Whether managing people, relationships, situations, teams, products, processes, your temper or yourself, someone has written a book guaranteed to make you an expert. Since there are far fewer managers than people being managed in this world, however, I’ve often wondered why so little attention has been given to influencing “from the bottom up” rather than to managing from “the top down.” In that we are all human, whether or not we manage, I would like to propose seven “keys” to making yourself more influential as you interact with others.
1) Recognize it is your responsibility to SELL an idea, NOT someone else’s responsibility to BUY the concept. Good salespeople identify and relate to the needs of the buyer, not their own needs. While making a sale will obviously benefit the seller, a buyer must recognize why he or she will benefit from his or her buying decision before a sale will ever be consummated. Remain positive and upbeat, focusing on what YOU can do to “make things right” rather upon what others could do to make things fail. Until you truly “sell” change, you will be but an implementer rather than an initiator.
2) Consider how change will impact “the whole” rather than how it might advance your personal objectives. Since most people are hesitant to abandon the status quo, if you want something to be different than it is, you must convince others that the promises of change are better than the comforts of staying the same. In order to initiate change, every individual must take full responsibility for being understood. If you wish to influence another’s actions you must clearly demonstrate how resultant change will positively impact that individual, the organization, their environment, and their future
3) Present a realistic cost-benefit analysis of your idea as you define and communicate value. Whether it be a major corporate decision or a family vacation, be prepared to have a realistic discussion on the cost of change as well as the results of change. Acknowledge that implementing your idea will probably mean that someone else’s idea was not used. Recognize that whenever anything has changed in history, the benefits of change have outweighed the costs. It is your job to clearly communicate this if you expect to be heard.
4) Treat those you are communicating to with the same respect and courtesy you would like yourself (OR that you would utilize with a customer). Recognizing that the person to whom you are communicating IS your customer when presenting an idea or concept will help you be a better salesperson. Within your personal relationships, “dictating” might be a quick remedy…but selling (rather than telling), discussing (rather than imposing)…will be much more effective over the long run.
5) When a conclusion is reached, whether or not you fully agree with it, adopt the final decision as your own. Many ineffective influencers will “own” decisions with which they agree and “credit others” with the ones they may not have wholeheartedly supported. Remember that you will not always “win” when influencing upwards, but you will gain tremendous credibility if, after all the discussions and debates, you own any solution that is not illegal, unethical or immoral. We can always live to fight another day as long as we don’t impale ourselves upon the sword of principle today.
6) NEVER advance an idea without having a sincere belief it will make a difference…regardless of who might receive the credit. If we lose sight of the result of our ideas, focusing instead on getting credit for the concept, we often discredit others to make ourselves come out on top. When we consciously make others feel that they are right or responsible, rather than continually elevating ourselves into a role of infallibility, our ideas have a better chance of implementation. Assuring our desired results are realized will provide for better long-term rewards than will being recognized for short-term contributions.
7) Rather than focusing on what has (or has not) happened, dream about what has yet to occur. Far too many individuals are haunted by what went wrong… losing sight of what went right…as their ideas come to fruition. When we are mired in a world of failure we cannot possibly reach out towards success. When we focus on “what did not happen” it is difficult to consider what could still be done differently to alter results before they become “final.” When we accept “what is” we cannot realize “what could be.”
We all invest tremendously in the acquisition of knowledge. Until we learn to sell our ideas, however, rather than expecting others to simply buy them from us, our knowledge will never be leveraged into positive change. We must look forward rather than backwards…convincing others to travel along the winding road with us…if we ever expect to influence change. We must acknowledge that we are capable of achieving more than we might think possible (as long as we are willing to invest our time, talent and abilities into realizing the transition) if we expect to initiate change.
It is not enough to recognize change is needed for us to become all that we might wish to be. We must understand the ramifications of complacency (as well as the rewards of transformation) and the gains of doing something (which must be greater than the pains of doing nothing) if we are to grow and succeed (or influence and motivate others to thrive). We will never be able to encourage others to grow unless (and until) we recognize our own potential.