How to Be a Positive Influence

One question that I get quite often from business owners is “How can I change my employees

and help them take ownership so that they will care about their work, customers, and the business as much as I do?” It is a great question and is worthy of consideration.

First, I usually start by telling them that they really can’t “change” anyone. They can likely change their environment, compensation, job, and comfort. But my question is can anyone really change the motives, desires, values, and identity of another person? Many have tried and failed with much frustration and disappointment. I really believe a much better question is “How can I be a more effective influence in other’s lives?” I do believe that is achievable and a worthy pursuit. The issue is leadership. What do you need to become (and how do you need to behave) so that others will follow you?

Stephen Covey in his classic “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” addresses the concept of The Circle of Concern versus the Circle of Influence. This concept holds a key to becoming a positive influence.

Picture two concentric circles; One smaller circle inside a larger circle. The larger outer circle is

the Circle of Concern. Within that circle is everything that you care about. It certainly includes

the changes you would like to see in others. Within this larger outer Circle of Concern is a smaller Circle of Influence. Inside this inner circle are the things that you are concerned about AND that you can do something about. The distinction is critical.

To grow your Circle of Influence within your Circle of Concern, you need to feed the inner circle, and starve the outer circle. You need to invest your thoughts, efforts, and attention on the things that you can change, and ignore, neglect, and avoid the things that you are concerned about but cannot currently change. As you do this, your influence will grow. However, if you focus on the concerns outside your influence, you will diminish your influence.

Consider this. In your relationships with others, what is in the center of your influence? What aspect of that relationship do you have the most influence and control over? It is you! What you can change in any relationship is yourself – your approach, your listening, your kindness, your respect.

If you want to increase your influence in other’s lives, then you must become a better leader; a better “you”. You must work harder on yourself than you do on them! This is the leadership lesson number one. You generally get back from others what you give out. If you express frustration, you will get back frustration. Anger reaps anger, and confusion reaps confusion. Appreciation and gratitude planted reap appreciation and gratitude. Your quality of your relationships are a reflection of – you!

Leaders want respect. Great leaders practice respecting others. One of the most effective ways to express respect is to listen empathetically. Listening. Most people think that they do it well. Most people really don’t do it well at all. If you want to have influence as a leader, it is essential.

Listening to understand is one of the most powerful ways to express respect for another human being. You are giving your attention and care to someone else. You are setting aside YOUR opinions, judgments, reactions, and conclusions, and engaging your mental energy for one purpose, to understand that person.

How do you feel towards someone who totally focuses their care and attention on you? If that person is your leader (like a supervisor, parent, business owner, or business partner), what is the effect if they regularly listen and have a sincere desire to know how you are doing? I think most of us would say it engenders respect and gratitude and a desire to work with them. If you want your team to respect and follow you, it is essential that you make it a priority to listen to them.

Some business managers and owners tell me that you can’t be close to your people and also be an effective leader. I find that to be an interesting belief. This approach has some credence if you want to lead from a place of command and control. If you want to rule over people, and you want them to view you primarily as a person of authority over them, you should probably keep your distance. This style also carries the belief “They don’t have to like me, they just have to respect me.” In my experience, those who try to run a business with this approach have some challenges.

Typically, they have high employee turnover, mediocre morale at best, and only a few good performers on the team. It is a “command and control” approach, and an old school “top down”

management style. The only real listening that is needed is for the troops to listen to and obey the commander. Though this style may be appropriate for the military, it does not cultivate creativity, encourage risk taking, and stimulate the innovation needed to thrive in business today.

I have helped create a much different culture in many businesses. It is a workplace characterized by high mutual respect, listening and open communication. Everyone’s ideas and input are encouraged and appreciated, and good listening is essential. Order and organization are still defined and clear, but more functional and less authoritative. Innovation and creativity are encouraged. Relationships are esteemed, and team members do come to know and appreciate one another on a personal level. When you intentionally treat people with this level of appreciation, care, and respect you bring out their very best. You get the participation of the whole person. You build a team that works with a deep care and synergy for each other and for the customers they serve. There is a fulfillment and purpose in the work, and the workplace becomes a place to look forward to instead of a place to “put in your time and leave as soon as possible”.

It all begins with a change in the leader. You as a leader must listen, respect, and appreciate each team member. Accountability becomes a welcomed component of that listening and respect. Top performers want to fulfill their role and responsibilities, continually improve and know how they are doing. Regular and frequent communication become commonplace, and listening is essential.

Finally, one last great key to increasing your influence with others is consistency. This is just an outward expression of integrity. A person of integrity is single, not divided. What they say is what they do – consistently. You can depend on their word. You can also be confident that if they have made a commitment it will be kept. In an old-fashioned phrase, their word is their bond. Because you know who they are, you feel comfortable following them.

Think about someone who is inconsistent. Sometimes they come on time, sometimes not. Sometimes they meet their obligations and commitments, and sometimes not. You are not sure who they are. They tell you one thing, but it doesn’t always turn out that way. They leave you with an uncomfortable and uneasy feeling. Basically, there is a low level of trust. People don’t follow people they don’t trust.

Here is your challenge. Be brutally honest as you answer the following questions. Do you always show up for your appointments and meetings on time? Do you consistently follow up with every employee, customer, family member, and friend? Do you keep all your promises and commitments to others? Can people depend 100% on your word? Do you always quickly notify someone when you cannot meet a commitment, attend a scheduled meeting, return a call or e-mail quickly, or respond to a request, and then apologize and reset the schedule or meeting? Do you keep the commitments that you make to yourself?

If you cannot answer all these questions with a resounding yes, then you have a great opportunity to CHANGE and become a better leader. Choose the areas where you are weak and find someone (like a good mentor) who really cares about your success. Ask them to hold you accountable to changing these bad habits. You will be amazed and pleased with other’s response when you make these changes. The bottom line is that people follow people that they trust.

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