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Back to the Future recently celebrated its 30th anniversary. One of the reasons this film has stuck with us is our attraction to the concept of Time Travel, to the dream of control over our journey.
Unfortunately, we don’t each have Christopher Lloyd’s Doc Brown at hand to transport us to another time or place. What we do have is the power of flexibility.
Real influence begins with acceptance of the fact that the only thing we truly have control over is our reaction to the events in our lives—including a lack of time and resources.
To help with this fact of life, Working Voices has developed courses that focus on maximizing what Stephen Covey called your “Circles of Influence”, the areas upon which you have options and the flexibility to make moves.
We start first with the Challenges. In other words, we want to look at all of your concerns or obstacles to your desired outcomes. These are the areas in which you may have little influence. You can save a lot of time and resources by focusing on Wins instead of Worries.
Grab a pen and paper or open your smartphone.
Now, think of a difficult event on the horizon, perhaps a tricky conversation or mandatory attendance at a company event.
List out all of your worries, or “Circles of Concern”, as Stephen Covey puts it.
Then, ask yourself the question, “Do I have any options or the ability to influence these concerns?” If so, put those answers into your Circle of Influence. You instantly have a more flexible path forward.
It doesn’t mean that your concerns suddenly disappear because of this focus. You’ll still feel the same pangs. However, instead of wasting time spinning around your problems, you’ll be invested in seeking a way through and out of them.
When Marty McFly and Doc Brown’s plans went wrong, they couldn’t simply retreat back to the future and hope that things would work out. They had to devise plans to turn a bad situation into a better one. Focus on your points of influence, instead of your problems, and you’ll be travelling forward in a more positive way.
One of the most influential competencies we can possess is Empathic Listening.
Empathically listening to another person, and attempting to link another’s experience with one of our own, creates a deeper connection between the listener and the speaker.
Understanding your audience’s perspective and how they process information can help you frame your point of view in a way that might be more reflective of their needs or experience, and therefore more influential.
Think about it: when people talk with you in a way that speaks to a truth in your world, you’re more apt to listen, right?
For example: if your audience is logic and data driven, share research and positive data that prove your assertions. To these types of audience, messages that can be substantiated are more influential than promises or persuasive language.
History is chock-full of vulnerable people who used their skills to achieve authoritative power.
The great civil rights activist Maya Angelou comes to mind.
Miss Angelou says, “Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage.”
Focusing on whether or not you currently have authority is a waste of your valuable time. Instead, focus on where you can help, or add value to situations. Speak the truth. Treat others fairly. These actions will create opportunities for you to influence others.
Ways to enhance your influential abilities include:
- Focusing on building deeper relationships based on trust.
- Building a successful personal brand based on your strengths and then consistently living that brand. This is an authentic way of influencing others.
- Practicing empathy. If possible, try to observe a situation from multiple angles – including perspectives that may differ from your own. An understanding of the entire playing field displays perspective and awareness of options. These traits are elements of successful leadership.
- Finally, when you’re stress-testing multiple perspectives, don’t forget to question the basic premise or the sense of authority that’s driving the entire project. We do have to commit to a vision, and the twists and turns along the way, but during the development phase we have to question authority and test our reality. Naturally, when we ask these questions, we do it with respect and emotional intelligence, with an eye towards good timing.