Have you ever wondered what makes someone influential?
Why did people follow Gandhi? Or Martin Luther King Jr.?
What makes leaders, entrepreneurs, politicians or salespeople influential?
These are the questions I have asked myself for years. In my career I have had a chance to work with and share the stage with some of the greatest influencers in the world and I’ve studied them. I’ve watched their way of being, their interactions, the way they treat people and I’ve tried to understand this elusive quality we call influence.
The great thing that I’ve discovered about influence is that it comes down to just three things. More importantly though, these are things that we control.
So if you want to be more influential, then work on improving the three C’s.
1st C – Character
Billionaire John Huntsman once said, “There are no moral shortcuts in the game of business – or life. There are, basically, three kinds of people: the unsuccessful, the temporarily successful, and those who become and remain successful. The difference is character.”
Influence is based on trust and people first need to have confidence in your character to trust you. Character is who you are. The word originally meant something that was engraved – on wood, on medal, or on one’s soul. During the time of Shakespeare the word began to be used for a part that an actor played. Characters acted out roles, wearing masks to hide their true identity.
The unfortunate truth is that many people treat their character today like they did in Shakespeare’s time. They try to compartmentalize their life, being one person in public, while they are someone totally different in private. Or they try to put on a show. The truth is, your true character always shows itself.
Your character is who you are in totality. Are you trustworthy? Are you a good person? Do you care about others?
When I think of the people who have had the most influence on me, their influence isn’t based in what they have; it comes from who they are.
We follow people because of their character.
To build your character, focus on your integrity. Be a person that people can trust and count on. Make a commitment today to follow through. Do what you said you would do, when you said you would do it, the way you said you would do it. When you follow through, people will gain confidence in who you are.
2nd C – Competence
Once people buy into who you are (character) they need to know that you have something to offer. Whether that is knowledge or skill (or both) – competence is essential for you to be influential.
Why would someone follow an incompetent person? Well it’s obvious, they wouldn’t.
In the book, Influencer the authors point out need for both character and competence. “People, including children, pay attention to individuals who possess two important qualities. First, these people are viewed as knowledgeable about the issue at hand. They tend to stay connected to their area of expertise, often through a variety of sources. Second, opinion leaders are viewed as trustworthy. They don’t merely know a great deal about a certain area, but they also have other people’s best interest in mind. This means that they aren’t seen as using their knowledge to manipulate or harm, but rather to help. If others believe that you’re missing either of these two qualities, you won’t be very influential.”
Competence is a requisite to influence, and those who are influential understand that the more they more competent they become, the more influence they carry.
It is not sufficient just to be competent enough to get by. You need to be viewed as an opinion leader or an expert. To do that, I started early in my career taking at least 30 minutes everyday to study my profession. I wanted to know more than other people knew and be able to share that knowledge when needed. I didn’t always need to share what I knew but it added confidence because I would always be ready.
3rd C – Communication
As an influencer, you have a message. Being able to communicate that message in a concise, engaging, compelling fashion is influence in action.
In communication there are so many areas to focus. Do you turn your presentations into conversations by engaging the audience? Is your message understandable? Is it memorable? Are you engaging emotion that causes people to take action? How is your eye contact? Tone of voice? Body language?
Those are all important but I think we often miss the point of communication.
John Maxwell wrote a great book titled, “Everyone Communicates, But Very Few Connect.” I love that title because it is true. And I think that when it comes to communication most people focus on perfection, but the true focus should be on connection. It is human connection that makes a difference in our message.
The fact is that we are all in the people business, and as our ability to communicate and connect improves, we will excel in the people business.
Anthony Robbins was right when he said, “The way we communicate with others and with ourselves ultimately determines the quality of our lives.”
The best way that I have found to better my communication to record myself and play it back. When you record yourself and listen to what you say – it is extremely eye opening. You will know if you use filler words, if you sound confident, if you are clear and concise and if you are engaging. Would you buy from you? Would you take action on your message? Great communicators are born that way; they are constantly working on it. Make it a habit to record your self and play it back.