Successful entrepreneurs, like Tony Hsieh of Zappos and Casey Sheahan of Patagonia, have long since realized that influence is no longer something that you do to someone to get what you want, but requires listening and relationship building to do what they want, with a win-win outcome. We now live in a world where even subtle persuasion efforts are suspect.
If your business and your style is still focused on the “old-school” hard-selling push-marketing approach, it’s time to take a close look at how well it’s serving you these days. The new culture driven by social media is all about forging real connections and building relationships.
How this relates to influencing other members of your team, business partners, and customers is clearly illustrated in a book “Real Influence: Persuade Without Pushing and Gain Without Giving In,” by business psychiatrist Mark Goulston and executive coach John Ullmen. They start by describing a four-step model for connecting and influencing people in this new culture:
Inspire people to great outcomes that they desire. Focus on the three ‘R’s of a great outcome: Results, Reputation, and Relationships. Real influencers go for something grand, build a reputation worthy of long-term commitment, and invest in relationships to get buy-in to desired outcomes.
Master listening to learn where other people live. To discover where they are coming from, you need to get to the fourth level of listening - not listening while ignoring, not defensive listening, not even problem-solving listening, but connective listening into other people’s world. It’s listening from “their there,” instead of “your here.”
Engage and connect with people in their space. True engagement and connection requires that you get “it” (the other person’s issue reality), you get “them” (at a personal level), and you get their path to progress (show a positive path to progress). They then sense that you are working with them, instead of manipulating around them.
Go beyond expectations to make yourself unforgettable. This means adding value before, during, and after an interaction. Find ways to add value in expanding their thinking, making them feel better, and helping them take effective action. You must do more (but not everything), and ask other people to do more.
After you have mastered these steps, there is still room to take real influence to the next level, and become a “power influencer.”
- Let adversity lead you to great outcomes. Don’t get stuck in the “I can’t” world, and don’t forget the positive lessons from every negative experience. Do acknowledge your feelings, because when you do, you can address them effectively. Do have the courage to let new great outcomes find you.
- Influence by getting out of the way. Every great outcome becomes a part of you, and it’s hard to let go (like handing over your CEO role). If you are strong enough to get out of the way, so others can take over, your great outcome can last forever, or become someone else’s even greater outcome. It also opens your door to more great outcomes.
- Influence positively after you’ve made big mistakes. To repair the damage from the mistakes we all make, we need to learn how to make them right after we’ve made them wrong. Be brave enough and humble enough to make amends to the people hurt. Let others help you dissect the mistake, and they will respect you and learn from your efforts.
- Let gratitude magnify your influence. When you perform an act of gratitude, whether you are thanking a person directly or talking about someone else who has helped you, the person who is listening to you feels a strong sense of gratitude as well. That immediately creates a stronger bond between the two of you.
Being an entrepreneur has always been all about influencing others, but the rules of persuasion have changed. What worked in the days of Dale Carnegie doesn’t always work in today’s more sophisticated and less trusting world. If you want to influence me to the contrary, I’m ready to listen. Are you ready to listen also?