When I first started thinking about influence and how it works, I was almost exclusively interested in how I could get lots of people I barely know to do something specific. Coming from a background in environmental stewardship, I had already tackled the challenge of trying to inspire entire organizations to use energy more responsibly, or getting voters to care about an issue and vote accordingly. When I thought about influence, it was about moving mountains.
I talk about “Women in the Workplace” a lot. I am one. It’s one of our programming areas at wolf & heron. And it’s something that happens to be coming up in the media a lot lately. Because of that, I’m looking back at my own professional experiences and trying to challenge my perspective of those experiences based on some of the discussions we’re having today.
The other day my mother told me a story about a meeting she attended that was facilitated by a younger woman. My mom and her compatriots are all extremely seasoned professionals with decades of experience under their belts.
I’ve always had a lot of mentors throughout my career, and I plan to continue that trend. Finding mentors has always been a natural thing for me, so I love it when a professional says to me something like, “I’m looking for a mentor, how should I go about that?” or “I want this specific person to be my mentor.”
Network Power is one of the most effective Power Sources from an influence perspective. It sits only second to Grit. That’s because your network can help you build all the other power sources and implicit in your network is the fact that people want to engage with others they know, like and trust. Through your networks you can build expertise, gain access to information, develop a positive reputation, and (rather circularly) build your network.
With the #MeToo trend sweeping the nation in 2017, and the national conversation that has resulted, last year was an interesting one for women in the workplace (and the men who work with them). A lot has already been said, written, and read, so I won’t rehash the obvious.
What I didn’t think about, though, was Power. Power is what you have behind you when you come to the proverbial influencer’s table. It’s what you can build up and leverage, and what will make whatever Pathway you choose, more effective. What’s so empowering about thinking about Power sources is that you can work on building them irrespective of who or where you are, AND you can focus on your strengths.
Toward the end of last year, Stephanie and I held a series of virtual retreats to make up for the fact that we hadn’t been able to coordinate our desired end-of-year in-person wolf & heron retreat together.
When we talk about authentic leadership, we focus on honing four key components of a person: values, vision, purpose, and brand. Values are what matter to us. They help us define what’s important and what isn’t. Vision is what we hope to achieve, and Purpose is why it’s worth achieving. Getting clear on those three components is SO critical for authentic leaders because it gives them the power to communicate who they are and what they stand for really effectively.
A little over a year ago, I got on an airplane and flew from Albany to Colorado for the purposes of a meeting of the minds with Stephanie. We had done some work together via the Erb Institute and the energy of it was still flicking around us like static electricity.
Stephanie and I are in the business of influence. We don’t claim to be the most persuasive people imaginable, but we’ve done a lot of work understanding and synthesizing the expertise around influence, so that we can take the best of the best and turn it into dynamic professional development experiences.
Stephanie and I have spent a lot of time sharing the value of values. (See here, here and here). We even created this handy dandy tool to help you suss them out for yourselves. So we thought we’d each take a turn diving deep into our own values and showing how they have helped us shape our worlds. And it's my turn.
As we discussed earlier, many of us feel like imposters sometimes. We feel like we lack credibility and it holds us back from doing what we need to do.
Here’s what happens:
Because you don’t feel credible, you might not try for that opportunity staring you in the face. Instead of applying for that job or reaching out for an informational interview, you sit back, take an extra day to look at your LinkedIn profile. You wait another week, do some research and still feel inadequate. You finally get around to sending that email or picking up the phone and you’re filled with so much self-doubt that when you finally reach the person on the other side, your breath gets short, your heart rate speeds up, and your inner voice is saying, “Why do I sound so panicky?” And it’s all you can do to keep going when you feel like that person on the line is slowly hearing your crumble in real time.
It doesn’t really matter who we are, we always answer to someone. My sister, after a spin as a bartender and a stint in corporate life, eventually found her way to the COO position of a tech startup because she was tired of having a boss. Then she discovered that even as the COO, on equal footing with the CEO, she and her partner still had to answer to investors. Kara and I might be the owners of our business, but we still have to answer to our clients. Our young cousins in high school – well, they answer to their parents. You will have people you answer to.
Recently I started reading the book Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely. It’s right in the vein of many of the books I love to devour because it’s about the human brain – in all its confusing glory – and how we aren’t, at the core, actually rational creatures (as standard economic theory assumes). Even more interestingly, though, is that the book suggests that we’re actually irrational in predictable ways.
I love having discussions about Values with people because we often find there are several of us who share the same value, but those values show up very differently for each of us. Kara and I had one such discussion recently, and we discovered a fun little detail about our value of Stability. I don’t think either one of us would talk about Stability as a mama-bear value, but it’s definitely in the list of ones we think about. What was interesting for us, though, was what Stability looked like for each of us.
Ugh. I recently had a horrible networking meeting. Even as someone who literally spends her life thinking about how to be influential, how to make a difference, how to have presence and gravitas, and bring people around to my side… even I have meetings that just don’t go all that well. And this one was one of them.
We were recently Experts in Residence for the Bullish Society, a community that offers aggressive lady advice for people who want to do their own thing. For our residency, we focused on knowing your values, the cornerstone of being an authentic leader from anywhere on the totem pole of authority. The discussions we had there inspired Kara and I to re-examine our own values… because that process never gets old, and always yields some new insights.
According to Sakulku, Jaruwan, 70% of people experience some form of imposter syndrome in their lives. Fear is a normal human emotion and its existence makes sense when you think about it... Large predator? Quick! Run! Food stores getting low? I could starve! I must work hard to prepare for winter. While fear is evolutionarily designed to keep us alive, it’s important to not let it prevent you from fully living. Don’t let it get in the way of doing the things you need to do in pursuing your dreams.
As a follow-up to our previous post on networking, today’s blog is about the right and wrong questions that you can ask during a networking conversation. The kinds of questions you ask can make or break how effective you are at building connections and increasing your influence. Your “winner’s circle” doesn’t create itself, and being intentional about increasing its reach will be important to getting ahead.
An individual is not influential in a vacuum. An individual is influential by having an impact on someone else, by persuading someone, or by winning someone over. If influence were an equation, there’s the influencer (what (s)he does/says/thinks) and the audience, the person or group the influencer is trying to impact, typically by changing what they do, say, or think.
When I talk about being an expert in Influence to people, I very often get back a comment along the lines of, “Oh, so you’re a professional manipulator!” or “So, can you make my husband do the dishes?” I sometimes even come across someone who is so cynical and jaded he might say something like, “Oh, so you basically make people do what they don’t want to do.”
This article is a response to those questions, and a discussion into the difference between influence, manipulation, and coercion.
In the spirit of getting more exercise, Kara and I signed up for a race that we could run while we were together during our Summer/Fall Retreat. Because I was planning a wedding up until two weeks before the race, I pretty much forgot about (ignored?) training, so there I was on race day having literally not run a single step since at least a year prior. Oh goodie.
We’ve all been there. Sometimes the job just sucks. For those of you who have always loved your jobs every single day you’ve had to work it, more power to you and count your blessings. To the rest of us, not every day is going to be awesome.
A critical factor to how indispensable you are at work, or how effective you are at your side-hustle is your level of influence. Your ability to influence people and overcome resistance in situations where you aren’t necessarily the official boss or HBIC (even though we know you’re one at heart) is a great measure of how easy (or hard) it will be for you to get things done and make the difference you want to make.
Your WHY is the reason you’re here, the difference you make that’s uniquely attributed to you. It’s your personal mission statement, your mantra, motto or raison d’etre. Everyone has one, but not everyone acknowledges it, articulates it, and/or shares it with others.
For me, confidence is the voice inside my head telling me I’m awesome or “go for it, Kara…just effing go for it.” It’s something I take for granted when it shows up, like a good friend, encouraging me to say yes to a speaking engagement or reveling in pride at a workshop done well.
Let’s be honest… knowing what you want isn’t actually that easy to figure out, and not all of us were born with super, crystal-clear inspiration or focus. And on top of that, more than half the time, what you thought you wanted isn’t actually what you wanted, or what you want changes as you grow up and learn things, and then you have to start all over again! Here is a 3-step process for creating a clear picture of what you want.
Katty Kay & Claire Shipman previously partnered together to write Womenomics. This time around, these journalists enter back into the fray with a study of confidence - what it means, what it’s made of and how we (especially women) can get more. They paint a picture and tell the stories of experts and confident women to understand the relationships between confidence, being female and success.