Leadership doesn’t have to be a top-down proposition. In fact, the best leaders
influence those who are below and above them, as well as people external to the
organization, such as customers and partners. This 360 degrees of influence is what
separates the good leaders from the great leaders.
Founder of the global executive coaching firm GuruMaker, Harrison Monarth
makes a living helping top figures in business and politics hone their influencing,
communication, persuasion, impression management and media skills. He teaches
leaders how to operate without relying on spin or manipulation
In 360 Degrees of Influence, Monarth provides advice on how to gain the trust
and respect of those around you — no matter where they’re positioned in the
organizational hierarchy — and how to expand your influence well beyond your
immediate environment. Providing valuable insight into human emotion and
behavior, Monarth reveals the secrets to becoming the most psychologically astute
person in the room — so you can be the most influential leader in the room
In addition to sharing insight he has gleaned during years of coaching top
executives, Monarth includes techniques and tips to help you tackle the challenge
of influence and leadership head-on.
Right now, one of your own counterparts might be exerting influence over
you and your boss. You can do the same thing. Apply the lessons of 360 Degrees of
Influence to place yourself in the best possible position to lead the leaders
Swayed, Nudged and Driven:Influence Is Constant
We face tens of thousands of minor and major interactions every day that guide or steer us in one direction or another. While all this influencing and nudging is perhaps becoming more obvious as we get older, it’s been a factor from the moment we released our first gutwrenching screams upon entering this life.
We Are Born to Influence
These days, it’s impossible to walk down the street without experiencing the power of influence. Even if the street is completely empty, beckonings, warnings, sales pitches and opinions fill every conceivable angle of our vision. This exposure to influence begins with our
earliest sense of self, at the moment we acknowledge we are not alone and experience desire in some form. For most of us, this begins at birth.
With that first infantile desire emerges a natural instinct as to how to obtain what we want. Infants are not able to rationalize, prioritize or otherwise communicate outside of their own desires, yet they get what they want by opening their cute little mouths and letting it rip.
Your Personal Influencing Arsenal
Edward M. Hallowell, M.D., an instructor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, says that relying on face-to-face meetings is the most effective influencing strategy of all.
Perhaps more than any other aspects of leadership and career empowerment, the art of influencing others in a 360-degree manner depends on two realms of skill:
- the ability to craft your thoughts and presentations clearly, strategically and persuasively, and
- the ability to apply the proper tools and the power of scientifically proven human psychology to the effort.
It all begins and ends with an outward-facing understanding of your audience and shaping your intentions to create a win-win situation that plays into their sense of worthiness, fulfillment and the better good of all.
360-Degree Influence Starts with You
If you want to advance toward a goal, you have to pay attention to the goal and to your progress toward it. If you set an unreasonable goal (too hard and you’ll lose motivation; too easy and you’ll coast) or don’t keep your behavior in line with that goal, nothing happens
If you are motivated enough to learn the nuances for influencing others, you have to discipline yourself in terms of the goals you set and in monitoring your progress toward those goals.
Tips to Master Self-Regulation
• Determine exactly what you want to work on. Be specific. Maybe you’ve identified an opportunity for improvement or your boss has given you a gentle nudge. Either way, you’ll have to define the issue in clear language. Clear thinking and language are critical to being seen as an influencer.
• Recruit additional resources. Whether you’re trying to get in shape or become a more compelling presenter, it’s difficult and unnecessary to go it alone. Ask a coach and watch others who do it well. Influencers keep their eyes and minds open for any tool and information that will help them reach their goals.
• Seek feedback everywhere. Work on your emotional intelligence as you learn about yourself from others’ feedback and your own feelings. The more feedback you can gather and the better your perceptions, the more you can adjust or stay the course. Drop what doesn’t work and keep what does.
• Start small. Incorporate new ideas you learn about. Note the results. Then add some more.
• Treat your life like a laboratory. You are experimenting with a new approach, and experimentation means failing is OK. Failure just means that one method isn’t working, so you search for another. Always head forward. Thomas Edison once said, “Hell, there are no rules here. We’re trying to accomplish something.” Smart influencers don’t give up; they look for other angles
How many people do you know who are highly protective of their turf and unwilling to entertain even the thought that someone else might know more than they do? Probably plenty of them! Here’s how to gently influence their beliefs.
- First, instead of outright demolishing their convictions, build off of them; it’s much easier to coax people over a bridge than it is to convince them to jump across a chasm.
- Second, teach them about the issue before attempting to persuade them. This can work as a kind of priming:by reminding your audience of knowledge they already have and treating them as capable of learning more, you connect their prior knowledge to your “new” facts. Lay the groundwork, then build your story on top of it. In litigation lawyer terms, prepare them to accept your version of events.
- Finally, Broda-Bahm states, “The most complete explanation wins.” While jurors (and co-workers) are not always impressed with reams of data, lacking those data can certainly hurt your credibility. If you want to persuade others to follow your lead, you have to demonstrate that you have the knowledge to lead, a demonstration that requires you to run down as many objections as possible.
Three Keys to Overcome Resistance
To help you on your path toward greater influence, here are three common types of resistance and how you can overcome them:
- This has nothing to do with anything. Connect your change to the overall goals of the organization or project, pointing out how it fixes ongoing problems or will improve the current situation.
- Been there, done that. Ask them to explain the prior innovations and why they failed. Then walk them through your proposal and show them how the two differ. Respect their prior experience and invite questions about your proposal as a way to hook them into seeing the proposal through your eyes.
- Another year, another fad. Be as specific as possible in your suggestions and tie the changes to particular behaviors or proposed outcomes to demonstrate the real effects of the change
Know What Really Motivates People and What People Really Care About
If you had to boil down the challenge of influence to one word, it would be empathy. Derived from the Greek pathos and the German word Einfühlung, it is defined as “the ability to identify with and understand somebody else’s feeling or difficulties.”
Mastering the art of empathy depends on the successful interpretation of both verbal and nonverbal cues that link to the thoughts and feelings of others in a given moment or span of time. Body language, facial expression, content, vocal tone and volume, and how people
interact with others on their side of the issue paint a clear picture for astute influencers who have developed the ability to assign meaning instantly to what they see, hear and perceive.
How Does Our Decisions Define Our Ability to Influence
The decisions we make — in the worlds of politics and business, in particular — hardly ever affect only us. The benefits of smart decisions and the fallout from bad ones have a potentially wide-ranging impact on the lives of colleagues, peers, families and communities — the net
results from this often being a measure of our personal influence in the aftermath.
Making decisions involves taking responsibility, not just for the decision itself, but also for the consequences of that decision. This means you have to think beyond just the decision. Consider its implementation and the impact of your choice, and recognize that despite never
having perfect information, you nonetheless have to choose. To decide, in short, is to risk.
However, 360-degree influencers can’t afford such immunity. Just look at the people you admire or strive to emulate. Do they waver or equivocate? Do they unload responsibility on someone else?
The fact is leadership and influence are inseparable from challenging decision making, and the more we know about the process, the better equipped we are to bolster our influence in all directions with the making of sound decisions.
Five Decision-Making Tools
So what can we do to ensure that we make good decisions? Here are five strategies that can help you cut through biases that can cloud your thinking and give you ways to make hard decisions with clarity and without — or with far less — regret:
1. Focus on the process, not (primarily) the outcome. It makes good sense to use a solid
decision-making process that can offer a better chance for delivering good results.
2. Be skeptical. Critical thinking is underrated, and testing the validity of assumptions and evidence means you’ll be in a better position to defend your decisions than those who merely believe or take the word of pseudo experts.
3. List the relevant variables. Tom Davenport, President’s Chair in Information Technology and
Management at Babson College, cautions, “Without some inventory, all decisions will be
treated as equal — which probably means that decisions won’t be addressed at all.”
4. Sort the relevant information. After making your lists (and checking them twice), draw up
consequences tables and scrutinize your objectives; do anything that forces you to separate out the significant variables from background noise.
5. Eliminate irrelevant information. In some situations, you might simply want to go through
your lists and eliminate those items that are less important to you
Setting the Stage: Strategically Influencing People’s Decisions
Now that you’ve got all of your decision making figured out, how do you go about influencing the decisions of others?
Reason and evidence do matter a great deal and having them on your side via diligent research and preparation can make influencing easier. But if you don’t consider all
of the other variables at play in the decision-making process, you are likely to be pushed aside in favor of someone who has — someone who has pitched his or her argument in a way designed to appeal to the people with the final word.
Perception Shapes Thinking and Behavior
Depending on the interactions you have and to what degree and purpose others seek out your company, expertise, help or input, you are somewhere along the continuum of likeable, contributing, valuable resource,influential. It’s important to know where.
Having an unbiased view of how others perceive you is an absolute must in any quest for leadership. You can’t lead, guide, teach and inspire if you don’t have an accurate picture of your level of influence with others.You have to know whether people see you as competent
but intimidating. Whether they don’t take you seriously or take you way too seriously. .
High-potentials and executives on the fast track are given all kinds of tests to help them see the blind spots in their communication and leadership styles. From 360-degree multirater feedback to Myers-Briggs Type Indicator to DiSC and our colors on the Personality Dimensions
scale, there’s no shortage of assessment tools to tell us where we fall short or hit the mark on leadership.
Research psychologist Irving Janis defined the term groupthink as follows: “A mode of thinking that people engage in when they are deeply involved in a cohesive in-group, when the members’ strivings for unanimity override their motivation to realistically appraise alternative
courses of action.”
Professors David Garvin and Michael Roberto suggest that influencers try to build “constructive cognitive conflict” into the decision-making process as a way both to
try to head off affective or personal conflicts and to inoculate against groupthink. They suggest creating a “pointcounterpoint” or “intellectual watchdog” process, whereby
some members of the team are tasked with creating alternative proposals (point-counterpoint) or are designated critics of any proposals (watchdog). The process is
repeated as proposals are revised to meet objections until all members reach a point of common agreement
Whether it is the dreaded groupthink phenomenon that results from a particular context or any other choice that you see as a threat to your ideas or business, try to influence the setting or change the environment so you have a chance of influencing the outcome
Mastering Organizational Politics
Organizational politics can be a constructive and positive aspect of a manager’s career, if it’s properly understood and practiced. Rather than engaging in behavior that undermines trust and seeks to gain personal advantage with oblique maneuvers, enlightened professionals
influence organizational culture in a more principled way. They cultivate mutually productive relationships with key players; they recognize and negotiate existing power structures; and they purposefully seek buy-in for ideas with more than a peripheral understanding of people’s
individual agendas and personal values.
To refuse to acknowledge the value of constructive political behavior is to leave yourself unprotected and vulnerable to having your agenda blindsided and your best efforts derailed by prevailing forces. Cynicism, and resulting behavior that leads to defensive and possibly
underhanded politics in return, is self-serving rather than in service of the organization, which leads to a culture defining deterioration of trust, teamwork and the greater good. Likewise, capable and upstanding executives and managers who persistently view all politics with suspicion may routinely watch their more politically savvy colleagues pass them by for otherwise deserved recognition, rewards and increased responsibility.
Political Strategies and Tactics
There are a number of ways to strategically leverage your cultural influence. Working off the insights of Andrew Durbin, Professor Rex Mitchell notes that there are three main types of
strategies: those aimed at gaining power, those aimed at building relationships and those designed to avoid political errors. It is important to recognize what your goals are
within your organization. Do you seek to move up or expand your range of responsibility? Or are you more interested in networking across the organization and throughout the hierarchy? Those tactics necessary to move up — displaying dramatic results early and often, mastering key information and controlling lines of communication — may not work as well if you seek a power base built on relationships. In the latter case, you want both to consult and to be consulted, as well as to develop a reputation as someone who’s both knowledgeable and
willing to help. There is overlap in these two types of strategy, particularly in the necessity of demonstrating your mastery over a knowledge base or skill set, but how you leverage that mastery may vary with your goal.
Executive presence and 360-degree influence is based on what you know about the needs, values and perceptions of others, and information is the first line of both offense and defense in that department.
The objective of pleasing your boss is nothing new to the science of career advancement. But with everyone aiming for that goal, a keen understanding of the issues that keep senior management up at night and sequestered in daylong meetings becomes the context
for performance excellence and project success, rather than something you learn about in sterilized form in weekly departmental assemblies in conference room C.
Showing genuine interest in what senior executives are dealing with as they chart the course and navigate the treacherous waters of business competition in the battle for market share lets upper managers notice the performer as well as the performance.
Getting there isn’t solely about giving management what they want. While it may seem a subtle difference at first, success comes from actually wanting what they want and making sure your aligned desire is visible so that it contributes to your career equity as much as any
tangible results you deliver.
When you genuinely want what your leaders want,you have successfully adopted their agenda, not merely promoted yours. That’s half the ball game when it comes to influencing the perceptions of upper management.
Make no mistake, you are always being evaluated and judged. From your cool in front of the executive team as you justify quarterly results to your banter on the 10th tee.Your ability to influence is partially dependent on how socially intelligent you are perceived to be in the presence of another executive, regardless of the pressure or agenda.
Just as with any presentation opportunity, you need to be prepared for either a planned or a chance encounter with a manager or an executive who is on the short list of people who can impact your career for better or worse.
Above all, be yourself. The oldest Dale Carnegie technique in the popularity manual applies here: Show interest, ask questions, listen, engage, add value, be empathetic ... and, by all means, be yourself.
Influencing the Opposite Gender for Mutual Success
We may believe or want to believe that we see only individuals and are able to work with whoever can work, but our unexamined biases keep getting in our way. For example, one study found that mixed-gender mutual fund teams performed worse than either all-male
or all-female teams. One commenter suggested that this was due to communication problems across all genders.
- The first step to working together, then, is to recognize that we all have biases. We may each like to see ourselves as clear-thinking individuals guided only by evidence and reason, but alas, our biology and psychology conspire against such clarity. Clarity is possible, but you have to work for it.
- The second step is to recognize that leadership skills are just that — skills. Assertiveness, verbal dexterity and problem solving are not exclusively encoded in our genes; they are behaviors that can be learned. There’s no reason to believe that men are born leaders and women are not.
- The willingness to develop and make use of our entire repertoire of skills is the third step.
There are advantages to both the agentic and communal styles; cultivating our ability to make use of every tool in the kit allows us to adapt to each particular situation, taking charge when
that’s needed and inviting participation when that will lead to the best result.
Influencing the Public’s Impressions of Your Organization
Andy Beal, co-author of Radically Transparent:Monitoring and Managing Reputations Online, declares that everyone has a reputation, online and off; every reputation has its weak spots and every reputation will come under attack.
Two of the more important aspects of reputation management are strategy and tactics. Strategy is the overall plan, usually encompassing a goal or purpose; tactics are the specific actions you take or tools you use to implement that plan. The distinction is important, as the strategy must guide the tactics, not the other way around. It also helps to think of strategies as long term and often behind the scenes, something developed over time and in sync with the products and ethos of the company, whereas tactics are more flexible and utilitarian, tools
that can quickly be adapted to a changing environment.
Key Lessons on Influencing Perception
Trust, authority, innovation, admiration and the competitive advantage of their products all help to define the top-rated companies as the best.
What should you pay attention to? Different advisers generally agree on a few main themes:
• Reputation matters. Companies at the top integrate the concern for their reputation into the
structure of their business rather than treat it as a public relations adjunct.
• Reputation management is an activity, not a slogan. You must actively monitor media coverage about your company and be in a position to adjust your message as needed.
• Tell the story. Recognize that if you don’t tell the story of your company, someone else will.
• Know your base. The companies that succeed are those that know what business they’re in.
• Earn the trust of all stakeholders. Aloof no longer cuts it in the wide-open, social media age.
• Acknowledge errors. Those employees who are in a position to fix the problem should be adequately trained and empowered to do so.
• Fix the error. Reward employees for doing so.
• Recognize emergent concerns and respond to them.
• Never complain, do explain. It’s never good to get a reputation as a whiner. No excuses. ●
Using Your Words to Influence and Change Minds
As you look for ways to broaden, develop or start building your sphere of influence in all directions, the power of speech is part of the foundation you have to master. It’s more than public speaking and giving presentations, which most people have learned to see as necessary
evils and unpleasant spectacles best performed on autopilot with a navigator named PowerPoint in charge.
Speaking to influence and change minds takes more than a routine approach. While useful for anyone, it’s most critical to those up-and-coming leaders and professionals who passionately care about making a difference, and who won’t stop before they’ve succeeded in stirring
the emotions and engaging the minds of those who can help make it all happen. It’s not enough, however, simply to stir the emotions of your audience if you want to influence them; instead you have to shape their emotions to direct them to your preferred outcome That’s where framing comes into play. The skill of framing is critical in the tool chest of anyone looking to influence others because people automatically look to assign meaning to the communication signals they perceive around them. And to frame strategically is to manage
the meaning people take away.
When we attempt to frame an issue, we carefully choose our words in a way that focuses attention on a particular meaning — the one we want to convey — among several possible meanings. The facts are spiffed up, dressed up in partisan clothes and lined up as part of
Considering the impact language can have in creating meaning in people’s minds, and considering the ways language affects the way they perceive reality, we have to be aware of how this influence is exerted. Even in a free speech society, it becomes incumbent on the sender of words to understand and weigh how those words may be interpreted and acted on.
Managing the Influencing Power of Your Personal Brand
A quick online search of “personal branding” will quickly overwhelm you with more than 3.9 million related sites, many with advice on how to build your brand. Less apparent, however, is how to leverage that brand into real influence. This is key: Recognize that your brand is not simply a kind of label but also a process, one that you continually manage to expand your opportunities; a brand is not the end but the means to the end.
Creating an Influential Brand
So how do you create an influential brand for yourself? First, cover the basics. Many of us have been in situations where one guy talks about how hard he works, and one guy simply works hard — and we all know who we’d rather work with. Yes, when you want that promotion
you do have to highlight your effort and results, but it will only resonate if you have actually produced those results. Shouting “I’m impressive!” is unlikely to impress your colleagues, at least not in the way you intend.
- Which brings us to the first step: figuring out what you intend. How do you want others to perceive you? It helps to think in terms of narrative: What is your story and what character do you play in your story? Create a vision or big picture that has you as the protagonist, and use that as a guide for your behavior.
- The second step is to get a sense of your environment.Find out what makes your associates tick — and what ticks them off — and adjust your behavior accordingly.
Some firms frown on exuberant self-promotion, whereas others expect it; some have tight hierarchical structures, while others are more open; some assign new hires a mentor with whom they are expected to work closely, whereas others take a sink-or-swim approach. Figure out what’s rewarded and what’s punished, then do your best to cultivate the former and avoid the latter. It helps to think in terms of “If you want to be perceived as ... you need to ...; in order to influence others, you need to ...” Here are some examples:
• If you want to be perceived as an expert, you need to demonstrate credibility; in order to influence others to accept your claim, you need to tailor your message with the audience’s beliefs, values and predispositions in mind.
• If you want to be perceived as reliable, you need to show up to meetings prepared, meet deadlines and consistently produce good work; in order to influence others, you need to work with those others and be willing to share what you have learned.
• If you want to be perceived as a leader, you need to demonstrate a willingness to take charge, make difficult decisions and accept the additional obligations of leadership; in order to influence others, you need to take advantage of leadership opportunities that are presented to you, asking to head a team or volunteering to take the lead on solving a long-standing or emergent problem.
Whatever value you want others to associate with you, you must first demonstrate it in your behavior.
Summing It Up
Having influence in virtually every direction is more than a skill. It’s a lifestyle and a mindset based on a foundation of critical principles that every modern professional needs to master in order to reach the top of his or her field and achieve personal and career goals, as well as larger objectives that can make a difference in the world