You may not be as influential as you think you are.
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This may come across as a bold statement. After all, I don't know you.
But what if I'm right? Have you or your team ever considered how you and your message come across? Have you wondered about how people perceive the experiences they have with you? Have you ever thought about how your communication may be sabotaging your influence?
Most leaders with whom I have worked haven't given thought to these questions, much less taken steps to increase their awareness of how their listeners actually hear and see them.
I often hear misconceptions like, "I communicate all the time. I'm comfortable, therefore I'm a good communicator," and, "When I know my topic, it's easy."
Be careful with these two. "Comfortable" and "easy" do not equal "influence." It is a natural human tendency to base your opinion of yourself on how you feel when you communicate rather than on the facts of how you actually look and sound. The thinking is, "I feel good, therefore I am good." More often than not, what you feel inside doesn't translate to what listeners are seeing and hearing.
Another excuse I hear commonly: "Our titles determine the level of influence we have."
Influence is not a badge of honor. It's a choice that takes discipline and a lot of hard work every day.
One of the reasons that leaders believe they're more influential than they really are is because our definition of "influence" is flawed.
You may be familiar with this definition: Influence is the ability to motivate people to take action. This is true, but it's not the complete picture. This definition misses key components of influence.
Influence is more than turning it on when you think you need it the most. Instead, it's these five crucial things:
Influence is Monday to Monday. Your body language and message are consistent during all interactions, no matter whom you're talking to or what your message's medium is. If you have ever set a New Year's resolution, you know you have to be all in, Monday to Monday. You can't eat healthy Monday to Wednesday and slip the rest of the week. Influence requires the same level of discipline Monday to Monday.
Influence means you have the ability to move people to take action long after the interaction occurs.
Influence is built on verbal and nonverbal communication.
Influence is measured not by how you feel but by the results you consistently achieve.
Influence is a critical skill that can be developed by anyone through feedback, practice, and accountability.
Achieving a level of influence consistent with these characteristics is difficult because we live in a new world of work. It is noisy 24/7. Think about how many messages you have already received today. We hear noise from our own dialogues and from the multitude of messages we receive 24 hours a day, every day.
The critical first step to taking a closer look at your level of influence requires you to be open-minded, vulnerable, and committed. Influential communicators acknowledge that they don't know everything, and they are open to self-discovery.
To enhance your influence, you need to evaluate your communication based on facts, not feelings. You need to get to the heart of what is really going on by experiencing your communication through the eyes and ears of your team and colleagues.
Applying this practical and immediate advice will help you gain a greater understanding of how you communicate and enable you to continuously grow you and your team's influence.
Stacey Hanke is the founder and communication expert of Stacey Hanke Inc. She is the author of Influence Redefined: Be the Leader You Were Meant to Be, Monday to Monday and Yes You Can!: Everything You Need From A to Z to Influence Others to Take Action.