Influence is one of the most powerful tools that you can use to impact your personal and professional life.
Unfortunately, we are not born with the natural tendency to be influential. It’s a craft that is nurtured until mastered. Sadly, the mastery of influence is shrouded in limiting beliefs, and battled by resistance that others will impose.
I know this battle well. The struggle to affect your personal life as well as your professional life is difficult. There is no right path to take; you must simply take the path. But, more importantly, you must do the work.
To drastically increase your influence, do the following:
1. Ask a Beautiful Question
As an influencer, it’s our fiduciary duty to listen. But before we begin listening, we must approach each encounter as a student and ask what Warren Berger, author of A More Beautiful Question, calls “the beautiful question”.
A question of this caliber opens the mind to richer discourse. It forces others to pause and allow the question to marinate and percolate. As the question simmers, each degree of adjustment brings about a cadre of hunches, impressions, and fragile new ideas.
As an influencer, here are a few beautiful questions to ask:
- What does not fit?
- What would an outsider do?
- Do I understand why we do it this way?
- What might be the long-term consequences?
2. Create a plan to be a good listener
As an influencer, you must spend the better part of your energy listening. This might sound counter-intuitive, but the most effective strategy to get people’s attention is for you to give them your attention.
“Listen. It makes you smarter.”
— Richard Branson
When you are genuinely listening to someone, when you are giving them your undivided attention, when you can summarize their conversation, when you can ask a beautifulquestion — you are demonstrating open-mindedness and respect.
3. Welcome disagreements
As influencers, we expect a healthy chorus of disagreement. I would even say that as an influencer it’s your responsibility to create an environment of disagreement. Why, it’s a healthy sign of critical thinking. Where ideas are being challenged, not for malicious intent, but in an effort to test the ideas’ viability.
4. Focus only on what really matters
As an influencer, your energy is limited. Therefore, it’s imperative that you focus that finite energy on projects where you can make the greatest contribution. There are a number of strategies you can adopt, but here are five that work for me:
- Develop a clear “why” — this keeps you anchored to what really matters
- Do it — because you are the only one who can
- Delegate — often you will not be the best one to do the work
- Defer — sometimes things are not actionable now
- Weekly review — because you need to check where you are spending your energy
5. Build a plan for being proactive
As an influencer, you do not wait for a situation to find you. You must build a funnel to remain proactive:
- Ask questions
- Encourage disagreements
- Focus on what matters
Proactive people focus their efforts in the Circle of Influence. They work on the things they can do something about. The nature of their energy is positive, enlarging and magnifying, causing their Circle of Influence to increase.
— Steven Covey
6. Set a powerful vision
As an influencer, vision is critically important. You must develop a vision statement that is compelling. If your vision statement does not excite you, how will you ever influence others? You must give yourself permission to envision the perfect future, by answering these two questions:
- What do I want to see happen?
- What would “it” look like in three years?
Once you are clear on your vision and the things you want, the how generally takes care of itself.
7. Use your influence to bring out the best in others
As an influencer, your responsibility is not to be the smartest person in the room. Your only responsibility is to foster a culture of intelligence — to multiply the intelligence among your team members.
Early in a task, team members should discuss the knowledge each brings to the table. That changes the criterion for power from social influence to informational influence.
– Bryan L. Bonner and Alexander R. Bolinger
8. Increase your value through education
As an influencer, you must increase your value by thinking of yourself as a product, and upgrade yourself every year. You must see yourself as a competitive product with benefits, and liabilities, all waiting to be improved.
A good strategy for upgrading yourself is to ask, “What skills will give me more freedom in the future?” Once you have identified these, dedicate time to mastering them. And by mastery, I mean knowing the skill so well that you are positioned to help someone else solve their problems.
So there you have it. My suggested list of characteristics that will make an amazing influencer. Which one are you going to start with first? My personal favorite is number eight.
My hopes are that you choose to become an influencer, because your professional and personal life will thank you for the dedication.