Greg Jameson invited me to join him on his podcast, 20 Minutes of Influence. Our conversation on influence covered two areas: first, the sales side – specifically, getting another person to take action based on what we say or do or suggest; and second, three soft skills necessary to have influence. On the latter topic, the three soft skills I talked about are courage, listening, and attitude. In addition to exploring each with you below, I want to emphasize the importance of recognizing their larger meaning. This is captured in the phrase “character trait spectrum” and, ultimately, underlines why relationships matter.
The courageous actions we take directly relate to our state of being in life. Whether sticking to a decision that is unpopular … or standing up in front of a group to talk … or to stop buying some product – we have our reasons. A straightforward way to practice courage is to think about the worst possible outcome, and then the best possible outcome.
When we listen, we are paying attention to more than just words. We are figuring out how to ask questions; to dig deeper and find out what we can do to remove the obstacles surrounding the person we are speaking to; or to find out what they care deeply about. Making sure we are present in the moment allows for more active listening.
Attitude is everything. Our willingness to be open – to hear and speak up and receive in conversation – will influence the outcome of a conversation. Whether conversations are easy or tough, when we think about the purpose of an interaction we are able to recognize our reactions … and decide whether they make sense in the situation.
There is also an element of responsibility.
We have a responsibility to the greater good, and to recognize that the results of our words and actions (that others may choose to follow) have an impact.
The Character Trait Spectrum
Think about the double standards we face. Sometimes we’re seen as pushy instead of assertive. Sometimes we’re seen as whiny instead of sympathetic. Take a close look at a character trait that people notice in you. What does it look like? What is the flip side, the negative, the shadow of your strongest trait?
Genuine connection is something that people notice in me. In fact, Greg remembered that from our first meeting. I enjoy meeting strangers and hearing what’s on their mind. Figuring out what we have in common and what they know that I can learn from them – this puzzle is always so interesting to me.
When it comes to meeting people I don’t know, I am very present and “in the moment.” Looking a little deeper, I’m not as good at staying in touch. When time goes by after that first or second meeting, we’ll pick up right where we left off, yet when we aren’t in the same circles on a regular basis I will not reach out.
Now let’s flip it over. When I get to really know someone, I don’t fully open up. I will tell strangers a crazy amount of personal information, yet I will not be completely candid with colleagues and associates and friends. I can count on one hand the people to whom I will tell anything and everything – show my warts and share my fears. In fact, while we are on the flip side, there is a point at which I may actually push people away and close down. There is a limit to the openness part of my connection with others. To that end, please listen to my conversation with Greg on 20 Minutes of Influence.
The big take-away: until we can look at the negative and recognize it’s a part of who we are … while under stress, we may reflexively react and retreat to the shadow side of our best character traits.
Until we embrace the shadow of our traits we will not be representing our truly authentic self.
Do we have some common ground?
We have all put on an element of positivity, even when things are difficult or downright terrifying. We don’t want to show people things that are not-so-good. And it gets a little trickier as a manager, director, executive, or business owner because there are some things that are inappropriate to share with our teams.
In the book I’d Rather Be in Charge, author Charlotte Beers talks a bit about this very thing. My biggest takeaway from the reading is that we are a spectrum. Until we can embrace our own spectrum, we will find ourselves in situations where what we think we are portraying is not the same as what is being received by others.
David Amerland discusses the importance of soft skills like the ones described at the beginning of the article. In his book The Sniper Mind, I took away the importance of maintaining conscious and active work on everything we do. That way, more becomes second nature to us and we can respond quicker and in a way that can benefit the situation. We create a new normal for ourselves so that when we are under stress we rely on the work we’ve done to improve our awareness, as this self-work creates additional perspective from which to make decisions.
All of us have influence. Each of us chooses how we influence, by the actions we take and how they align to our personal values. We are able to lead more effectively and reach organizational goals when we are willing to be transparent about our humanness. By the way, this is not about giving ourselves a pass for poor behavior or the overarching negative impact of the shadow our traits can bring.
This is about a personal awareness of the impact we have in each moment and that those moments add up to create a image of who we are.
Embrace every aspect of your strongest traits and be willing to be known for the entire spectrum of them.
Courage, Listening, and Attitude – Jess hosted by Podcaster Greg Jameson