Our Future of Work Roundtable series recently continued with Dr. Karen Keller, CEO/Founder at the Keller Institute™ and author of “Influence: What’s the Missing Piece,” and Ana Smith, Global Learning & Development Strategist and DEI Advocate.
What follows is an excerpt from Dr. Keller’s presentation on harnessing the power of influence.
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Dr. Keller: The research that we’ve been doing in the past several years has really laid the foundation for how we approach influence in working with leaders and managers, the tools that we design, and the programs that we use with our clients.
That’s what we’re going to do today to introduce your audience to this new approach, which is very effective. It’s actually pretty cool. I’m so excited.
The Five Factors of Exercising Influence
We’re going to move into how important is influence really? Harvard Business Review in August of 2020 published an article called “Strengthen Your Ability To Influence.” It described five areas that managers need to exercise influence. The first one was building rapport.
Building rapport, it’s like building the door; building rapport helps us open that door to strong relationships and relationships that can survive conflict, very critical.
The second one was listening ability for what is being said and not being said. This is where we want to encourage people to feel safe in expressing their ideas and their feelings and their questions and that really connects to that belongingness.
The third one that they identified was making a commitment to your team. How does influence play a role in that? You use your influence to align the team within each other, but also with you as the manager of the team.
The fourth one was modeling behavior. People quickly learn and subconsciously, in fact, by watching what others do. How do you model behavior that shows the power of influence for acceptable and expected behavior?
The last one that they identified in the Harvard Business Review article was building trust. This is where being vulnerable, that’s the first piece that happens when we want to build trusting relationships. That also creates psychological safety, which leads to a sense of belonging.
This is where being vulnerable, that’s the first piece that happens when we want to build trusting relationships. That also creates psychological safety, which leads to a sense of belonging.
This was really interesting, the sense of belonging and building relationships and trust, those were very popular barriers that sometimes we run into. At least you know you’re not alone. When facing the difficult challenges, though, that you experience as a manager or a leader, it’s really important to understand how you show up. How you show up is going to determine your success in solving those challenges.
The Difference Between Having Influence and Being Influential
This is where we want to make the distinction and this is what our research gave us. It’s important to know the difference between having influence and being influential because that will make the difference between massive success and maybe success and sometimes failure.
Let’s look at this a little bit closer. Having influence, which is a well-practiced set of tips or tricks, sometimes thought of, it can be thought of as manipulation or negotiation. It’s things that we do or that we say, and it needs constant reinforcement. Whereas being influential needs little to no practice or reinforcement, and why is that? When you move from influence to influential, ask yourself these two questions: What are you willing to do from having influence to being influential? What habits might you need to break or new behaviors that will help you support the shift?
Let’s take a real quick look under influence. Influence is an external event. It’s something that I say or do to get you or your team to respond in a certain way. Whereas being influential, that’s an internal process that occurs within you as a manager or a leader, that helps you have that influence. Influence is about the title, when you think about a doctor, or a religious person, or a parent, or a teacher, somebody, that title pretty much gives them a lot of influence.
Whereas being influential, that’s an internal process that occurs within you as a manager or a leader, that helps you have that influence.
Whereas being influential is about testimony, it’s about your brand or your reputation that precedes you. Influence is about them, we remember what they like, what they don’t like, we let them do all the talking, which these aren’t all bad things, of course. When it comes to being influential, it’s about you. It’s about how you show up, how confident are you, how trustworthy or likable are you.
Then influence is about change. We want people to change, but one of the things with change is that you can always change back. However, being influential is that we impact people to shift. One of the things about shift is it’s very lasting because that’s about learning. In essence, having influence is a state of doing. Whereas being influential is a state of being or how you show up.
In summary, being influential is a higher order of influence. Why do we say that? Because when you’re influential, you attract people because of who you are, not always because of what you do. Think of it this way, when you want to influence, you walk into a room, and you really need to say or do something that gets attention, that makes people respond or react in a certain way, but when you are influential, all you need to do is walk into the room, and that’s the difference.
How to Break the Three Barriers to Being Influential
Being influential guarantees you will have influence, but not necessarily the other way around. Let’s take a look at three barriers to break when you want to become influential. The first one is low self-esteem. This is where you don’t believe in yourself or your capability to be strong or to take a risk or you tend to think everybody else has more answers than I do, or they’re better than I am. How this impacts you as a manager is that you become doubtful and insecure when you’re leading yourself or your team.
The next barrier to overcome is having a big ego. This is when your ego, you have such a self-importance that’s really large, you begin to lose sight of the big picture. When you start to think you are the smartest person in the room, that’s when innovation and creativity start to become reduced.
When you start to think you are the smartest person in the room, that’s when innovation and creativity start to become reduced.
Then lastly, uncertainty. Uncertainty interrupts your ability to plan. It paralyzes us. Uncertainty develops because our brains go into a worst-case scenario. If we have that low self-esteem, we start to be uncertain about everything and then we start to think about what will go wrong.
Sometimes when we think about what will go wrong, that’s usually what ends up happening. That’s what goes wrong. It’s through creating awareness and building meaning, driving application and practicing it, and measuring the impact of what you’re practicing. Those are the keys that we’re going to help you move past these and any other barriers when you want to become influential and start to understand the power of your own influence.
I mentioned earlier, the work that we’ve done is all based on the research that we’ve done. It shows that there are certain qualities or traits that determine how influential you can be. In other words, your potential to do that.
Qualities of the Influential Leader
Let’s take a look before at the other qualities or traits of the influential person. You can see confidence and empowering there, along with commitment, making a commitment to the process of being influential. Courage. Oh, my gosh, it takes a lot to step forward and to do it. Passion, what’s your purpose around what you want to influence? Being trustworthy and, finally, being likable.
Those were the seven traits that our research uncovered as far as what makes up the influential person. I’m sure many of you are familiar with Tom Peters. One of the things he has said and that I’ve learned from him is, “Never underestimate the importance of the basics.” See, one of the things that’s really cool about these traits is that every human being on this planet, all 7.2 billion-plus, all have these seven traits.
Now, the difference is whether you’re influenced or not is how you have expressed them and nurtured them. That’s what makes the difference, but don’t underestimate the basics of these seven influence traits. That’s how important they are.
Part of the reason is because we really don’t think about these traits. We just take them for granted and we just go ahead and we just do our job and stuff but we don’t realize how critical empowering and confidence were in making that a successful conversation.
As you can see, it just depends on sometimes your situation but if you’re confident or you’re trustworthy, that is something that we can transfer to all situations that you find yourself in. In closing, here’s a question I’d like you to ask yourself. If I could have the opportunity to become my most influential self, what value would that bring to me? What value would it bring to the work that I do? What value would it bring to my career? What value would it bring to my team if I could find and become my most influential self?
If I could have the opportunity to become my most influential self, what value would that bring to me? What value would it bring to the work that I do?
Remember because it’s your ability to influence and be influential that determines how people will respond to you and those returns are priceless. Yes, this is how you can harness the real power of influence.”
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