Recently, I’ve reflected on what most activates my ability to use my influence to bring about the results and solutions I seek. And while everything I teach and preach is about dialing-up one’s influence, I’ve found three overarching strategies or keys that most keenly unlock potential.
1. Keep the message simple.
I initially picked up the wrong message from Sr. O’Dea in my 11th grade British Literature class. The woman is wicked smart, and I was frequently brought to my knees by her vocabulary and capacity for literary analysis. As a result, each time I would craft an essay I spent as much time using a Thesaurus as I did honing my idea and building it into a persuasive case. I thought this would be my secret sauce for garnering respect. Until I learned better, it earned me some painful scowls and my first B’s.
Whether you want to inspire people from the podium or are faced with a bunch of scared employees looking to you to lead them out of a dark and messy time, the key is to distill what you want to get across into as few words as possible. Use language that is clear and evocative. And say what you’re saying again. In different ways. Each time appeal to where your audience is, give them time to feel the myriad emotions they are usually feeling, and lead them step-by-step down a coherent pathway towards where they want to go.
2. Get the right people on your team.
As the sole full-time employee in my business, who previously ran a department that just prior to her departure was gutted to only her, I’ve become a martyr–I mean rock star–at pulling big things off on my own. And that’s the trouble. I don’t want to pull something off. I want to explode the paradigm for what others and I think is possible. Quadruple the impact I make. Leave something bigger than my blood, sweat, and tears behind. I can never do that alone.
As an influencer, you always want to have sponsors and cheerleaders for your initiatives–people whose enthusiasm will be contagious. People whose critical eye will be lifesaving and ability to get you and your idea in front of the right people deal changing.
3. Role play in advance much more than you think you will have to.
During my acting days, I was always a pretty weak improviser but when I found my home with the Stolen Chair Theatre Company, a damn solid actor. A typical rehearsal period for one of our co-created ensemble theatre pieces…6 months!
Role play should not simply be reserved for actors and speakers. Whether you seek to influence through the written or spoken word, don’t reserve your communication for showtime. Give yourself more opportunities than you can fathom needing to negotiate a mutually agreeable solution. Identify all of the possible objections and speak out loud what you will say to reset the conversation. The same goes for facilitating a potentially contentious meeting. Providing critical feedback to an emerging leader. Or entertaining questions from the media at one of your events. As Vince Lombardi is credited with saying, “Practice doesn’t make perfect; practice makes permanent.”
When you think about the moments where you have most affected change–whether it was shepherding a critical project from germination to implementation, playing a role in spearheading or eliminating a workplace policy, or convincing a loved one to get that check-up that proved lifesaving–what have been your keys to harnessing your power?
And when you find yourself in both everyday and remarkable situations, are you clear on how to reapply these strategies in order to step up? Or do you find yourself going at them anew…and as a result, struggling to consistently be an influencer?
For a long-time I had an on again and off again relationship with my personal power. Unfortunately, I wasted a lot of time and self-flagellation on wondering why. And it wasn’t rocket science. I simply wasn’t giving myself the space to remember what was true. About me. While it’s important not to get in our way by staying stuck in old stories or casting the people in our professional and personal lives in reoccurring roles, we do want to be clear on what makes us tick as influencers. How we communicate best. Who we need in our corner. And how to rehearse so that when were are in it–irrespective of what it is–we are ready to shine.
Branded a “Moxie Maven” by the White House for her unique and effective approach to women’s leadership development, Alexia Vernon is the Founder and Director of Influencer Academy, a 9-month program for female leaders seeking to cultivate their skills in public speaking, persuasion, negotiation, coaching, facilitation, and high impact interpersonal communication. A former women’s studies and public speaking professor, Alexia has contributed to media including CNN, NBC, the Wall Street Journal, Inc., Forbes, and Women’s Health. To learn more about Alexia and Influencer Academy, visit http://www.InfluencerAcademy.com.
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