senior leader in a large organization, the HR Director told me I had a lot of power in the organization. I didn’t understand what she meant at first. I watched myself over the next few weeks and realized I have the gift of influence.
In my coaching practice, the idea of being able to sway or inspire others is a recurring theme. With flatter organizations and dotted-line authority for other employees, having the ability to engage and lead others with influence may be the only way to get the project or work done effectively.
I have an idea of what being an influencer means, but I wanted to find out what the “experts” say makes an effective influencer. For me it’s intuitive; so how can I coach others in developing this skill?
Naturally I started with Dale Carnegie’s seminal How to Win Friends and Influence People, arguably the most popular self-help book ever published! Along with common communication behaviors such as listening and engaging with honey rather than sour lemons, here’s a couple of Carnegie’s gems:
- Let the other person do a great deal of the talking
- Let the other person feel the idea is his or hers
- Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view
- Talk in terms of the other person’s interest
- Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely
Suzanne Bates, author of numerous books on leadership, believes that to influence, a leader must have “executive presence” or gravitas. She defines executive presence as having three distinct dimensions – Style, Substance, and Character. She further explains that influence is who you are and how others perceive you.
Let’s take that one step further. The art of influence is about the interplay between two concepts:
1. There’s an “I” in influencer. And, of course the degree to which you step up to your “I” depends on how self aware you are and your ability to see how others see you.
2. An idea or solution is just that. Nothing more. Unless you embed and describe it within a context. It’s conveying the “WHY” behind the idea. That ‘s when people pay attention.
Let’s break these two concepts down even more.
The first concept is about you’re internal self and how it manifests in your style and behavior. Your strengths, weaknesses, thoughts, beliefs, motivation, and emotions. For example, if you’re someone who needs to be right, chances are your ability to influence is low. If your motivation is to support others in their success, your influence quotient will be higher. It’s about engaging in active listening, sharing information openly and being curious. Not to mention understanding your potential impacts on others from their point of view. Think of this concept as the “HOW” you persuade or influence.
Understanding the core of the issue and why it’s important to the business is the second concept. This is conveying why a + b will = c. It’s having business acumen to understand the bigger picture, its inherent complexities and, in turn, helping others get on board. Say your company decides to make a shift in policy affecting staff. There’s a better chance change will happen if you openly discuss WHY it’s in the best interest of the company and what’s behind the decision.
If these two concepts blend together, they become a powerful way to influence others. With innovation and the lightening speed of change, being an influencer can be the growing edge in your career or business.
Want to be a great influencer? Start with developing your self-awareness and communicate exactly the reason why you or (your business) do what you do.
Are you ready to put the “I” in INFLUENCER?