I was recently talking to a neighbor about an ordinance being considered by our city council. She didn’t like it and felt strongly that it shouldn’t pass. She went on to make the case to me, raising several valid points I had not considered before.
I reminded her that the city was holding a public hearing on the matter before the council voted and asked if she planned to attend. “No,” she immediately replied, “I don’t have any influence.”
Clearly, she misunderstood the nature of influence. Many of us do.
Most people think they can’t have influence without more reach, higher education, longer experience, better skills, or a bigger title. While all those are important and can increase your ability to influence others, none of them is essential.
So what is?
When it comes to influencing others, it really comes down to a solid foundation—something anyone can acquire. All you need are these four simple behaviors.
1. Be Present
2. Be Consistent
You won’t be able to influence others if your beliefs and your behavior are not in alignment. The most difficult person to lead—and thus influence—is yourself. You don’t have to get it perfect. We are each a work in progress, but there has to be a fundamental integrity between our words and our actions. (I’ll share more about this on Wednesday.)
3. Be Empathetic
As the old saying goes, “People don’t care what you think until they think you care.” You have to be willing to listen without judgment (at least initially). You have to see the situation from the other person’s point of view.
4. Be Counted
You have to be willing to speak up. Your words won’t mean much if you:
- don’t routinely show up
- aren’t walking your talk
- don’t listen
[These are in the order they are for a specific reason.]
Assuming you are not guilty of those things, you also have to find the courage to speak up. Sometimes it’s to lend support to an idea you believe in. Other times, like the case with my neighbor, it’s to challenge an idea you don’t believe in. Regardless, people can’t read your mind. Unless you speak up, you won’t have influence.
There’s more to influence than these four behaviors, but they are the foundation. If you’re focusing on volume and views before these, you’re in trouble. But if any leader who adopts and develops these four behaviors will see results.