Ask any effective leader about soft skills and she’ll say that developing them is anything but soft. Rather, learning how to recognize and interpret emotions in oneself and others is a hard skill to develop, but critical to leadership effectiveness nonetheless.
Don’t think soft skills are important? Think again. When you pitch your brand-new idea to investors they’re investing in you, not just your product or strategy. People buy from others they like, know and trust. The more persuasive you are in communicating you’re “why” the better you’ll be received.
However, the message sent isn’t always the message received. People interpret meaning differently based on upbringing, culture, personal beliefs and values, which means influence plays an even greater strategic role in building the empire of your dreams.
The good news is, anybody can increase personal influence. The bad news is, nothing good comes easily. It takes work, dedication, and consistency to play an influential role in others’ decision-making, but you can do so by adhering to the following guidelines:
I was a Spanish major, so I’m not exactly a numbers guy. However, in my bachelor of the art world, it’s apparent that the more people you know, the more potential resources you can leverage. However, there’s an art and a science to building relationships. The “art” part is the charm, conversation, and charisma you bring to the table. The “science,” without going into neurobiology, is having a strategic plan to do so. This means clearly defining what networking is and what it isn’t.
For starters, networking is not about what others can do for you. If pitching yourself to as many people as possible is your approach, good luck. What networking does entail is serving others’ interests to build a mutually supportive relationship.
Here are a couple other do’s and don’ts when it comes to building your network: Do branch outside your comfort zone and visit new places, talk to people you wouldn’t normally talk to. Don’t tuck your head into your cubicle (if at work) or fall prey to a routine that hinders opportunity.
Let’s not confuse pitching with self-promotion. Clearly, there has to be an answer when somebody asks, “So, what do you do?” and ideally your response is as smooth as a baby’s backside. What you do, why you do it, the clients you serve and the benefits they glean from working with you should all flow out naturally and matter-of-factly. Remember, the most direct route to burning a potential relationship is to over self-promote yourself.
Ninjas are subject matter experts, used only in the direst Hollywood situations where Chuck Norris himself won’t do (is that possible?). When you think of your own skills and capacities, what are one or two that distinguish you? Take inventory of the most in-demand requests you hear, both inside and outside of your business, and adopt a learning plan to take your skill set from white belt to black belt. This way, there’s no question who people call when they need those resources.
What others have done to become influential can reveal important insights into what works, what doesn’t and what you can adopt for yourself. Some people leverage their charisma while others use their position, knowledge or conversation intelligence to leave a stamp on others’ first (and subsequent) impressions.
Choose one role model, study him or her, then apply what you’ve learned to yourself. Remember, knowledge without application is futile.
It may sound cheesy but the old adage of “you never get a second chance to make a first impression” holds true. How you show up is everything. Your physical presence and mental preparation go hand-in-hand since you can’t be anywhere without being “there” mentally. Focus on how you present yourself and pay attention to how you’re received.
Influence is a powerful tool in becoming the leader or organization you want to be. Start with these five strategies and see how your influence builds.