Tag Archives: Influence

Know Your Big O from Your Little O

Take a look at the pictures in the gallery above. They are the many faces of influence. Though they come from a variety of backgrounds and manifested their leadership in different ways, each one of them made a choice to be a positive force for change and to use their influence not for self-serving reasons but rather to serve others. Being influential is a way of life. It’s about stepping outside of your comfort zone and investing time in activities and relationships that ultimately contribute to a better world. In addition to a high degree of selflessness, a dedication to building trust, and a willingness to get their hands dirty, influential people take a systematic careful approach to inspiring cooperation from others. Whether an unconscious competence or a learned behavior, effective influencers follow certain steps to motivate individuals and groups. They operate in a way that earns buy-in, establishes trust, and demonstrates respect. In Saying What You Mean’s August post, readers were introduced to this process. It’s called the Positive Influence Method.


The Positive Influence Method is a step by step approach to getting results in a constructive timely manner. The first step in the process is to develop a set of clearly defined, logically prioritized objectives.

Start in the Winner’s Circle

The second of Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” teaches us to begin with the end in mind. Construct a clear image in your mind of what it is you are trying to accomplish. If you’re leading a project or initiative, envision the outcome. In what ways will things be better once your vision becomes a reality? What has changed in the organization? How are people’s lives impacted? How will the environment or work atmosphere be different? What issues, obstacles, or challenges will be removed? What will people be celebrating? Now, capture the vision in clear succinct language. You should be able to communicate this idea in less than five minutes. If it takes you longer than that to get your point across, go back to the drawing board and further refine the message.

Vision DNA

A vision is an edifice constructed out of a set of objectives. Write down the building blocks from which your vision will be assembled. Detail what needs to be accomplished and by whom. This is a valuable list. It gives you measurable milestones to track the progress of your initiative and lets you know who the key players are that you must engage to be successful.

Sort the Big O’s from the Little o’s

In most cases, when we plan for projects or initiatives we organize the objectives or milestones according to dependencies and chronology. “A” can’t happen until “B” is done and it makes the most sense to focus on “C” once “B” is complete. Although an important exercise for planning, this does not necessarily help you when it comes to influencing others to contribute their time and assets to your cause.

For the moment, abandon chronology and dependencies in favor of degree of importance to the overall vision. Sort the list of objectives according to the “must haves” and the “nice to haves.” For example, entertainment at the charity fundraiser is a “must have.” Securing The Dave Matthews Band is a “nice to have.” Begin to work on a compelling case for your “must have” objectives. In future posts, we’ll talk about how these compelling cases can be tailored for the greatest impact. For each group or person with whom you must engage in order to fulfill your vision, determine what you are willing to invest or sacrifice to obtain your “must have” objectives.

Stay Tuned. Next up: Power Inventory

Can’t wait for the next post to find out what to do next? Want to know more sooner than later? Click here to learn more about Positive Influence for Premium Results

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How Nice Guys Get What They Want

I’ve been a runner since I was 17yrs old. Every summer since I first started running, I’ve been privy to an annual phenomenon. I call it “August Light.” It’s that subtle change in the strength and directionality of the sun’s light as it dapples through the trees that lets you know summer will soon be over.

Just as the Ground Hog signals the pending transformation from winter to spring, August Light is the harbinger of change from summer to FOOTBALL SEASON!

I know. I can hardly believe it myself. But, it’s time to start blowing the dust off of the gridiron metaphors and crack open the tome of sage advice from players and coaches alike. I’d like to kick off this season with a goody from Tom Landry, long-time coach of the Dallas Cowboys. Coach said,

 “Leadership is getting someone to do what they don’t want to do, to achieve what they want to achieve.”

If you’ve ever tried to convince someone to do something they don’t want to do, even if the end result will be getting what they want, you know that it’s like pushing the proverbial boulder up a hill in Hades. This is largely due to the fact that the likelihood of you forcing your will on the other person has the same odds of success as the temperature dropping below zero in that particular region of the netherworld!

But, in today’s cross-functional world of horizontal organizations chock full of Millenials asking those of us over 40, “Why should I?” it’s imperative for leaders to figure out how to get what we want and need. Long gone are the days when a simple, “Because I said so” was a good enough reason for people to do what the boss wanted them to do. Formal authority doesn’t seem to carry the same weight as it once did. For one thing,  leaders are no longer only in charge of people over whom they wield the power of the paycheck. Besides, while a directive approach may get people to comply in the moment, the impact is short lived. Successful leaders of equally successful organizations know how to earn long-term commitment from others. 

“Nice Guys,” leaders who have followers that actually like, trust, and respect them, know how to get others to want to do what needs to get done.

There is no quick hit way to motivate someone to change his mind and then act upon this newly modified belief. As Dr. Paul Hersey, in the quintessential book on leadership, The Situational Leader tells us, “Influencing the behavior of others should not be thought of as a single event. It’s a full time job in which every minute must be spent wisely.” For a description of this full time job, you may want to take a moment to read an earlier post on I-Style or Influence Style.

I-Style is a way of life. It’s about dedicating yourself to the pursuit of personal influence in order to help shape events and make meaningful contributions to the greater good. This is the everyday life of influence. Inside of this lifestyle, you will encounter specific circumstances that require you to influence particular individuals or groups in order to achieve certain objectives.

For these occasions, the Positive Influence Method is a step by step approach to leveraging trust, credibility, and value in order to get things done in a constructive timely manner. Following is a breakdown of the method. In the coming posts, we’ll take an in-depth look at each component.

Prioritized Objectives

Influence, like all other strategic endeavors, requires a well-thought out plan. Start by clarifying what it is you are trying to accomplish. People will rarely follow a leader who is lost. A set of clearly defined, logically prioritized objectives instill trust and offer proof of your credibility.

Power Inventory

The root of power comes from possessing that which other people desire. Invest the time to assess what others value. Then, consider if you can honestly and ethically provide that value or at least help them find someone who can.

Who to Influence

People whose success depends on positive influence carefully guard their reputation. They surround themselves with like-minded people and dwell in a realm swathed in integrity. When you earn the trust of these individuals, you’ll be amazed at how much easier it is to access resources and get decisions made.

A Mile In Their Shoes

Manipulators often skip this step. Influencers spend most of their time and energy learning the world of the person or people with whom they will be collaborating. Discovering what keeps someone up at night, is a crucial first step toward a long term relationship founded on trust and mutual understanding.

Influence Action Plan

The Influence Action Plan is a blueprint for how you and key people can team-up to apply what you’ve learned toward the pursuit of the objectives you set forth in the first step.

Looking for the Full Monty?

Write Influence partners with the Executive Coaching firm of McGurer & Associates, Inc. to provide business people with the tools and techniques needed to enhance and reap the rewards of personal influence.  

Through a blended learning approach that couples rigorous personal coaching with action-oriented workshops, we equip professionals in high visibility high pressure positions with the interpersonal, political, and marketing skills needed to thrive and succeed as leaders in cross-functional environments. 

We collaborate with clients to create and deliver a customized Positive Influence for Premium Results program that aligns with the most urgent and important business goals facing participants.

For more information about this amazing program, contact us.

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What to Do When You Step in the Proverbial Dog Poo

Expecting influence to produce infallibility is hoping for the impossible.

While the depth of our humanity has a great deal to do with the strength of our influence it is also the leading cause of most of our blunders. On our way to contribute to the greater good, we often trip over our own intentions. No matter how hard we try to get everything just right, the law of averages tells us that sooner or later something is bound to go wrong. Unfortunately, stomping into a flaming bag of proverbial dog poo tends to trigger an automatic self-flagellation response that is hugely counter-productive. Despite the fact that beating ourselves up for our mistakes feels like the correct response, it is really self-forgiveness that puts us on the road to redemption.

Here is a five part strategy for constructively coping with personal mistakes.

Forgive But Don’t Forget.

The moment a chosen course of action takes a turn for the worst the body senses trouble long before reality hits the conscious mind. The stomach takes a plummeting dive for cover. As all the blood rushes to the cheeks, the face gives off heat that makes the scalp sweat. By the time the palms start getting good and clammy, the mind is aware of what’s happening and becomes consumed with panic, shame, and guilt. In this state, all of the body’s resources are directed toward instinctual reaction leaving very little energy for processing and reason. Though natural, this response actually prevents us from remedying the situation.

Next time you realize you’ve made a mistake, start the coping process by taking a deep breath. Then, forgive yourself.  Keep in mind that while it’s smart not to paddle around in a pool of guilt, you are not off the hook. Forgive yourself for making the mistake while holding yourself accountable for the consequences.

Don’t fight. Be Contrite.

The late great John Wooden wrote about what his father called “Two Sets of Threes.” They are simple rules of conduct. The first set is “Never lie. Never Cheat. Never steal.” The second set provides the perfect explanation for how to cope with adversity. They are, “Don’t whine. Don’t complain. Don’t make excuses.” Coach Wooden described the “Two Sets of Threes” as his compass for doing the right thing. Let them be your guide when you find yourself on the stinky end of a bad choice.

Try this. The next time something goes wrong, (believe me there will be a next time), forego the detailed explanations, finger pointing (intentional or inadvertent), and rationalizing. Instead, say these words: “I am sorry.” Notice, this sentence tells the story without the need for a preface or an epilogue. Let it be a sincere statement of contrition unmarred by the stains of weaker less healing words.

Options & Ears Open.

After you’ve forgiven yourself and shared a simple statement of regret with the offended party, it’s time to put an action plan in motion. Bring well thought out options to the table. Incidentally, if you do manage to figure how to turn back time and eradicate mistakes from the collective consciousness, please do share! We’ll even let you blog about it here!

A willingness to share and implement plans for mitigating the damage and addressing the consequences of your error brings your apology to life. Backing up your words with meaningful results-driven deeds goes a long way to earning back the trust of those affected by your mistake.

Active listening leads to reparation. Prepare options but keep an open mind to alternative solutions. Give the others involved in the situation a forum to share their feelings and discuss ideas. Your suggestions for fixing things are intended as a peace offering; not the be-all end-all to the situation. It’s easy to get caught in the mental trap of thinking that the only way to regain people’s trust is to be the one to solve the problem. Hard work and joining in a team effort to clean up the mess earn more trust than a heroic single-handed attempt to save the day.


Accept the fact that at the end of the day, you may be the only person who forgives you. Humble remorse, willing accountability, and an earnest attempt to collaborate on a remedy give you a fighting chance at securing forgiveness and rebuilding trust. They are not guarantees. Those affected by your erroneous actions may still choose not to forgive you or they may forgive but refuse to forget. Respect their choice.

Live and Learn.

Regardless of whether you receive absolution from others, make sure you’ve gleaned whatever lessons are available from the experience. The best way to prevent history from repeating itself is to capture the lessons in a place you can reference frequently. Develop a personal plan for applying them in other areas of your work and life.

An influential leader gets back on the horse a wiser rider than when she fell.


Filed under Business, How To, Influence, Leadership, Trust, Uncategorized

3 Reasons To Be Obsessed with Influence

My fascination with influence started to incubate in my early teens. I spent the better part of the 7th grade trying to figure out what made some kids popular and others bag lunches for bullies. By the 8th grade, I realized when the Coke bottle pointed toward me the odds of the boy on the other end crinkling his zit covered nose in disgust had more to do with my social status than my looks.

Little more than a decade later, I can’t tell you the outrageous sense of accomplishment I felt when I was promoted to a management position at the tender age of 26. Joy gave way to dismay when I quickly learned that a loyal band of followers did not come with the pay raise and title. By the end of the journey from insecure teenager to a position at the upper level of personal incompetence, an almost obsessive interest in the dynamics of social power hatched and spread its wings in the aviary of my intellectual curiosity.

I went on a mission to understand the difference between the leader who turns around to find a line of followers and the person who turns around only to see their own shadow. Based on my research, graduate school courses, observations of successful effective leaders, and personal experiences as a leader who earned a loyal following, I can tell you that it is imperative for professionals who care about their performance to become students of influence.

Whether we are in finance, IT, HR, management, advertising, marketing, project management, leading cross functional teams or selling shoes at Macy’s our success is going to depend on convincing one, ten, hundreds, or millions of other people to commit to and actually take a particular action.

If you are not sure committing to an influence-improvement program is worth your time, consider the top three reasons why influence is a key ingredient to professional success.

#3 People want someone to believe in and want someone to believe in them

Although natural charisma comes with a lifetime supply of influence, social power can be developed in the absence of such innate gifts. With or without the turbo-boost from charisma, people who use their influence with positive intentions to benefit the greater good do so by establishing their credibility, building trusting relationships, and adding value wherever and whenever possible.

The desires to belong in community, make constructive contributions, have our voices be heard, and be recognized for our efforts drive our attitudes, actions, and output. When these desires are met, we are at our best. When one or all are neglected, productivity and quality of work suffers. By virtue of their high levels of credibility, trust, and perceived value, influencers are able to leverage their social power to fulfill these desires; thereby unlocking individual and group potential and setting the stage for optimum performance.

#2 Bridging Gaps Leads to Indispensability

In the game Jenga, players take turns trying to remove blocks from a tall stack of interconnected pieces without toppling the structure. Some pieces slide out easily. Some pieces are immovable because they are embedded in and vital to the stability of the tower’s infrastructure. What would happen if you were slid out of your role? Would the world in which you work tumble to the ground? Or, would it be weeks before somebody pointed to your desk and casually asked “Hey, where’d she go?”

A tremendous source of influence comes from actively seeking out and filling structural holes. Making valuable connections between groups, taking on neglected tasks (even if they fall outside job parameters), and being available to lend a hand increase personal influence and secure a reputation of indispensability to an organization.

#1 Influencers get results

Like teaching a group of phobic toddlers to swim, we always have the option to throw our charges kicking and screaming into the deep end, immersing them in the world of our objectives and opinions. Although they’ll get wet, they will also beat a hasty retreat from the water never to return and never to trust us again.

The influencer’s approach is to motivate the aqua-phobic to willingly dive into and paddle around in a pool of our ideas. Taking the time to listen to their concerns, communicate messages using their terminology, and help them draw their own conclusions earns us the trust needed to lead a target audience away from the fear of the unknown and toward the personal conviction that learning to swim is a worthwhile pursuit.

Though less expedient than most “sink or swim” persuasion techniques, using influence to motivate others to commit to specific actions produces better results with almost no negative side-effects.


Filed under Business, How To, Influence, Leadership, Trust, Uncategorized

All Linchpins are Liars

According to Seth Godin, Linchpins are those indispensable geniuses who stand out from the crowd by taking on the essential jobs that would otherwise languish in a pit of neglect under the limpid banner of “but that’s not my job.” In his latest book, Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?, Mr. Godin informs us that just showing up is no longer enough. We must be remarkable in order to succeed.

We don’t have to have some cosmic endowment, extreme talent, or off-the-charts intelligence to be Linchpins. The formula is straightforward. It can be applied by all. In order to be a Linchpin, make the choice to:

  • Be remarkable and generous
  • Create art
  • Make Judgment calls
  • Connect people and ideas

Just saying this to people is a lot like holding a plant by its stem dangling the roots in midair and yelling “Grow!” Fertile soil, plenty of water and some sunshine would certainly increase the plant’s odds of complying with the command. In addition to the courage and desire to make good things happen, Godin tells us that Linchpins need a fertile environment fortified with freedom, responsibility and respect.

If these elements are not indigenous to your current work ecosystem, then to be a Linchpin you will need to influence the power structure to grant you these ingredients and trust you to flourish in the environment in which you have been unleashed.

Enter the Liars

Wedged between Purple Cow and Linchpin, Mr. Godin wrote a book entitled All Marketers Are Liars. The Power of Telling Authentic Stories in a Low-Trust World. In this tome, he states, “I believe marketing is the most powerful force available to people who want to make change.” Linchpins want to affect change so they must therefore learn to be good marketers. And if all marketers are liars, then all Linchpins should be liars too.

Actually, what Mr. Godin teaches us is that it’s not really the marketers who are liars. It is the consumers. Good marketers tell stories that resonate with a particular group’s worldview. This group of buyers then tell themselves a lie—that they NEED the product or service. The story the marketers tell becomes the lie upon which the buyer happily bases his purchase.

Linchpins must tell a compelling story that makes their buyers want to believe they NEED the Linchpin. Here are a few pearls of wisdom from the mind of Godin about how to craft the story of indispensability:

Worldviews and Local Lingo

Every person perceives a situation through the filter of their worldview. This worldview cannot be changed. Instead, a strong marketer frames their story to fit the worldview of a particular audience. A Linchpin needs to use this advice to set herself up to be heard. Instead of wasting energy trying to change the worldviews of the powers that be in your organization, frame your story within the context of already held values and beliefs. Get the attention of the people who matter by acknowledging their biases and telling your tale in their lingo.

Facts Fail

The facts will fail you. Feelings will help your story fly. All decisions are made by people and people make decisions based on emotion. Tell the story of how your indispensability makes their world that much more secure or the organization that much more successful. Once people have decided to adopt and retell your story, reward them with the facts. Charts, graphs, and statistics are the gift of evidence your supporters will need to confirm they’ve made a wise choice to back you.

Intent is Obvious

Be authentic. Although marketers are liars, they are not really liars. The story marketers tell must still be authentic. A Linchpin is indispensable because she does what she says she’s going to do. There is no way to mask your true intent. Taking on an extra assignment to impress your boss and then turning your back on the responsibility when you think no one is looking is not art it’s selfish opportunism. Tell a story that earns you the right to step up and stand out because taking the risk is the right thing to do for the organization. If your reward lies so far around the bend that you can’t see it from the starting line, then chances are you’re running the race for all the right reasons.

The Truth

Seth Godin points out that in today’s world of abundance, we need little but want much. That’s why the marketer and consumer are co-conspirators in the lie. The story reverses reality so that we believe what we want is actually something we really need. For the truly remarkable Linchpin, the story isn’t a lie. The organization in which they work really does need their passion, genius, art, and ideas. Companies thrive when groups of Linchpins are free to reach their full potential.


Filed under Business, How To, Influence, Leadership, Risk, Uncategorized