Active Influence: Essential for Leaders
What’s in The Middle?
Much has been written “tactically” on how to influence others. Yet little has been explained on how to actively influence outcomes. How can you become more proactive and even predictive in reaching your most preferred future? It’s not by relentlessly executing tactic, after tactic, after tactic. Go to Amazon and you’ll find hundreds of books that offer tactics to “make” you a better influencer, but you won’t find many that provide real fundamental baseline concepts to change your behaviors.
Here’s one of those concepts: what you focus on matters. Being clear about “what’s in the middle” of your intent and efforts — and keeping it there, is what creates opportunity to change. NO archer aims their arrow at the outer rim of the target. They aim for the bullseye. The big difference is you decide what’s in the “bullseye”. This can sound easy enough, but it is not easily practiced.
Moving to the Right
At the Heartwood Group, one of the fundamental behaviors we teach our clients is to always “move to the right.” In other words, move away from passive and strive for predictive.
Here are a few things to consider as you learn to integrate this behavior.
- The first step is to become more aware of (the identification), and then eliminate, passive or reactive responses (finding the will). 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.
- Keep process improvement at the forefront of your role. The root cause of many issues is process-related.
- To influence results you need to break out of “fixing things” mode and stop running from one problem to another (putting-out-fires mode).
- Strategic leadership is about connecting the dots and making sure you are solving the right problem at the right time.
Engaged – or Involved?
Being engaged is different than being involved. Engagement is about understanding your current role and future role needed to actively influence; being aware, fully present, and connected to the system and its parts. Process is so important to understand and engage with because this is often the source of breakdowns — or success.
- Each process should have clear goals — and many times they do, but quite often you will find that they are inefficient, outdated, or no longer needed.
- In almost every case these processes will have had job tasks and careers connected to them and they become “self-preserved” on that basis rather than evaluated for current effectiveness.
There is nothing holy about a “sacred cow” process that no longer serves you. Changing someone’s embedded routines is hard work, so we just become passive and let it go. Your challenge in becoming engaged might be “interrupting” passive, ineffective processes and figuring out how to move them to the right.
Once you have an understanding for the system parts and processes you can choose how and where you need to become involved as a manager or leader. Sometimes that involvement is full-on in, blazing the trail for others to follow; sometimes it’s more as a facilitator or even mentor to the process. Understand that you could become the limiting factor if you don’t choose wisely. Maximum appropriate involvement is core not just to being a good facilitator, it is core to your personal investment in actively influencing the future. That active decision you make now will set up the results you need later. Understand that:
- Strategic leadership is the result of becoming skillful in effective involvement.
- Influencing the future always happens in the present moment.
- What we do now actively influences our future AND matters later more than we can sometimes grasp right now…here in the moment.
The reality of influencing others requires that we understand ourselves and the influence we have on our own actions, thoughts and power. Self-awareness is not a given; it takes intention and effort to truly “know thyself” as well as how other others perceive you. You won’t be successful at actively influencing others in a positive way if you don’t possess this knowledge. Can you accept the following as essential truths?
- How you show up as a leader matters. It is how you are being with people and challenges that wins the day.
- Presence and professionalism are imperative to effective leadership.
- You can be better at influencing if you are conscious of how your approach to change impacts other people.
If you’re willing and ready to develop a deeper understanding of yourself and improve your ability to actively influence, take some time to consider these questions:
- Where are you consistently passive in your life as a leader?
- What has you stuck and passively participating? How does it show up?
- Is there something that really needs your attention, but seems overwhelming?
- What are the three common thoughts/self-talk/things that take you off your plan and out of your game?
- Is there something that consistently causes you to lose momentum or focus?
- Are there patterns of behavior you see clearly? What are they?
- Where do you feel you have some good momentum and great success?
- What has you feeling the most prepared?
- What are the practices that will keep you “ahead of the game”?
- Are there areas in which you just know how the future will arrive?
- What has captured your total commitment and energy so strongly it won’t let go of you?
- How will you engage others to be strategic leaders who actively influence those around them?