InfluenceWould you like to have greater influence with the people you work with? I will make a confession. I have always had this secret fantasy. In my fantasy, I have a magic wand. When I wave the wand, people always agree with what I say, and do exactly what I tell them to do. Alas, I am still waiting for this fantasy to come true. As an executive coach, I often work with clients to help them expand their influence with people across functions and geographies, people who often don’t report to them.  In my corporate life as a global Chief Marketing Officer (CMO), I would wish for that magic wand where our country organizations would line up and say yes to our marketing programs.  Here’s one simple rule I discovered through personal failure.

Rule #1 of Influence

Our influence expands in direct proportion to trust and connection. 

Here’s the failure that taught me about this rule. In my CMO role my team was working on a high stakes product launch. We were behind the competition and we needed to align to one global package design with this launch to enable speed in execution.  Each of our regions had very different go-to-market strategies for the brand. Under market pressure, each wanted to optimize the global package to their specific market needs. I will not bore with the gory details. The end result was that we spent two times the money, and took twice as long to develop this than should have been necessary. What did I learn from this failure?

I learned that influence comes from connection and trust. I had been seeing our region leaders with a very limited filter, either as enablers or barriers to getting what I wanted done, rather than establishing an authentic connection with them.  The lack of strong personal trust prevented honest and difficult conversations where each party listened and actually cared about the other’s dilemma. Unfortunately, this lack of trust and connection underlies many business failures.

If we see others we work with simply as a means to accomplishing our goals, we limit our influence with them. 

Five Ways to Establish Trust & Connection

1)      Share our stories – Sharing our personal story and listening to others’ story has a way of connecting us. I’m not just talking about the resume. I am talking about the person behind the resume.  What do they care about? How do they want to be seen by others? All influence is personal.  Here’s a way to develop and share your story.

2)      Ask good questions and listen deeply – What are their core priorities? What do they care about? Understand how do they want to be seen, what helps them build their self-esteem, what helps them feel valued. I work with my executive coaching clients to develop and share their sense of leadership purpose as a way to connect with others.

3)      Identify what’s common – Regardless of race, gender, age, perspective, or other differences, we can always find what’s common in terms of goals, values and passions if we seek it out. Identifying what’s common is a deep basis for connection and trust. Empathy, or being able to understand and hold the other person’s point of view, even though it may be different from ours, happens when we can find what we have in common with the other person.

4)      Identify what’s good – When we are on two different sides of an issue, it’s hard to focus on what’s good about the other person or the issue they stand for.  Especially under stress and pressure most of us feel threatened when the issue we stand for is “under attack”.  So take a step back and identify what’s good about the other person. Identify strengths you see in them. Identify what you can learn from them. Judging others leaves little room for genuine trust and collaboration.

5)      Discover areas of collaboration – Start with finding one area that’s important to the other person and offer to help.  It is the basis for starting and growing the trust in the relationship.

What I have found surprising is that the above steps don’t require a lot of time. What they do require is for us to practice the right intent and to be present in our leadership.  We each do have the magic wand of influence. It lies in influencing our own mindset and behaviors. 

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Henna-Inam-Professional-Photo-ColorThis article was written by Henna Inam, executive coach, speaker, and author of the book Wired for Authenticity. She works with women to help them realize their potential to be authentic, transformational leaders. They create organizations that drive breakthroughs in innovation, growth, and engagement. Her corporate clients include Coca Cola, Novartis, J&J, and others who know female leadership talent is good for business. Join the thousands who follow her blog here. Connect on Twitter @hennainam.