Maybe it’s humility. Maybe it’s task focus. Shit, maybe it’s disengagement.
I love working with executives who forget how powerful they truly are. They’ve got a pile of other things they’re distracted by that don’t involve sharing their own wins, personal missions or role modeling their organization’s core values. The funny thing is, the more they do the things they don’t make time for, the more influential they become.
I’m not a fan of being interrupted by ads of a celebrity or athlete peddling a product he or she doesn’t actually use. It seems disingenuous. How are they experts of the product’s intricate details and its benefits to my life? I understand Robert Cialdini’s Law of Liking (humans trust other humans who share similar traits or features; we are easily persuaded by attractive humans), but I’d rather receive an unbiased, transparent, and first-hand account of the product’s advantages and disadvantages as compared to how I intend to use it.
We’re seeing a shift societally where humans trust ads far less than an experience-based peer review on Amazon, Lyft, AirBnB or similar website. I bet you have scrolled through reviews to see what other people, similar to you, have said about their experience with a product you’d like to buy.
Let’s apply this same methodology to your ability to influence. Leaders have the power to become influential because of their professional experiences, position or title, accumulated subject matter expertise, busy schedule and scarce availability, and honest assessments of situations. If you desire a more influential leadership brand, here are six actions you can take that will increase your prominence, following, and influence.
1 Who are you? What makes you unique? Have you written your personal mission? Maybe you know your top 5-6 core values? What motivates you? What major life events shaped your narrative? By determining answers to these questions, you can specialize your brand. With this guiding star set, you now know what leadership behaviors to stop performing. You can then redistribute time into daily activities that align with your core beliefs and long-term goals. You’ll ooze authenticity. Others will sense your happiness. You’ll be more engaged professionally. Your stakeholders will want what you have and they’ll emulate you.
2 What ideas will you share? Your personal brand will be different from your peers, so you’ll want to be focused in what you share about your journey, favorite resources or advice you offer while mentoring. If your brand is built upon the idea of being a masterful problem solver, then the majority of the content you’d share would be linked to processes, experiences, and other experts who have solved massive problems. Even if you have expertise, you should not be overly concerned with sharing information related to marketing, styles of leadership, corporate culture, etc. Your power increases when you become known for that one area of expertise. Today, specialization is key.
3 How will you share your message? Yeah, you can share quotes, articles or pictures on social media, but don’t forget about writing blogs, recording video of yourself giving talks, and being interviewed on podcasts. Your email signature, recommendations of you by vendors, clients and community leaders, and your organization’s newsletter are effective. Shit, even your clothing can share your message. I’m a fan of a return to the basics and sharing your brand face-to-face near the water cooler, over coffee, while having lunch or when traveling. Whatever channels you elect to influence through, ensure they’re meaningful to you, put your strengths on display, and make your message more powerful.
4 Continually expand your reach. How many LinkedIn connections are you adding weekly? How many professional events are you attending monthly? How many introductions are you asking your first-level connections for? How many plane rides are you taking to meet new clients face-to-face? How many people are talking about your articles, social media posts or shiny shoes? Influencers don’t stop expanding their sphere of influence. The more people positively impacted, the better. Consider gifting yourself 30 minutes each morning, by blocking your calendar, to invite new people into your circle.
5 Listen actively, daily. Humans want to be heard, accepted, and supported as they grow. How many minutes are you scheduling to listen? Your team’s level of engagement is directly linked to how much time your leaders invest in listening to their process improvement ideas, methods for continual learning or ways to better the organization’s culture. This could manifest in scrolling your social media feed and liking posts, commenting on posts or responding to comments. This could be management by walking around your office and purposely saying “Hi!” to and having brief conversations with five staff members each day. If you listen twice as often as you speak, you’ll recognize patterns that help you pinpoint where you should take action next.
6 Be consistent. Cialdini’s Law of Commitment shows how people take action to be seen as consistent in their behavior (we don’t want to be seen as irrational). When we publicly commit to something, we are more likely to deliver on that commitment. You can exert influence simply by garnering the commitment of others through small requests. As those small requests are completed, ramp up their commitment to accomplish larger and larger goals. You can also increase your influence by being consistent in sharing your brand, and it’s core components, repeatedly. By role modeling the right behaviors, others will follow.
I encourage you to not be the leader who advertises a leadership style and then doesn’t walk the talk. Today, people ignore ads. They give attention to peer reviews. I know you have considerable distractions, but you can choose to be authentic transparently sharing your challenges, wins, and personal mission. Your influence will grow because those around you will emulate your confidence in your personal brand, they’ll admire your strengths and how you share them, and they’ll improve their emotional intelligence by listening more.
In Cialdini’s words, “Our best evidence of what people truly feel and believe comes less from their words than from their deeds.”
You can be an influencer. Take action today.