To become the best leader you can be, make sure others see you as an influential person relaying a worthwhile message.
By taking steps to increase your influence, you’ll not only make yourself a more effective, influential leader, you’ll also help bring out the best in your employees, communication expert Stacey Hanke said during Tuesday’s keynote address at the CUNA HR & Organizational Development Council Conference.
“People you lead can only be the best if you’re the best first,” she said.
Hanke cited three misconceptions about influence:
1. Feedback is flawed. When you ask for feedback from a colleague, chances are they’ll say ‘things are fine’ when in reality they don’t have the confidence to tell you the truth. They’re evaluating you based on their feelings, not facts.
2. When I know what to say, it’s easy. “Comfort” and “easy” have never equaled influence, and they never will. Get uncomfortable, she said. “When you’re uncomfortable, you’re influential.”
3. The higher up an organization I go determines the level of influence I have. Everyone in an organization has the capability of being influential.
“If people like you, they’ll listen to you,” Hanke says. “And if they trust you, that’s when they start buying into your ideas.”
Influence is gained through feedback, practice, and accountability. By following a few simple steps, anyone can increase the amount of influence they have.
Consider these elements to gain influence:
• Self-awareness. Make sure you’re aware of how others see you. While speaking, get rid of the “ums,” “ahs,” and other filler words. These garble up your message and make it harder for others to understand.
Adding pauses into your speech, however, is a good thing. This allows the listener to absorb what you’re saying.
While the pause may make you feel uncomfortable, it doesn’t feel uncomfortable for your listener—the person you’re trying to influence.
Also, keep your sentences short and simple.
“Get to the point and start trusting your competence,” Hanke said. “You have the knowledge and you’re ideas are worth hearing. People want to hear you.”
• Consistency. The more consistent you are about how you present yourself to others, the more you eliminate doubt from your listeners’ minds.
Start by maintaining eye contact with the person you’re speaking with.
“If you want to start making people feel like they’re the most important person in the room, only speak when you see their eyes,” she said. “No eyes. No talk. Only speak when you see those eyes.”
Not only does eye contact make your listener feel important, it also builds trust.
• Reputation. People are constantly judging you and forming opinions based on what they see and hear from you. You’ve created your reputation.
To get an idea of how you appear to others, ask a trusted source—co-worker or friend—for honest feedback. Consider audio or video recording your actions to hear and see what others see when having a conversation with you.
“What reputation,” Hanke asked, “do you want to make?”