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The Key to Success: Understanding and Constructively Using Our Influence

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All humans strive for success, although not all of us think about success in the same way. Yes, there are many stereotypical views of success and sometimes these views can get in the way of individuals realizing that they actually have already achieved it.

In my experience, success is a result of understanding and using our individual influence in a positive way. Leaders understand that it’s not the control they have over others that makes them successful, but it’s their ability to positively influence others to accomplish goals and develop as human beings. 

To achieve the kind of success that allows us to be a positive influence for ourselves and our teams, consider these tips: 

1. Slow down

One of the most important habits successful individuals cultivate is the ability to slow down. Slowing down allows us to become more aware — more mindful — of our thoughts, words, decisions, actions, and reactions, which all define our influence. It allows us to become fully aware of our environment. 

2. Listen to learn

When we give ourselves the opportunity to listen, we ensure that we’re truly present for the conversation and we are able to listen to learn. Listening to learn can enhance our objectivity, empathy, and ability to accept that not everyone has the same opinions or perceptions as us. In doing so, we create an environment for everyone to learn and grow. This can be difficult if the person with whom we’re conversing doesn’t choose to slow down or listen to learn. However, using our positive influence, we can show them the way. If necessary, ask them if they would like to continue the conversation another time, but don’t completely dismiss their points. Leadership always comes back to slowing down and listening to learn.

“The best way for us to perhaps influence others is to instead focus on ourselves by doing our best – then others will be influenced from our leadership by example.” – Lisa Kardos

3. Encourage honesty as the best policy

If we find ourselves in conversations in which the other party isn’t listening to learn or slowing down to give full attention to the situation, our ability to be honest about their inattention and cursory decision-making can steer the other person back on track. By being honest, we can bring others back to the present to pursue the common goal. Additionally, being honest will aid immensely in our influence because people trust us to tell them the truth.  

4. Learn to delegate effectively

Managing delegation is a large part of managing and leading teams. It involves a careful selection process in which the delegated task is assigned to the right person for that task. Knowing the right person requires recognizing the one with the skills necessary to complete that task or the one that is ready to grow in learning about that task. If the delegation process is not done mindfully, team members can become disconnected to the common goal. Think about the telephone game we played as kids; if we didn’t communicate the message appropriately to the chosen person, the meaning became muddled or lost.  

5. Create a positive culture

Culture is people. It’s formed by our whole team. For success to be fully realized, the environment must be a positive one in which everyone can do their best work, innovate, and create together. A positive team culture is a by-product of helping everyone slow down, listen to learn, employ honesty, and delegate effectively. But these are only parts of a positive culture. When the environment is stable and everyone can bring their authentic selves to the workplace, the foundation for a positive culture becomes established. We choose what type of culture we work in everyday by the actions we take and the influence we exert on our team.  

It’s true that success has many forms, but if we’re looking to build success that several individuals can revel in, we must understand our influence. As leaders, our most important responsibility is understanding that our influence on others matters, and it’s through our influence that others become inspired to provide their best work, help our clients, add to a positive culture, and much more. Helping our team members to understand how they contribute to team success and giving them a purpose to keep striving will ensure their team success — as well as our own.  

Brian Smith, PhD, is founder and senior managing partner of IA Business Advisors, a management consulting firm that has worked with more than 18,000 CEOs, entrepreneurs, managers and employees worldwide. Together with his daughter, Mary Smith, he has authored his latest book, Individual Advantages: Be the “I” in Team (BookBaby, March 2, 2021). Learn more at iabusinessadvisors.com.

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