A Person of Influence

Identifying what makes top performers so persuasive
By Lisa Earle McLeod

You know who they are, they’re the people who can walk into a meeting and charm the socks off everyone in the room. They inevitably wind up with bigger budgets, more support for their ideas and more promotions than their less persuasive peers.

Knowledge is not enough, being the boss is not enough, if you want to succeed you have to be able to persuade and influence. Three significant changes in the workplace have made the ability to influence and persuade absolutely critical:

  1. Ambivalent Workforce – Employees still show up for work with their bodies, but many of them are leaving their brains at home. Gallup research confirms that only 29 percent of employees are actively engaged. If you want to get anything done, you have to win the hearts and minds of your employees, peers, and boss.
  2. More Complexity and Change – Companies are reorganizing at a furious pace. With cross-functional teams and blurred reporting lines, the days of command and deploy leadership are over. Getting results depends on garnering support from outside your department and being able to persuade others to buy into your ideas.
  3. ADD Culture – Facebook, Twitter, iPhone. Lots of bright shiny objects are competing for your customers’ and coworkers’ time and attention. Your topic might be important to you, and your company, but if it’s less interesting than what’s on the Facebook feed, no one is going to give it any incremental effort.

It doesn’t matter how smart and skilled you are, if you don’t know how to persuade and influence others, you won’t get results, and you will eventually become irrelevant.

Scared yet?
Don’t be.

I’ve spent over 10,000 hours studying the interactions of top performers to identify what makes them more persuasive than everyone else.

Lose your attachments
We tend to think of great persuaders as silver-tongued devils who manipulate others. But my research revealed that the most effective influencers are actually quite flexible in their interactions. They have goals and plans, but they’re not overly-attached to everything playing out in a certain way. You’ll increase your influence if people perceive that you’re open to changing circumstances and hearing their perspectives.

Ask questions about other people’s goals
When you ignore other people’s agendas, the result is resistance and lack of engagement. One of the things that differentiates top performing influencers is that they always make a point to understand where the other person is coming from. They ask about the person’s goals early in the conversation and they do it often.

Validate their goals out loud
It’s not enough to hear people, they need to know that you understood them. When you repeat their point of view out loud, they know that you “get it.” They’re then more likely to listen to what you have to say.

The guy who rambles on about his great new system isn’t nearly as persuasive as the person who connects their ideas to the goals of every person and department in the room.

Persuasive and influential people don’t focus on their own goals; they understand everyone’s goals. The fastest way to get people excited about YOU is to start being excited about THEM.

Business strategist Lisa Earle McLeod specializes in sales force and leadership development. A sought after speaker, she is author of The Triangle of Truth, a Washington Post Top 5 Business Book. Visit www.TriangleofTruth.com for more.

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