"Most people aren't as influential as they think they are."
Most of us want to be more influential, whether it be with family, at work, or in broader societal terms. Stacey Hanke’s book, Influence Redefined: Be the Leader You Were Meant to Be, Monday to Monday, offers the promise that we can be more influential, if we are prepared to think differently and, more importantly, if we act consistently.
But Hanke says that most of us believe we are more influential than we really are, so our starting point is a reality check of what we understand influence to mean and how we currently communicate.
How influential are you really?
"We have a misperception of what influence is and an outdated, inadequate understanding of what it means to be influential."
Hanke states that the common definition of influence is “the ability to motivate people to take action”. While certainly true, she says that this definition is incomplete. It implies that influence is something we do episodically when we want people to take action.
Hanke’s definition of influence is much broader:
- Monday to Monday. Consistent actions all the time, in all situations, that are congruent with your purposes and priorities.
- Moving people to action long after the interaction is over.
- Creating a standout experience that separates you from the crowd.
- Solid verbal and non-verbal communication.
- Measured not by how you feel but by the results you consistently achieve.
- A skill that can be developed by anyone through feedback, practice and accountability.
The top thing that stood out for me in this definition was congruence. It got me wondering, am I consistent in what I believe and do and say?
According to Hanke, we must bring our “A” game to every instance of communication. Primarily, to show we care.
Hanke asks us to think about whether people have the same experience with us in a Tweet, a one-on-one conversation, a meeting, and a quick after hours text. She reminds me that I can’t facilitate a meeting with a powerful presence and then follow up with an email filled with typos and expect respect.
Note to self: In future, make sure I re-check texts before sending them—auto-correct is not always my friend!
It's not all about you
"Influence is about the experience you create for someone else."
Hanke drives home the point that in order to be influential we need to ensure we’re meeting our audience’s needs, not our own needs. It reminds me of the old joke: “Enough about me, let’s talk about you… what do you think of me?”
She challenges us to think about every piece of communication as an opportunity to create a standout experience—even in a Tweet. The message was reinforced in a recent video interview I watched, where Chris Anderson of TED says every talk is an act of generosity if we ask “what gift could I give these people?”
The video never lies
"As much as you may not want to do it, videoing yourself is one of the greatest investments you can make in your life, both professionally and personally."
Hanke challenges us by saying that if we want to be more influential, and we do nothing else, we must video record ourselves speaking.
So I did. And I didn’t love what I saw or heard. But neither did the author, at first. However, she reminds us that it is important to see ourselves as our audience sees us.
Hanke provides a few quick review processes:
First watch the video from your listener’s viewpoint and dispassionately ask: “Would I be influenced by this person I see and hear on the video?”
Second, watch with no sound. Observe your body language, eye contact, gestures, facial expressions and movements. Do you look confident? Do your “non-verbals” support or distract from your message?
Third, listen without watching. Do you sound confident? Is your tone and are your speaking habits congruent with your message?
There’s more to being influential, but self-awareness and a commitment to practice, together with an unwavering focus on your audience’s experience, will take you a long way.
If you truly want to be more influential, find a buddy, commit to honest feedback and enjoy the practice. Your audience will love it and so will you—eventually.