To Be an Influential Leader – Use Your Inside Voice

To Be an Influential Leader – Use Your Inside Voice 150 150 Jennifer Ledet

We’ve all heard of leaders who yell, coerce, and even threaten to fire employees. (Cough, cough. Steve Jobs.) I was working with a group of leaders in the banking industry recently, and we had a great conversation about this old-school school style of leadership where the leader wields power over his subordinates and demands obedience.  The fact is that with the command and control style of leadership, at best you’ll get compliance, but you will never get commitment.

There is another method of gaining commitment that is much more subtle – and waay more effective. It’s called influence.

I loved summertime when my kiddos were little. That was when the shoes came off, the bathing suits came out, and the whole neighborhood was playing in my backyard. On the rare occasion when the gang came inside, (usually because of a summer thunderstorm), it sounded like a mob scene. The sound was so deafening, I thought the windows would shatter. Invariably, I had to remind them all to use their inside voices.

To influence, use your inside voice. It’s more gentle, it’s less in your face, and more subtle. Now I may be showing my age, but do you remember the old E.F. Hutton commercials? The tagline was “When E.F. Hutton talks, people listen.” Influence is about causing someone to want to lean in, to learn more, to listen closer.

Executive leaders today complain about the millennial generation and their perceived lack of respect or loyalty. Well, I’m not going to open that can of worms today, (you can read my views on this subject in previous blog posts here). But I will submit to you that the millennials are not alone in that most people will jump ship at the first opportunity if the work culture is, well, craptacular.

We are human, and it really all boils down to the fact that everything except breathing is a choice. Your team member has a choice of whether or how she will show up for work each day. I know, you’re saying, but Jen, if my team member doesn’t show up for work, she’s out of a job. True dat! But it’s still her choice.

And keep in mind what I affectionately call the KLT Factor – the Know, Like, and Trust Factor. People do business with people they know, like, and trust. People buy from people they know, like, and trust. And people follow leaders they know, like, and trust. You can’t force someone to buy from you or to follow you any more than you can force someone to love you.

So if you want to HAVE influence, you have to first BE the kind of person that others choose to follow. You have to be the kind of person that people want to be around and even emulate. Now, while using your inside voice, try these tips to help you

Be the influential leader those around you know, like, and trust:

1. Give them a present. In case you haven’t noticed, we live in a noisy, bizzy world, and your presence could be the best gift you can give to your team. Wherever you are, be there. Put. The. Phone. Down.

2. Be interested. Dale Carnegie got it right when he said “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get people interested in you.” Here’s a news flash: It’s not about you!

3. Ask great questions. And by great questions, I mean open-ended questions that can’t be answered with a yes, no, or a one-word response. A good place to start is by asking questions that elicit a team member’s thoughts, ideas, and suggestions about their work.

4. Use the Mirror Technique. Notice the other person’s communication style and mirror it back to him. I liken this to speaking his “language.” It’s a much more effective way for communicating to connect.

5. Know thyself. The fact is, before you can lead others, you must be able to lead yourself. That’s why, whether I’m working with individual contributors/team members or C-suite executives, we start off with a battery of self-assessments so that we can identify each individual’s strengths, weaknesses, style, and behavioral preferences. The data collected from the assessments helps us to build on strengths and know in what areas the leader needs some help.

6. Project self-confidence. Notice I didn’t say always be self-confident. Insecurity and fear are contagious, and so is confidence. Sure, sometimes you won’t feel completely self-assured, but it is important that your team sees you as calm, confident, and in control. When you experience turbulence on a flight, if the flight attendant is freaking out, passengers will likely follow suit. Same thing applies in your leadership role. Team members are watching you and will mirror your attitude.

7. Practice authenticity and sincerity. People can spot a phony baloney a mile away. Faking interest in someone else just so you can get something you want borders on manipulation, and that is definitely NOT what we’re talking about here.

If you want to amplify your influence as an executive leader, try these techniques with your team. I’d love to hear about your results.

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Jennifer Ledet, CSP, is a leadership consultant and professional speaker (with a hint of Cajun flavor) who equips leaders from the boardroom to the mailroom to improve employee engagement, teamwork, and communication.  In her customized programs, leadership retreats, keynote presentations, and breakout sessions, she cuts through the BS and talks through the tough stuff to solve your people problems

Photo by Anca Brinzan on Reshot

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