When Stacey Hanke begins working with leaders to boost their effectiveness, she knows that at least 95% of these people are going to overestimate their influence on others.
Hanke, a C-suite mentor and leadership trainer, says that even very smart and experienced people are fairly clueless when it comes to how much clout they really have with others, whether it’s peers, team members or customers.
“There are a couple of reasons this happens,” she explains. “First, they get fake feedback. Everything sounds like ‘good, nice job’ from everyone. The second is that they base their influence on how they feel about themselves, and that’s not influence. Influence is how others see you.”
Many of them face a jarring reality when Hanke reveals the perception others have of them, but she says she always adds that it’s possible for anyone to gain more influence if they’re willing to do the work.
No matter what industry you’re in, or your job title, Hanke says it’s critical you work on increasing your influence if you want to make a sale, talk your boss into new technology or make your team more effective.
“This isn’t about changing who you are, but rather figuring out what works for you and what is a distraction,” she says. “What direction do you want to go? What reputation do you want to have?”
For example, those tasked with presenting dry data or lobbying for a new problem-solving system may find people nodding off during a presentation, which isn’t really conducive to influencing others. Or, they may find themselves losing out to the competition more and more as their influence wanes. Hanke advises that the key when trying to influence others in any situation is to focus on the “why” – the compelling reason that someone may want to change his or her mind about something.
In her book, “Influence Redefined: Be the Leader You Were Meant to Be”, she advises that it’s critical you become more adaptable to your audience, to delivering your message in a way that seems personal and compelling.
“There is no such thing as a boring topic – only a boring message or a boring communicator,” she says. “Your message will gain traction if you let your audiences know what is in it for them.”
“When you adapt your message to each audience using their words, emotions and level of understanding, you position your ideas in a way your audience will respond to and connect with,” she says. “It’s important that you pay attention to your audience and be able to adapt to them on the fly.”
Many of those who are poor influencers say they don’t always have time to prepare for every interaction, an excuse Hanke says overworked and overscheduled people often use.
That reasoning is dismissed by Hanke because the above steps can take as little as five minutes to run through in your mind. They will go a long way toward ensuring you’re more influential because you are customizing your message in a way that will resonate with anyone, whether you’re communicating via telephone, videoconference, email, one-on-one or giving a presentation, she says.
Finally, she advises to always remember to smile. “Even if the subject matter is a bit boring, don’t go in with that mindset,” she says. “Smile. It’s OK. You’re showing that you like what you’re talking about or proposing. Smiling will help you get that emotional buy-in from others.”