By Stacey Hanke
You may not be as influential as you think you are. This may be a bold statement, especially because you don’t know me. But what if I’m right? Have you or your team ever considered how you, your message and the experience people have with you come across?
Have you ever given thought as to how your communication may be sabotaging your influence without you even knowing?
Most leaders whom I have worked with haven’t given thought to this question much less taken steps to increase their awareness of how their listeners hear and see them (rather than what they believe to be true).
You can imagine how many times I hear these misconceptions:
I communicate all the time. I’m comfortable, therefore I’m a good communicator.
When I know my topic, it’s easy.
Be careful with these two. “Comfortable” and “easy” do not equal influence. It is a natural human tendency to base our opinion of ourselves on how we feel when we communicate rather than on the facts of how we actually look and sound. Our thinking is, “I feel good, therefore I am good.” More often than not, what we feel inside doesn’t translate to what listeners are seeing and hearing.
And the third excuse:
Our titles determine the level of influence we have.
Influence is not a badge of honor. It’s a choice that takes discipline and a lot of hard work every day.
One of the reasons that leaders believe they’re more influential than they really are is because our definition of influence is flawed. There’s a misconception of what influence is and an outdated, inadequate understanding of what it means to be influential.
You may be familiar with this definition: the ability to motivate people to take action. This is true, but it’s not the complete picture. This definition misses a key component of influence. Influence is more than turning it on when you think you need it the most.
Instead, it’s these five crucial things:
1. Influence is Monday to Monday – your body language and message are consistent during all interactions, no matter whom you’re talking to and what medium you’re pushing your message through. If you have ever set a New Year’s Resolution or you know individuals who have, you have to be all in, Monday to Monday. You can’t eat healthy Monday to Wednesday and slip the rest of the week. Influence requires the same level of discipline Monday to Monday.
2. Influence means you have the ability to move people to take action long after the interaction occurs.
3. Influence is built on verbal and nonverbal communication.
4. Influence is measured not by how you feel but by the results you consistently achieve.
5. Influence is a critical skill that can be developed by anyone through feedback, practice, and accountability.
Accomplishing these definitions of influence is difficult because we live in a new world of work; it’s noise 24/7. Think about how many messages you have already received today. We have noise from our own dialogue and the multitude of messages we receive 24 hours a day, every day.
The critical first step to taking a closer look at your level of influence 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.
To enhance your influence, you need to evaluate your communication based on facts, not feelings. You need to get to the heart of what is really going on by experiencing your communication through the eyes and ears of your team and colleagues.
Applying this practical and immediate advice will help you gain a greater understanding of how you communicate and continuously grow you and your team’s influence.
Stacey Hanke is the founder and communication expert of Stacey Hanke Inc. She is the author of Influence Redefined: Be the Leader You Were Meant to Be, Monday to Monday and Yes You Can! Everything You Need From A to Z to Influence Others to Take Action. Stacey and her team have delivered thousands of presentations and workshops for leaders of Fortune 500 companies, including Coca-Cola, Nationwide, FedEx, Kohl’s and AbbVie. Learn more about her team and company at: www.staceyhankeinc.com.