To be influential with breadth, start by stitching the seams among those you want to influence.
The next pattern we called CHOICE.
The successful 50% had the courage to make hard choices, even though they knew that sometimes that might mean disappointing people. They knew that sometimes you have to focus people on just a few things in order to help them have lasting impact.
The unsuccessful leaders focus more on pleasing people. So they said yes too often. And ended up confusing people with their choices. But the best influencers knew when and how to include people in their decision making.
Choice means narrowing your focus on just a few things in order to be able to do them with excellence.
So how do the best leaders learn to make great choices?
They cultivated courage. They knew that sometimes, it meant having to focus people on just a number of things in order to help them do it with excellence, even if it meant disappointing them.
So what hard choices do you need to lean into? Do you say yes too often to avoid disappointing people?
To be influential with choice, start by getting comfortable saying ‘NO’. So that your ‘YES’ can actually mean something.
The final pattern we called CONNECTION.
The leaders who ultimately thrived were the ones everybody wanted to be around. They were respected, incredible. They had deep trusting relationships. And they were genuinely seen as wanting to help others succeed.
The unsuccessful leaders focused more on connections with those from whom they wanted something. In essence, their relationships were more political than they were genuine. But the successful leaders focused on deepening their connections with people who relied on them.
One of the leaders in our study told us about three questions he asked everybody he works with:
First, he asks: what can I do to improve in order to be a better colleague to you?
What are you working on these days that’s really important to you?
And what can I do to help you with that really important thing?
Connection means deepening trust with those you can help succeed.
So how do the best leaders learn to form these deep connections?
They cultivated empathy. They went out of their way to find other people they could help succeed. Not because they wanted something in return, but because they genuinely enjoyed watching others soar. They asked for feedback on how they can improve in those relationships.
Did the people you want to influence feel your deep commitment to their success? To be influential with connection start by finding great joy in helping those around you thrive.
So after seeing how the best influencers succeeded with these four capabilities, I realized, I’d actually seen these before.
This is Toby and she’s been my mentor and my friend for almost 30 years. She showed them to me long before I had names for them. When we met I was in my 20s, fairly uncertain and fairly clueless, about how to be influential in a consulting career predicated on being influential with leaders facing hard challenges.
I was making all of the mistakes we found in our research decades later. I was headed for being one of the failed 50%. But she taught me context by asking me hard questions about my clients, teaching me to focus on what was important to them, instead of on how to get them to like me or how to get them to want to use my expertise.
I wanted to learn how to write, so she took on the task of co-writing my first book with me. Showing me breadth, by helping me see the bigger story in which my ideas would live.
She taught me about choice by teaching me about life’s hard trade-offs between things like being a dad and being a traveling consultant. She helped me say no, so that my yes was a commitment I could keep.
And for almost 30 years she’s made a deep personal investment in my success. With every new thing I learned to this day she lights up with delight as my biggest advocate. I’ve been on the receiving end of her amazing influence and I’ve seen firsthand the power of these four capabilities in action.
Today, my greatest joy is helping other people discover them so they can have the impact on the world daydream of having. My journey to discover these began with a promising young leaders stumble from a position he could have been more successful in had he been better prepared but that doesn’t have to be you.
If you want to have more influence or your organization expects you to have more influence, seize the opportunity. There’s a hungry world out there desperate for the impact only you can make.
So next time you pick up that hairbrush or imagine that big award, remember you too can learn to do these four things exceptionally well. And when you do, watch your influence grow and leave an indelible mark on the world around you.