Our business is training people how to become more influential. Each year we train thousands and each year I become more and more convinced that most people have got what it takes to be influential — particularly if they have reached middle years and/or middle grades — except for three vital elements…
- Awareness. Not only self-awareness (your strengths, weaknesses etc.) but perhaps more importantly, what is going on around you. Learning how to sense the personal agendas, how they all fit together (or conflict) and how people are likely to react to any given stimulus is essential preparation for influence. Unless you know the territory, how can you do more than shoot in the dark?
- Focus. What exactly do you want to influence? Most people flounder because they have a vague aim, or only a hesitant notion of how they would like their targets to behave, think and feel differently. Flexing between micro and macro influencing goals with precision is what the very best influencers have learned to do. Being specific helps people to say “yes.”
- Targeted Action. Once you get clear on what you want to achieve, and you have a keen awareness of the territory, you can more easily formulate a campaign of action to achieve the desired influence. The more complex your goal, the more involved this is going to be. And of course, it doesn’t stand still. Every time you take action you will learn something new, so this area of influencing skill is also about adjustment as you go.
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I’ve written about these skills many times before and below you will see some of the most popular posts which talk to these needs.
By the way, when I say, “desperate” I am being very earnest. So many people seem to have this perennial need to develop their influencing skills and keep looking for the silver bullet. They wander from course to course learning about persuasion and communication, yet all the time finding they are still missing something. Sadly the training industry is not shy in coming forward to meet their wants, but is woefully inadequate at giving them what they need. In some respects, it reminds me of the old problem of sales forces blaming poor performance on their lack of the latest point of sale technology. Invest millions in technology, and they soon find another excuse.
In reality, if you are really good at the three skills I’ve outlined above, you don’t actually need to be a brilliant persuader or communicator — nor proficient in the latest psychological tricks. Fantastic skills, poorly directed, are often a complete waste of time. Poor skills, well aimed, can achieve the target. And another thing I have noticed is that once you get aware, focused and moving, you’ll soon pick up on the other skills as you go!