Not long after the April issue of One+ that featured nine influential meeting professionals shaping the industry arrived in mailboxes, TIME magazine released its annual “100 Most Influential People in the World” list. Surely, we influenced TIME, right?
All kidding aside, the topic of influence is a hot one. It’s no stretch to imagine that individuals want to feel important. And often, you may not feel influential, but rather that you’re the one being influenced. While that’s a valid feeling, it might not be true, unless you’re a hermit holed up in a cave away from human contact. Just being alive influences nature…but I digress.
Let’s focus, then, on how you can feel more influential.
Author Jeff Goins suggests a simple way to influence people.
“Anyone can be a leader—sounds easy, right?” he said. “Well, it’s not. Because most people aren’t willing to do the one thing to grow their influence. So what do the world’s best leaders know that the rest of us don’t? And how do you become an influencer without feeling like a sleazy salesman?”
According to Goins, the answer is simple: Just ask them.
“There are leaders out there, waiting for you to connect with those who are bold enough to ask,” Goins said. “We humans have a bad habit of talking ourselves out of greatness. We doubt ourselves, thinking we don’t have what it takes. We give in to fear and sabotage ourselves before we even begin. We are our own worst enemy.”
Goins’ best recommendation is that you don’t think of influence as getting someone to do something for you. Instead, help people.
“I slay the dragon of insecurity and make bold, but humble, asks,” he said. “I invite someone to breakfast or coffee. I ask for a few minutes to chat on the phone. I listen, smile and thank them.”
Helping people falls into the “liking” category of Robert Cialdini’s “Six Principles of Influence” research. Through several studies, Cialdini showed that there are six ways people can influence others:
- Reciprocity—return favors, treat others as they treat you
- Commitment and Consistency—we desire to be consistent
- Social Proof—we are influenced by those similar to ourselves
- Liking—we are influenced by people we like and respect
- Authority—we are influenced by those in positions of power
- Scarcity—we are influenced by limited availability
There are other ways you can become influential, depending on how many people you choose to work with.
“You could work with one other person, maximizing your influence and effectiveness for that one person,” said author and meeting professional Adrian Segar. “In one-to-one work, you can adjust the amount of detail and depth, level of sophistication, optimum environment and speed at which you interact to create the best possible circumstances for appropriate learning and problem solving.”
Segar suggests you could also work with a group of people.
“A small group can be a marvelous place for people to learn, with your contribution immediately available to all and easy access to clarification and further learning through feedback, questions and sparked conversations,” he said. “Perhaps your words of wisdom are more relevant to some in the group than others, but what you say is reaching a wider audience.”
These two scenarios raise a good question: Do you want a deep influence or a wide influence?
“Getting the balance right between depth and breadth is a personal choice—there is no one right answer,” Segar said. “Your optimum balance between depth and breadth may change over time. So evaluate it regularly as part of your regular work life review.”
Influence, then, is not so much a skill as it is a mindset. Becoming more mindful of your thoughts, actions and outcomes will lead you to a greater understanding of yourself, which is the greatest influence you can offer the world.