By Garrison Wynn, CSP
If this article’s title pulled you in, maybe you’ve recently realized that having a better tactic or using your (seemingly imaginary) charisma is not producing the influence you would have hoped. You’ve read the leadership and negotiation books and you’ve witnessed some disturbing YouTube videos that appear to prove you no longer need talent or a point to be in front of a cam-era. However, your all-consuming problems still remain: Your employees just can’t get the job done, your boss is a low-IQ narcissist and your 22-year-old kid has just told you “I don’t, like, see myself as, like, working every day at a job and stuff.”
Could it be that what works for others in the area of influence will not work for you? Over the years, Wynn Solutions has done anonymous surveys with thousands of extremely influential people who have a proven track record of motivating people to do what needs to be done. From them, we found that some foundational (I can’t say “basic” for fear of offending a sensitive expert) ideas we often deem irrelevant are the root of influence. Here are those things:
Are you proving to people that you see them as valuable? Have you told them that you appreciate their talent and could not have done so well without them? That’s very different from just saying “Good job!” And it’s not as ridiculous as saying “You’ll have a job here as long as you want one,” which seems to indicate that they will definitely quit – it’s just a question of when.
Are you being sincere, but emphatic with your adult child who still lives at home? These days, more than 50 percent of all adults 18-26 years old live with their parents. If you have an adult child still living at home wearing your bathrobe and wanting to know when more food will be arriving, you need to be forthright. You might say something loving, but pointed, like this: “The only way other people will appreciate you as much as we do and offer you opportunities is if they see you as self-sufficient. So getting out on your own (which will involve you leaving this house, by the way) will cause the good things in life to come your way.” Letting them stay sends the message “We love you so much that we’re willing to sacrifice your ability to be a functional adult.” Being 32 and still living at Mom and Dad’s house is more than just pathetic; it’s creepy.
Do you have extreme clarity? Intelligence is not enough. It doesn’t matter how smart you are if no one knows what you’re talking about. The average IQ for an executive is 104, which is lower than the average for middle management. But if you think your boss is stupid, remember that he’s just smart enough to be your boss! If you’ve ever been to a Mensa meeting (and most of you haven’t – no offense), you might have noticed a disturbing number of grownups wearing backpacks and a lot of crummy cars in the parking lot. Intelligence is just a small part of influence.
As for tried-and-true solutions, it all comes down to value.
1. If you want to be influential, you must be able to clearly state your value (or the value of whatever you’re proposing). Clarity is the foundation of value. People buy into what they grasp quickly. The leading addiction on the planet is not drugs or alcohol or video games. It’s convenience. We will abandon a complex process that works for a mediocre one that’s easy but barely works. Simply stated, good ideas just aren’t good enough. Case in point: It took 40 years to get seatbelts in cars, but they green-lighted the Pet Rock at the first meeting. Spray cheese caught on pretty quickly, too.
We are influenced by things that sound good instantly, and nothing sounds better than what we seem to already believe. Making things very clear makes them familiar. When we hear something clearly stated, we will often say, “Oh, I know. Yes. That’s common sense.” But the truth is, we did not think of it until it was very clearly stated. Clarity makes the stated value make sense. So if you think this paragraph has told you something that you already knew, then you are right and enlightened at the same time.
2. With successful business models being driven by search engine optimization and social media, attracting young employees is not just important – it’s necessary. To attract and retain these crucial younger employees, you must show the value of your organization and environment. Flexible work hours, dropping the dress code and praising younger workers along the way to the goal have a proven track record for success. Having employees who are spoiled and barefooted is a lot better than not being competitive. Being good at what you do these days is just not enough. people have to like what you do and, in reality, they have to like you. being solutions-focused, retaining top performers – it’s all-important, but are you personally influential enough to make any of that actually happen?
3. To influence people under 30 years old, what you propose must make sense at a very basic level. This younger generation grew up with so much information thrown at them that you’ve got to be able to show them why you’re doing something. If it doesn’t make relevant sense to them today, they will question it and have difficulty taking action on it. If you want young people to come to work early, you need a real business reason – not just that you like to get to work at 7:30 a.m. but don’t particularly care for loneliness.
4. The key to getting people to do what you want them to do is understanding what they value. In its clearest and simplest form, what they value is love, money and prestige. If they can get that from you, they’re willing to listen and take action. Unfortunately, most people believe they need to outsmart people to get them to take action. So if you’re upset because you think the world is run by idiots – well, you might have a point. (See, you are really smart!) Most research shows that it’s easier to simplify things so you can compete. The truth is that when it comes to getting people to take action, explaining your value is more valuable than actually having it. With customers reducing the number of suppliers they use these days, it’s critical to show real value. In the end, the main reason people don’t do what you want them to do is not because your ideas are terrible; they just seem to lack value. It’s useless to bring your game if no one wants to play. You have to make the game appealing and then make people feel valuable for participating. The idea is to position yourself up front with all the influence tactics you can and then throw all your effort behind that.
Being good at what you do these days is just not enough. People have to like what you do and, in reality, they have to like you. Being solutions-focused, retaining top performers – it’s all-important, but are you personally influential enough to make any of that actually happen? How do you know you have that kind of influence? When you’re really influential, you’ve created enough buy-in that people will be on your side even when you’re wrong. True influence exists at places like Muzak, where classic rock becomes elevator music. There’s obviously some strong buy-in taking place when a guy with a “special” kind of musical genius proclaims, “I really like Def Leppard!… but only on the oboe.”
Garrison Wynn, a nationally known speaker, trainer and consultant, has worked with some of the world’s most effective corporate leaders and salespeople – from multibillion-dollar manufacturers to top New York Stock Exchange wire houses. He helps people learn how to make the jump from being great at what they do to understanding and developing the qualities it takes to be chosen for the job. Wynn is president and founder of Wynn Solutions, specializing in turning talent into performance.