Five Ways to Boost Your Influence

"You cannot antagonize and influence at the same time." J.S. Knox

TemptationsMid60s_sm  Alignment

This is one of the great buzzwords of our time. When used consciously, it's also the key to building solid relationships as well as the foundation for being influential. When you are able to show how someone else's needs can be met through your idea or process, you both stand a chance of walking away satisfied. 

The question: How do you do it?

Five Styles to Help You Influence

1. Demonstrate. Give a successful example of your idea. 

How? Highlight related examples of the same idea already taking place in your organization or in another business. 

2. Cost-Focus. Show how problems and costs can be minimized. 

How?  Run through the numbers to reveal, factually, the cost benefits of your approach. Do this on paper and hand the other person(s) a copy to hold in their grubby little paws. This makes it real. Don't just say it; print out the math.

3. Values-based consistency. Show that your solution is consistent with, and strongly supports, the other person's values. 

How? Do your homework and find out the non negotiables in the business lives of those listening. Then, clearly point out the values-alignment that your solution brings.

4. Time Awareness. Demonstrate how the plan will unfold over a specific period of time.

How? My favorite--because it is low risk and high payoff--is to do a trial project implemented in stages with "client" review at designated points. It is very powerful because the other person is actively involved, shares likes and dislikes at each step, and is part of the successes and problem-solving. Ownership emerges rather quickly.

5. Testimonials. Show that your idea already has the support of other respected people. 

How? Ask others who have used the idea to give you a blurb or, internally, to come to the meeting. Nothing succeeds like someone else showing how successful you have been with them. You hardly have to say a word except "thank you" to those who have helped.

Some Other Thoughts

  • Listen to what sound like objections and acknowledge them. You'll gain respect. You'll lose respect if you don't treat feedback to your ideas as being legitimate. 
  • Stay focused on your theme and not everything you know about the idea or proposal. Too many details will distract your listeners. However, if they ask for details, be prepared to respond. It means they are interested. 
  • Consistent with #4 above: People are more likely to accept a smaller proposal if they've just rejected a larger one. Keep the pilot program in your back pocket as a reasonable alternative to implementing the entire idea. It will seem sensible to the individual or group.

If you are thinking about Influence you are really thinking about asking for some sort of "change." You'll find "Making A Change: What People Want" a helpful read.


But There's More!

My friend, Bud Bilanich The Common Sense Guy, has written a common sense book about life and career success.  It’s calledSuccess Tweets: 140 Bits of Common Sense Success Advice, All in 140 Characters or Less. 

I think it’s a great little book – packed with common sense advice in easy read, bite sized chunks.


Bud is a generous guy.  He’s giving away the eBook version of Success Tweets.  You can claim your free copy by going


Go to and get your free copy of Success Tweets while it’s still available.

Photo attribution: motown/biotemp.asp

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You Want An Organizational Change? Then...


What else has to change in order to make it happen?

This is an uncomfortable but meaningful question.

You and I say we want change. But let's be honest. What we really want is for other people to change so we can get what we want.

It's the human condition.

Which is why Mike Wagner's post at Own Your Brand  grabbed my attention.

Mike was working with a company on it's branding strategy and this is what Mike experienced:

"He (a leadership participant) was seated at the conference room table while I was leading the debrief on his company’s brand ownership audit. That’s when it happened. It always does, I just never know exactly when.

'So that's why we're stuck. This is going to be tougher than I thought.'"

Every meaningful intervention in the life of a company prompts the realization that other changes have to happen. Organizations are living systems just like the human body. When you stub your toe, it hurts--but you also may see stars and get a headache. Mike's client thought they were going to discuss branding. No doubt it led to:

"How are we going to integrate this brand company wide?"

"What's getting in the way now?"

"How are going to 'live' the brand rather than 'talk about' the brand?"

"What are all the things that have to change to make that happen?"

And finally:

"Oh, wow, it's going to be a leadership thing and we're the leaders."

What Do I Have To Change In Order to Make This Happen?

I got some feedback recently about something that I need to change. It was this: "Steve, you are not self-promoting and even your long-time clients don't know all the things that you do. You've got to put it out there  so that people know what you do and understand the breadth and depth of your experience."

OK, here's an opportunity to discuss one of those things.

I've designed and led large-scale change projects, some of which are unparalleled in their scope. (Stay with me for the punch line). Got the call to do an AT&T division beginning on the day of divestiture in 1984. Led large system changes at Utilities involved in shut-downs by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. And I continue to work on a global improvement project with a company that has numerous businesses in different industries, yet continually needs to share services and find common customers.

I know how to implement change purposefully, intelligently, and humanely.

But here's the single thing that I've learned must take place at the outset:

After discussing the leader's ideas about what needs to be different and why, I now ask,

"How much are you personally willing to change how you see and do things?"

The answer to that question will determine the wisdom in proceeding and the chances for success.

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Do You and Your Employer Agree on "Success?"

Faceoff1450_1 I'm looking at the Management-Issues article about the results of a Chartered Management Institute  study of 1,684 managers in the U.K. that explored the same question as the title of this post. Here's a snapshot of the results:

  • "Nearly half of the managers polled said they judged success by the extent to which they developed their teams, yet only slightly more than a third believed their organizations felt the same way.
  • 25% thought that 'achieving a flexible lifestyle' was an indicator of professional success. Only six per cent thought that their employers shared the same view.
  • Just 13 per cent said they were concerned with 'ensuring the organization is market leader' – yet nearly two thirds thought their employers made this a priority.
  • A similarly small percentage – 16 per cent – of managers believed securing 'sustainability' was important, yet more than half felt their organizations perceived this as a priority.
  • Worryingly, fewer than half of the managers polled believed they had actually achieved their true potential.
  • More optimistically, many planned to take action to change this, with more than a third planning to undertake development or further education courses during the coming 12 months."

Finally, a quote from a marketing and corporate affairs director:

"Managers should voice professional needs so their definition of success is known while the organization needs to create a clear understanding of its corporate objectives to ensure employees and future employees feel an alignment to the corporate culture."

Let's Read This With Analytical Eyes

1. The statements talk about what the managers think the gap is between them and their employers.

2. It would be helpful to know how the "employers" responded to the same questions. We have no way of knowing what the actual gap is.

3. Is it unusual for any living human being to believe that he or she has achieved one's potential? The very definition of potential points toward possibilities.

4. Will managers expressing their definitions of success change the purpose and goals of an organization?

5. Will "feeling" an alignment to the corporate culture change one's personal definition of success?

Here's How I See It. What Do You Think?

The very best that I can glean from this is that managers don't think there is a lot of alignment with their employers on issues of personal importance. Drawing any other conclusions would really be a stretch.

What can we do with this?

Senior executives who see this study could use it as a starting point for a real conversation with their managers about what's important to organizational success; what's important to the managers; and how they can achieve as much of both as possible.

What else do you see here?

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What's Ahead for Leadership in 2007?

Images_6 Are you thinking about your personal career, your organization, or leadership in 2007?

If so, here is the complete text of a Workplace Performance article that synthesizes a study done by the folks at consulting firm Blessing White. There are some conclusions that impact personal and professional life for everyone in an organization. Read the article (the italics are mine) and then join me at the end:

Princeton, N.J. — Nov. 30

Leadership priorities will take new shape next year as senior management confronts shifting competitive and internal pressures, according to a forecast by global consulting firm BlessingWhite.

Leadership increasingly requires an essential balance between business competence and personal connection, said Christopher Rice, BlessingWhite CEO.

“It’s no longer enough to be capable," he said. "Senior executives have to build an authentic bond with their employees, customers and other stakeholders, which is admittedly a daunting challenge for most leaders.”

Employee engagement will demand the attention of senior management as never before, Rice said. 

“And we’ll see an effort to rid organizations of ‘subversives,’ the few alienated employees who are ‘extremely dissatisfied’ in their positions,” said Rice, who estimates about 5 percent to 8 percent of employees at large organizations fall into the category. “Employees who are so disengaged undermine productivity by dragging down everyone around them. They’re a threat to the bottom line.”

Leaders will focus on the following issues in 2007, according to the forecast:

  • 1. Executive Self-Development
    Expectations of leadership have risen well beyond the capabilities of most senior executives and fostered renewed interest in self-development. The best leaders grasp that they need to be compelling and inspirational.
  • 2. Correcting Cultural Corruption
    Greater emphasis will be placed on organizational audits and culture scans in order to avert ethical problems. Effective leaders will focus on building organizations that comply with regulatory requirements while at the same time working to create a culture that operates with ethical intent at every level of contribution.
  • 3. Re-emerging Focus on Retention
    As a key means of retaining high-value contributors, greater stress will be put on understanding the need for employees to do work that is meaningful to them. To attract and retain talent there will be greater emphasis on demonstrating trust and leadership credibility.
  • 4. Driving Productivity Through Engagement
    Employee engagement will continue to be a pressing concern, and those responsible for leading will need to pay close attention to not only the level of employee satisfaction but also the degree of contribution.
  • 5. Connecting Individual Contribution to Strategy
    There is a lingering gap between employees knowing their organization’s business strategy and recognizing their own role in it. Closing that gap will help improve engagement, productivity and profitability.
  • 6. Inspiring All Generations
    Most organizations today were built by and for baby boomers, and there is a growing disconnect between younger employees and senior management. The corporate clock is ticking, and the pool of available talent is shrinking. Senior management must learn how to engage people of all ages, leaders at all levels need to understand the divergent interests of employees of different ages and flexible HR practices must be employed to motivate people to stay longer and grow into mutually beneficial roles.
  • 7. Developing Leaders for Short — and Long-Term — Needs
    Most organizations realize they do not have enough strong leaders in the pipeline, hence the urgent emphasis on leadership development and succession planning. Because global competition is so intense, organizations must not only identify future leaders but also have a pool of qualified leaders who may be quickly redeployed. There is no time for learning on the job.

    “Corporate leadership now sees talent management strategies as a business imperative,” Rice said. “Successful leaders seek to have the right people in the right jobs focused on the right organizational priorities.

    "At the same time, leaders need to ensure that employees have the information and support they need to align their interests and career aspirations with the organization’s goals. That dual focus can reduce unwanted turnover and create a sustainable competitive advantage.”

  • What does this really mean?
  • If you synthesize the findings, there are at least  4 evident themes:

    • Authenticity
    • Engagement
    • Connections
    • The right people in the right place at the right time

    Here's the not-so-evident: those four themes point to a need for:

    • Discernment in identifying talent vs. administrative match-ups of competency lists and job descriptions
    • Willingness to spend time and getting expertise in finding out if Cheryl in Accounting just might have the underlying genius to become Cheryl in Marketing
    • Being honest with one's self--and others--about a career path that could wind around the company and, perhaps, around the world
    • Being honest and real.Period. Inspiration doesn't happen as a result of buzzwords, catch phrases, and poster campaigns. It happens because real people get real, act real, and stay connected for real with the people in their organizations. And not just in their socially- similar comfort zones.

    What do you think needs to happen in your career or your organization? Click on "Comments" and help out with the "getting real" part.

    Graphic Source:

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    How Do You Build Up Your People?



    Start by seeing clearly who they really are. 

    • How many people at work know who you really are?
    • How many people do you see clearly for who they are?

    I was thinking about the things an executive coach really does--or should be doing. One of the most important is this: Seeing people for who they are, realizing what they can be, and helping to take them there.

    If that doesn't sound very "business-like," it probably isn't in the traditional sense of "business-like."

    And therein lies the issue. Organizations of all kinds hire the best people they can find. Those folks look at the "people are our most important asset" blurbs in the corporate recruiting brochures.Then they  sign on with high hopes.

    What happens later on that causes discontent, retention issues, and the need to search for "talent?" Weren't they talented when they were hired?

    Here's what I see.

    I see highly motivated people getting performance appraisals that are designed to force rankings on a curve so they never accurately portray an individual's contribution and worth. I see employees at all levels  getting feedback on the gaps in their performance--and then receiving direction to "close the gaps." I see the same people then coming to workshops and seminars, hearing theoretical--but good--teaching, only to go back to work and say "what do I actually do with that?"

    In nearly 30 years of managing, consulting, and coaching, I can count on one hand the number of people I've seen fired for technical incompetence. They get released for issues of character,  the inability to relate well with other people, or not being able to "close the gap."

    Here are my thoughts as a result:

    1. The character issue
    can be discerned during the hiring process. Discernment should be a highly valued talent possessed by those interviewing.  If not, get a coach to help with that element. Someone who sees others clearly and quickly for who they are.

    2. Relating well with other people. You can send people to class to learn some skills. My question is this: does the day-to-day interaction at work model, support, and reward good relationships? A coach can impact that issue--or help the individual see that another role--maybe even in another organization--would be a better match. It's the coach's job to see those things clearly and to help the other person gain the same clarity.

    3. Workshops and Education. Two things I enjoy with a passion. None has ever changed my own behavior very much. But I have learned a lot that has helped me think differently and more clearly. When do they work? When a manager or coach shows someone how to actually do what was taught--in the context of the organization's strategies and culture.

    Manager As Coach

    Before you get the idea that this is a treatise on why you should hire me, let me propose this: Managers can coach if they choose to see their people clearly by building relationships that let them know who their folks really are. If they don't have the time or inclination, then get some help to build the talent that seems, at times, to be hiding. It's probably not hiding. It might just be invisible to the naked eye.

    And that brings us back to the opening:

    If you want your talent to be valued, you've got to let people around you know who you really are. Make it impossible for them not to see you clearly.

    If you are a manager, start thinking about intentionally "seeing clearly." And if it's tough, then get some help.

    You and I wouldn't build a house in the dark. We need light to see in order to build. And unless your a truffle, you need a lot of light in order to grow and use your talent to perform.

    As always: weigh in. Share your thoughts on clarity, talent, and building people by seeing them clearly. Let the community learn from what you've learned. Click on Comments and join the discussion.

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    Straight Talk about Leading: 8 Tips from Drucker Revisited

    If you're scanning for some concise tips to focus your leadership, here are eight from the late Peter Drucker:

    1. Make sure that what makes a difference gets done
    2. Check your performance against previously defined goals
    3. Say no to things that don't contribute to the real mission
    4. Know early when to stop trying doing something that can't be done
    5. Organize travel and leverage new technology if it's possible
    6. Have a maximum of two organizational goals at the same time
    7. Make sure the people around you understand your priorities
    8. Build on your strengths. Find strong people to do the other necessary tasks

    To see the expanded wisdom of Peter Drucker, check out the interview done with him in Forbes on his 95th birthday. Better yet, pick up a copy of The Essential Drucker or any of his books. If you are a  practicing manager you'll find them crisp, to the point, and genuinely meaningful.

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    Vistage: Learn How to Grow Your Business With Support

    You and I are always looking for ways to be better at what we do. That's why I accepted an invitation from  Susan Smith, Group Chair, to get a first-hand look at why Vistage  is the largest CEO membership organization based on revenue in the world. They have 13,000 members in 15 countries. One of my CEO clients is in a Vistage group and I was eager to get a glimpse of why he was so committed to the model.

    Why Read Further?

    Vistage members are more successful than their competitors and, on average, grow their revenues at twice the percentage growth rate after joining Vistage (Vistage statistic). That should spark interest in the most curmudgeonly of entrepreneurs.

    The Model

    Vistage brings non-competing business people together in small groups led by a facilitator, or Group Chair. These groups are organized by specific commonalities. There are groups specifically for Chief Executives, Senior Executives, Small Business Owners, and Trusted Advisors such as accountants, attorneys, and bankers. Members openly share information about their businesses, get feedback and advice from their peers, are accountable to each other for assignments, and periodically bring in expert speakers on topics of importance to the group. If you want support, expertise, and a safe environment to work out business issues, I would recommend a close look into how you can participate.

    How Are the Expert Speakers?

    Today's speaker, Kraig Kramers, kept us completely engaged with a combination of solid content, energetic delivery, and useful tools. Kraig was voted the #1 Speaker this year among the 1500 speakers working with Vistage groups. I watched the members as Kraig unraveled some of the mystery around Key Indicators and which ones were--and weren't--important. (I told him I was headed to see my own trusted accountant to let him know we were measuring the "wrong stuff.") Kraig has a set of CEO Tools that can be used by any business person to track the right things in the right way.

    I'm not an agent or representative of Vistage...but I am a fan. If you're looking to build your business and your expertise, click on their link above and contact them. If you are in the Philadelphia or New York area, send me an email and I'll be pleased to connect you with a Group Chair.

    Photo Source: Vistage International, Inc.

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    Want to be Unique at Work?

    Different And get noticed in all the right ways?

    Then maybe it's best to avoid over-exposing that new tattoo as the sign of your individuality. Companies are, indeed, on the lookout for people who can make a unique contribution--not just a unique fashion statement.

    The whole "be your own person" thing is surely consistent with authenticity and personal integrity. But being your own person in a company that's paying you to get results carries responsibility--so you need to aware of the best ways to be your most responsible self. That's an issue of personal integrity, too.

    There's a new book out that I'm recommending titled Mavericks At Work by William C. Taylor and Polly LaBarre. They nail the issues surrounding how to have a real impact while managing yourself in the process. For a useful list of ways to get started, check Taylor's Top 10 list on the Fast Company blog.

    And Guy Kawasaki has a worthwhile interview with Polly LaBarre on his post today.

    Are you a maverick? Then here's another tip: look for a maverick company and join forces.

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    Speak with The Leader's Voice: It's the Real Deal

    This Will Impact All of Your Communication

    You are a leader, a consultant, a manager, a committee chair. . .you want to make sure your message creates trust and acceptance in the hearts and minds of the listeners, shines a light that brightens the path you want people to walk, and generates the degree of alignment found in the works of the world's finest orchestras and enterprises.

    If there's a single word in the paragraph above that applies to you, then I suggest you consider participating in this workshop:  Bluepoint Leadership's "The Leader's Voice."

    Ron_crossland_photo Ron Crossland (left) is a co-designer of the methodology with his late partner, Boyd Clarke. Ron's workshop leadership reflects an authentic passion for, and knowledge of, both the research and application of new communication findings. Here's one example:

    What do you think about the effectiveness of your communication? How would those around you answer the same question?

    In a survey of 1,104 employees conducted in 2002, 86% of respondents stated that their bosses believed that they (bosses) were really good communicators. Only 17% of their employees put them in that category. Now there is a gap that requires understanding as well as a solution.

    Bridging the Gap

    Last week I participated in one of the workshops along with an executive from one of my client groups. He and I work together to craft and implement communication and alignment initiatives with the company's CEO. We were looking for new ways to help the CEO see and understand more effective Rongroup_1 ways to comfortably deliver messages with maximum impact. Our dilemma: After many years and a trusting relationship, we didn't seem to be able to make a dent in his thinking using the approaches we knew were effective. In other words, our message wasn't getting through. And his well-prepared, positive, and factual  presentations weren't gaining any credibility with some of his key constituencies.

    What is a "Leader's Voice?"

    Not the voice our client was currently struggling with.

    He had been receiving data from the business units and had his facts lined up. The problem was, he he and his team were focusing on the Factual but ignored two other channels of leadership communication—the Emotional and the Symbolic channels. If you want to lead people and gain their trust and understanding, you have to communicate using all three channels. I think we all know that people receive messages in different ways. What business leaders don't realize is that rational facts  don't prompt emotional responses (unlesss, of course, your facts show that you are about to go belly-up). Regardless of what conventional business wisdom would like to have you think, decisions aren't made on rational facts. Facts are ingredients that need to be linked to the emotional spark that causes some electricity in our hearts and minds. Finally, people need a symbolic reference point to cement the visual image for the future. Take a look around your office. What photos, mementos, souvenirs do you see? Many are probably symbols of an experience, a project, or an activity that allows you to stay connected for months and even years.

    How To Boost the Impact of Your Communication

    Start thinking in threes: Facts, Emotions, Symbols

    When you start reflecting on your message, make room for all three of these channels:

    Factual. Interpret, don't do a checklist.

    The factual channel isn't about the data, it's about what it means. The interpretation. Listeners don't want you to read and recite what they can do on their own. They want you to answer some connect-the-dots questions for them: "What do you make of all of this?" "Is there enough to draw a reasonable conclusion?" "If so, what's your conclusion?" "What logic or process did you use to put it all together?"

    Emotional. Yours and theirs.

    In 2000, Jeff Bezos of opened his letter to shareholders with this: "Ouch. It's been a brutal year."

    That simple statement made him human, revealed his own feelings, showed that he understood how they were feeling, and wasn't hiding the truth of the situation.

    When dealing with your organization, the late Peter Drucker put it like this: "They aren't employees, they're people."

    The word Authenticity is used frequently as a trait to be desired and valued. But you can't possibly connect authentically without acknowledging how you feel about the situation you are describing. If you stick to the numbers or the steps in your plan, you aren't connecting. Why? Because the people around you know that you're a person, too, and they want to know how the situation is impacting you. They aren't asking for group therapy. They just want to know who you are. The facts don't show that. And, they want to know that you've thought about how they might be feeling, too.

    Once you reveal both, your Leadership Voice becomes deeper, stronger, and genuine:

    "We're moving into 5 new markets in Asia. I'm excited and more than a little scared at the same time. We've never done this before so it's a trip into the unknown. The trip has been planned but we don't know where the detours will be. I was talking with the engineering team that designed our new facilities there. I heard how frustrating it was to work with new contractors and to have some of the schedules go longer than expected because of local regulations. You persevered and got the job done, but that doesn't change the emotional roller coaster ride that every new day seemed to bring. Combined with the sacrifice of missing your families, the whole experience took you on ups and downs. I'm personally moved by your willingness to set aside the usual comforts of life to make the business future for all of us more promising."

    Symbolic Channel: Painting the Metaphorical Monet

    How many songs can you sing from your teenage years? Maybe all of them?! How about sharing your favorite family story passed from generation to generation at yearly holiday dinners? The imagery associated with stories and symbols burns deeply into our memories. In business, if you don't define your image your constituents will. The mind abhors a vacuum.

    George Lakoff in "Metaphors We Live By" notes "You don't have a choice as to whether to think metaphorically. Because metaphorical maps are part of our brains, we will think and speak metaphorically whether we want to or not."

    If that's the case, then the third channel of the speech above might conclude with: "We've all learned about the pioneers who headed West into the unknown. The great explorers braved 40 foot ocean swells in boats no larger than the length of some of our homes. Covered wagons crossed plains, mountains, and deserts that still challenge the most modern all-terrain vehicles made today. Few of those people knew the actual destination let alone the detours along the way. We've decided to head East for the same reasons. New opportunities, providing services and products for people who don't yet have we are the Pioneers. And we have the honor to be a part of that legacy as we work together to navigate the detours and build a new life for our company and our customers."


    (L) Deneen Johnson of Bluepoint Leadership with
    (R) Melody Johnson, HR Associate, Solvay Pharmaceuticals

    Professional Note:
    I'm not affiliated with nor do I receive any compensation for discussing The Leader's Voice.

    Why would I write about what would appear to be a competitor? Because they are doing important work that can impact the effectiveness and very nature of business leaders and authentic leadership.That has been our own mission for 30 years. I believe that neither life nor consulting is a zero sum game.

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