Going Deeper into Active influence

KEY POINTS:

  • Influencing Tomorrow
  • Influencing for Results
  • Knowing the Right Influence Method
  • Group Influencing

Influencing to the Second Power is about you, your employees, and the entire organization. The Second Power includes direct reports and any “others” within your sphere of organizational influence. This post is about growing your power to influence a valuable and very strategic asset. The greatest competitive advantage for organizations and its leaders, given equal access to technology and economic capital, is its human capital. Are you building equity with it and within it?

The key to growing your power is staying engaged and involved.

With product parity becoming more common and e-commerce more accessible to virtually anyone as a technology, your people’s ability to create brand experiences is paramount to sustained success and influence in the market place. It is the most valuable asset you have to influence the future. I’ll repeat: human capital is the most valuable asset you have to influence the future.

In my last post, I introduced the first pillar of Active Influence™, “Influencing to the First Power – Yourself.” As with any personal growth, the buck starts and stops with us. It’s a powerful thing when you take ownership of developing yourself. It doesn’t require you take out a loan unless it involves investment in training or education. Owning your development means you truly commit to do the work required to grow as a leader and manager. Once you have gained the awareness and increased ability to own your own influence, you use your First Power energy and work to turn your attention to others.

Active Influence provides the foundation and methods to drive and foster development in yourself, others and everyone involved. It can be no other way. It supports the culture of a business and influences outcomes by actively impacting performance. It requires the ability on your part to ascertain the right type of engagement, action and tools needed to actively influence a person, team, or business challenge in any given situation. Competition and rapid change demands that you stay actively engaged and involved, which is the antithesis of being passive or reactive.

Staying engaged and involved is the key to growing your power. You cannot achieve growth and success and develop as a leader in a bubble. We grow in relationship to others and this is not a passive activity. There are many people around you that you need to engage, influence and lead. You may be thinking, “How can that be? Me?” The resounding answer is YES! You have more people depending on you than you may realize, you just don’t consciously process your efforts and actions with that reality. This is where your Second Power work begins. The journey to creating strategic leadership expands beyond just you, it’s for everyone you influence.

Influencing Tomorrow

The process, relationship, and perspective needed to lead change

Perspective is everything. If it isn’t everything, it is an amazing majority of what influences your tomorrow. The opposite of Active Influence is letting things just happen by default. You aren’t involved or engaged. Once you decide to be more involved in influencing the future, you cannot look past your “today.” You need process(es) in your life to keep grounded and present. Most of our shortcomings are borne out of a simple lack of awareness. Awareness brings choice and decisions.

Every day is a unique opportunity to be focused within your desired outcomes. I chose the word “within” versus “on” because to me it brings a perspective of being involved and among the outcomes I’m seeking to achieve. When I am actively engaged I’m right in the middle of things…including the outcomes I want to achieve. When I focus “on” something I am still an observer and not a participant. It’s about how we relate to or are in relationship to our goals and desired outcomes. Everyone has different ways to focus “within” – I’ll discuss a single example here.

I use my Outlook calendar as a powerful process tool in my toolkit. If your Outlook (Google Calendar, etc.) is just a calendar to you, it will never become the process it could be for your investment of time. Let’s say you set some goals to be more physically active. It’s a simple example many of us talk with ourselves about often. If you got within that conversation (in relationship with it)  you would become more active beyond just focusing on it. It changes your conversation; the questions you ask yourself shift to actions. How do I move this forward? Could you enter specific times to be physically active into your calendar and then treat them as if they were appointments with your employer or top client?

Another process that feeds into your calendar is goal setting. Goals are important because they naturally orient you towards something you need or want to achieve. If you don’t spend enough time thinking about the VALUE it will create for you when accomplished, you likely just let it slide. That’s about the time I don’t put it into my calendar. So, at this point I turn off my brain and just set up an appointment with my new practice. Don’t let your thinker get in the way, just set yourself up for some quick wins, then build off that success. Put it into calendar like a dentist or doctor appointment and then just show up.

All my clients (consulting and coaching) experience getting bogged down into reactive mode. Their calendars have become a task master (or collector) and not a reflection of their life lived well. It is far from a reflection of conscious time commitments. Their administrative lead might be just putting things into the calendar without their guidance. Too often, I connect with people who are no longer running their calendar. It’s running them, and their PERSPECTIVE is… “Why bother? I start out with good intentions and then “it” just changes and all my plans turn to crap.” I tell them there is always some “it” out there. Everyone has an “it”. Why do you or I let our “it” have more say then us? I know my answer — it’s easier. If you were expecting a more complex reason there isn’t one. We need to change how we relate to this simple aspect of our lives.

You can either let IT run you or you run IT. You can in some courageous and some small ways start to take back your say in the matter. In other words, never give up or give in. There is always something you and I can influence. Try to live on your terms as much as you can. I have confidence there is more for us to influence than we allow ourselves to be accountable to admit. If we did truly make that admission we would have to take responsibility for our success and our failure. Even as serendipitous as life can be serendipity doesn’t deliver success consistently or when I need it. If I fail I don’t want it to be because I didn’t do my best to succeed, I will make my own luck as much as I can.

Let’s take a quick moment to explore your perspectives. This is what stops us or propels us forward. It’s important. If you are honest you will find out that you don’t have clarity of perspective around some very important areas. Keep in mind that employees and teams can achieve greater success with your Active Influence. Fill in the blank below with any of the examples given or drop in whatever makes the greatest sense for you. (Examples: Work, Leading, Teamwork, Being Organized, Planning, Customers.)

  • What is your perspective about (     – fill in the blank here –     )?
  • How could you take time to set goals for what you want to accomplish each day and then make sure your calendar reflects and supports that effort?
  • When you achieve a breakthrough or accomplish something in this area, what value will it create for you personally? For your team or organization?
  • What would it look and feel like if you started right now to do that?

Your perspective matters….and you can make it matter. Tomorrow can be different if you invest in what you need to do today. A new study just came out that said you attitude about going to work on Monday had more to do with your success, focus, and accomplishments for the entire week. If you stress you get less.

Influencing Results

Building accountability into your conversations

The nature of leadership is conversational. Simple enough, what and how we talk about things matters and impacts the results we achieve through our influence of others. I have observed too many leaders working with their teams that are unaware of how they let the team/individuals “off the hook” consistently. This happens with parents and their children. You may often shy away from producing consequences and don’t like to create confrontation. These two things are exactly what highly influential leaders should be doing — with one important context or perspective…it is always for the betterment of the individual and the team. And it is done without creating fear, threat, or embarrassment. If any of these happen during your interactions you’ve broken the rules. Otherwise, it’s a big playing field.

Your ability to impact results depends on the power and effectiveness of your conversations. This is not about eloquent speech. It’s about effective conversations that are clear, straight, and relevant. We don’t have time within this blog to deepen the conversation on creating accountability. It’s an ongoing practice for leaders every day. “Active Influence Leaders” have “Powerful Conversations.” It is a learned behavior, and a Powerful Conversation is both an art and a technology — a discipline with many practical applications. Practical because it saves a lot of time, energy and money.

Active Influence involves at its root strategic leadership — and thinking strategically. I see tremendous success in my clients when they learn to involve others in thinking strategically. As leaders they have been frustrated in their ability to create accountability. Then they experience how strategic conversations generate alignment, increased clarity and shared agreement. Accountability becomes a natural outcome rather some than a mysterious, evasive “company culture” characteristic. Change your conversation, change your outcomes. To influence results, I need to break out of the “fixing things” mode and running from one problem to another. Everything is a problem and it needs fixing.

Solving and solutions are different than fixing something over and over. Strategic leadership is about connecting the dots and making sure you are solving the right problem. For example, you may be the owner/manager that gets called in to always “smooth over” customer relationships. These poor experiences being generated by your business processes, strategies and/or employees have been going on for months (sometimes longer). Next time before you step in to fix it, get your team together and take them through these questions…TOGETHER. You should do less talking…just keep asking these strategic questions:

What’s really going on?

What does it mean?

What might WE do about it?

You and I have often fallen into the trap of believing that “fixing things” is proactive. In reality it’s often as reactive as can be and might even be the passive approach to nagging chronic problems. Rather than reacting, you need to hit “pause” and engage others to dive into defining the real issue by using the questions above. I can promise if you stick to this approach you will drive accountability and you will lead employees into a different space for thinking together. They will also see you differently and over time your organization will grow a culture that encourages people to think for themselves and, more importantly, think together. The great majority of employees are wanting to be a part of the solution and be included in that process.

Defining core deliverables is essential to active influence. Deliverables are the “must haves.” Without them it’s hard (or impossible) to focus your influence effectively. Once you clearly understand what you must accomplish then you can provide focus on implementation. The next phase for you in the process involves the two key focus items below.

Establish clear milestones/check points and an ending point.

Agreement on measurement process for goal progress.

Keep to the right side of the Active Influence continuum as much as you can! In the initial opening post on Active Influence I introduced this simple continuum of moving from Passive to Predictive. Getting engaged and involved with the process of improvement is key. One caution is to not let your involvement overshadow the participation of others. Leaving room for others to join in the work, EVEN when you could do it faster, is very important. Helping (or letting) others think through solutions to problems you already know how to solve is important. Don’t shortcut them on thinking with you. EVEN when you already know what to do, go through the process with them and fill in the gaps as needed. Teach don’t preach!

Accountability will pick up steam because you have engaged your employees and organization in this fashion. It really takes on more momentum when check points and measurement become a normal way of being. Your job now is to keep things moving to the right, not being the answer person, fixer, or solution provider. You are becoming quite predictive! Here are only a few bullets to possibly consider in your journey towards proactive and predictive.

  • Eliminate passive or reactive responses; you will find more than you like to admit.
  • Build strategic leadership skills that will keep you forward-focused.
  • Accept that success depends not only on you, but your ability to actively influence those around you.
  • Most things are process related. Keep process improvement at the forefront of your role (processes include everything from communication, planning, critical protocols to simplest production tasks).

Knowing the Right Influence Method

We’ll explore these methods in future posts

I’ve spent a great portion of my life and career as a coach and manager. My business card has had coach, manager, specialist, or consultant on it over the years. I am a shameless advocate for coaching and have experienced personally the power it creates in my life and the life of clients. However, I’ve come to my own conclusions that coaching is only one piece of influencing employees and an organization. In succeeding posts, we will be discussing and defining five methods that Strategic Leaders use to influence the future. I believe these five methods are pretty inclusive of the different ways of being an Active Influencer. Defining each will help us understand when and how to apply them over time, in the moment, and broaden our power or capacity to influence. All of these require an effective relationship as a foundation.

  • Coaching
    • Supporting possibilities and new ways to think about solutions.
    • Asking discovery questions relevant to specific tasks & goals to create awareness.
    • Advocate for greatness and less focus on advice and counsel.
  • Managing
    • Using your expertise to maximize the current system.
    • Supervising and telling how something needs to be done.
    • Consulting and advising with emphasis on your point of view or experience.
  •  Facilitating
    • Focused on the process and systems and less on content.
    • Provide an environment for outcomes and proper focus needed to reach desired outcomes.
    • Seeking maximum and appropriate involvement for all decisions
  • Mentoring
    • Similar to coaching but built more on personal trust and generally longer time horizons.
    • Giving broad advice and suggestions as a role model for job positions, career and life
    • Source of wisdom for active influence
  • Leading
    • Being in action and being responsible for the outcome.
    • Taking initiative to create urgency and importance even when others may not see or sense the need.
    • Bringing focus and direction in times of doubt and uncertainty

Group Influencing

Building a community of empowered employees

In the process of becoming Strategic Leaders, you and I cannot get focused so entirely on the individuals or specific teams that we lose sight of the broader groups and segments of our organization. Conversely, quite often you may find it easier to just think in terms of “the group” or team and not focus enough on the individuals that make up those organizations or groups. It is a dance, but you must realize that Group Influencing requires knowing which individuals influence the entire group. Who does the group take their lead from on important perspectives?

If I ignore that groups are made up of unique individuals it allows me to lessen my workload. It’s hard work to build a community of empowered and supportive employees. It takes a commitment to be involved and engaged at a more intimate level and to respond with authenticity, and at times, vulnerability. Group influencing is about strategically involving the broader organization in a dialogue. Dialogue is a combination of speaking and listening. Embedding your perspective and your collective values into the broader groups within an organization requires strong individual relationships with key strategic leaders. Staying involved and engaged with these leaders takes effort, commitment, and focus that is informed by what you want/need to actively influence.

It’s hard work to build a community of empowered and supportive employees.

Building a community requires you to take responsibility for the quality of relationships within the entire organization. That’s because Influencing to the Second Power goes far beyond just you. It also includes all of your employees and the entire organization. But it always starts with you and it ends with you — because you are the leader. I will continue to emphasize this as I explore the value that Active Influence brings to the creation of strategic leadership.

Next Blog: Influencing to the Third Power – Those Outside of Your Control – Impacting Those That Influence Your Outcomes