The Myth of Influence

When asked to provide a definition of leadership I most often describe it as influence. I add that if you have the ability to influence others then you have the ability to lead. 

Ken Blanchard, the renowned American Leadership expert and author of “The One Minute Manager” says that “The key to successful leadership is influence, not authority.”

Experienced leaders know that to be true. They also know that whatever influence they have comes from who they are not what they are. They know that their title or position provides no lasting influence. People with little or no leadership experience tend to greatly overestimate the importance of an important sounding title when it comes to influence. 

People with little or no leadership experience assume that if they had a title or a position of leadership then they would have influence too. That’s a myth!

Influence must be earned and a position merely gives you a chance to do that. A position or title gives you the opportunity to earn the respect required to have lasting influence. It gives you a bit of time to demonstrate you deserve to be trusted but in that time you will earn your level of influence whatever level it turns out to be. 

Good leaders earn influence beyond their stated position. They quickly learn that a position doesn’t make a leader but a leader can make a position. 

In order to grow your influence you must first build trust. People who do not trust you will not be open to your influence. To build trust you must do what you say you will do…every time. Consistently following through on your commitments is the fastest way to build your reputation. Being inconsistent when following through with commitments is the fastest way to destroy it. 

Doing something grows influence far faster than saying something. You can be an awesome speaker but words alone will never grow your influence. You need to speak through your actions and when your words and actions are in alignment your level of influence is limitless. 

One often overlooked skill that will quickly grow your level of influence is the skill of listening. You can’t influence people you have zero relationships with. One of the fastest ways to develop a meaningful relationship with someone is to listen to them. REALLY listen. 

Listen as if they are the only person who matters in that moment. Listen to every opinion and acknowledge it as important and valuable. You’ll quickly discover that the fastest way to get people to listen to you is to listen to them. Two-way communication is vital to building influence because if no one is listening to you then you have absolutely no influence.

 

Influence is an exceptional asset in the workplace and in life. It is mandatory if you’re going to lead others. If your goal is to be an Authentic Leader then don’t seek a position of influence, try instead to be a person of influence. 

Is Micro-Managing Killing Your Business?

So let‘s get this part out of the way early. If you’re a leader who micro-manages your people then you may be in a leadership position but you’re likely not doing much leading.   

 

Leaders who insist on micro-managing have some problems. The first problem is that they are trying to manage people. That doesn’t work. “Stuff” gets managed, people need to be led. I’ve written frequently about the difference between leading and managing so feel free to look back a few posts to see what I mean. 

 

The second problem micro-mangers have is that they believe they must check on every detail. That’s most likely the result of being an insecure leader. Micro-managers tend to base their leadership on a lack of faith and trust in other people. 

 

That’s a huge morale killer. 

 

It leads to little or no growth. It discourages the development of their people. It focuses on problems of detail, many of which are inconsequential. It discourages teamwork. If they micro-manage often enough or long enough and they will kill their business. It might be a long slow death but it’s death all the same.

 

Micro-managers take positive attributes – an attention to detail and a hands-on attitude – to the extreme. Either because they are control-obsessed, or because they feel driven to push everyone around them to success. But they risk disempowering their people. They ruin their confidence. They degrade their performance, and frustrate them to the point where they may quit…or worse, they stay and just disengage.

 

Micro-managers limit each individual’s ability to develop and grow. They also limit what their entire team can achieve, because everything has to go through them.

 

They don’t trust their people or their judgment. They are unwilling to allow them to assume any responsibility. What micro-managers fail to realize is that they are cheating their organizations out of the talent they are paying for.

 

Micro-managing may work for a while but in time it acts like an anchor on all progress. Innovation, new products, and new markets are discouraged because the talent to create and move forward has been derailed by the micro-manager.

 

The inability of micro-managers to “let go” and allow other people make some decisions, even risk failure, ensures that the growth of the organization will be severely limited. It may take years for those limitations to show up but they will eventually show up. When enough people disengage the business dies, slowly perhaps, but it does eventually die.

 

Micro-managing is not about the weakness of the team, it’s about the weakness of the leader.


If you’re a leader that suffers this weakness then you must exercise your leadership skills through effective delegation. Delegation is the single greatest tool for building future leaders. It’s also a great tool to help micro-managers break free from the limitations that come from attempting to do it all themselves.

The Better Choice

Life is all about choices. The fact is, regardless of the circumstances you were born into better choices result in a better life. 

 

While success is a relative term the most successful people simply made better choices to get there. Your own level of success is clearly impacted by your starting point in life. If you’ve added on to whatever you started with then you’ve experienced at least some measure of success in your life. That is most likely due in part to the choices you’ve made in life. 

 

But here’s a choice many people don’t too often consider…it’s the choice to be better everyday. It’s the conscious choice that says today I will do something to be better than I was yesterday. 

 

What did you do today to better yourself? What are you planning to do tomorrow? What about yesterday? How about the day before that or the day before that? How many days has it been since you could specifically say what action you took, intentionally, to improve one area of your life? 

 

Even if it’s reading one page from a book it can help. Even a 5 minute walk is better than no walk. Skipping that coffee stop on the way to work a couple of days a week could have a significant impact on your overall financial well-being. 

 

Choices that look little can turn out to be huge. 

 

One choice, even a small choice, to take action each day to improve yourself could add up to a gigantically better life and ultimately huge success. 


So start making that choice this very day. It’s the choice I call the better choice because it’s all about being better, even just a little better, today than you were yesterday. When you make that choice today then tomorrow will be better because of it. 

How to Sell More

I’ve been involved in sales training a long time. I’ve been selling even longer than that. I suppose that would be obvious that someone should actually be in sales before they start teaching others how to sell. But it shouldn’t be obvious. There are many people and companies around that offer sales training that have little or no sales experience. What they actually offer is sales theory, not professional selling skills training. 

 

Sometimes they offer “people skills” or “soft skills” but those are very different than actual sales training.

 

My suggestion is that you never accept a single word of advice on how to sell from someone who has never sold. If they have not experienced first hand the incredible high of earning a challenging prospects trust and their business along with it, then they don’t know enough about sales to teach you a thing. 

 

If they have never felt the utter hopelessness of losing a sale they know they should have had then they don’t understand the psychology of professional selling and they should offer training on how to be a fraud instead.

 

So, now that I have that out of my system I have another suggestion if you want to sell more….stop trying so hard to sell. Instead start helping your customers and prospects buy more. 

 

The difference between selling and helping people buy is not just words. When you help people buy rather than trying to sell them something everything changes. Your approach changes. The questions you ask customers change. How you advocate your product or service changes. 

 

How the customer perceives you changes. 

 

Salespeople who sell ask questions to determine if they might be able to convince the customer to buy their product. Salespeople who help customers buy ask questions to see if their product will really help the customer. 

 

Salespeople who sell are prepared to negotiate a price lower than they want. Salespeople who help customers buy know they are far less likely to be asked to negotiate the price. The customer sees the value in the product AND the sales professional representing it. 

 

Salespeople who sell see every question as a potential objection. Salespeople who help customers buy see every objection as an opportunity. 

 

Salespeople who sell work hard for their sales. Salespeople who help customers buy work incredibly hard too yet often feel as if they are hardly working. 

 

Salespeople who sell manage customer transactions. Salespeople who help customers buy manage customer relationships. 

 

Salespeople who sell can make a lot of money. Salespeople who help customers buy make more…and they have a heck of a lot more fun doing it. 

 

If you’re not sure which type of salesperson you are I have a question for you that might help. Can you say, with great specificity, exactly how your product or service helped your last five customers reach one of their goals or objectives?


If you can’t answer that, with specifics, then you might be doing too much selling and not enough helping. Think about that before your next sales call.

The Value of Uncertainty

Most people like to know. They like to know what’s coming next. That like to know what will happen next year. They like to know how every decision will turn out, sometimes even before they make the decision. 

 

Many so called “experts” would have us believe that to succeed we need to remove as much uncertainty from our life as possible. They see uncertainties as leading to a lack of control. They say it adds stress to our lives that we don’t need. 

 

Since they are experts I suppose they are right about all of that. But here’s the thing; without uncertainty there are no possibilities. Possibilities and innovation come directly from uncertainty.

 

We also need some stress in our lives. It’s what causes us to take action. A life with absolutely no stress is a life of immobility. It is a life lived stuck where it’s at with little reason to grow and expand. It is likely a passionless life as well. Not all stress is bad and thinking that it is only adds the kind of stress that is bad for us.

 

As to uncertainty, think of all the things you take for granted that you wouldn’t have if not for uncertainty. 

 

The mere fact that you’re able to read this came from uncertainty. Whether you’re reading this on a computer, a tablet or a smartphone none of those would have ever been invented if the inventors were certain they couldn’t make anything better than a pencil and paper. I’d hazard a big guess that they had no conclusive idea how their inventions would turn out but they put the uncertainty aside and began anyway.

 

Do you suppose Tim Berners-Lee was certain how the whole World Wide Web thing would work out? Do you think he could have imagined its impact on the world? He didn’t let his uncertainty stop him and neither should you.

 

The list could go on forever. Virtually everything that was once thought impossible came about because someone decided to embrace the uncertainty of what could be possible.

 

Certainty is boring. Embrace the unknowns in your life and be excited about the possibilities ahead. Never believe that “good enough” is good enough. Look for “better” in every part of your life. There is something you’re uncertain about in your life and it’s possible that uncertainty could be the thing that makes a difference in the lives of many many people.


Go for it!


The Trouble with Managing People

I write about this topic from time-to-time but it never gets old. People still make this leadership mistake with great regularity.

 

The mistake they make is trying to use their leadership position to manage people. Let me say this yet again: managing people is impossible. People refuse to be managed, they want to be led. 

 

For those of you who refuse to acknowledge the difference between managing and leading I say this: you are doomed to a life of limited leadership. Worse, you have sentenced the people you are supposed to be leading to a life of limited potential.

 

It really is that big of a deal that you understand the very real difference between managing and leading.

 

You manage things. Things like a budget, a building, and a process. You manage things that don’t think, don’t have feelings, don’t have goals and objectives, and don’t care one iota what you think of them. 

 

But people do think, they do have feelings, they (hopefully) have goals and objectives. And they care what you as their leader think of them. That’s why they must be led, not managed.

 

People who feel managed are most always under-performers. Even if they are doing well they would do better if they were led instead of managed. People who feel managed are frequently said to be “problem people” in their workplace. The truth is that they are unlikely to be the actual problem. It’s far more likely that the problem is the person who is supposed to be leading them but is managing them instead. 

 

There are people who would tell you that the difference between managing and leading is pure semantics. But they would be mistaken. The differences are substantial and one of the biggest ones is mindset. Managers can afford to be dispassionate, in fact it’s a strength for managers. Leaders must be passionate. They have to truly care about the people they lead. They have to be as motivated to help their people succeed as they are to succeed themselves. 

 

A management mindset sees people as an asset or as capital to be used. Managers think in terms of “spending time on” their people when their people need help. A leadership mindset sees people as a human being to be nurtured and developed. Leaders think of “investing time with” their people when their people need help. 

 

The difference in outcomes produced by those two mindsets is like night and day. 

 

I know you’re not going to like this but if you have “problem people” in your organization then you need to make certain that you are not the root of the problem. If you’re trying to manage your people then the “problem” with your people is most likely you.


Leaders lead people and managers manage stuff. The best leaders know how…and when, to manage and the best managers know how…and when, to lead. There’s no crime in not being able to do both, you just have to acknowledge it and not try to manage people who need to be led.

 

 

The Best School in the World

Almost every successful person in the world attended this school. I should probably remove that “almost” qualifier and say every successful person. It is a tough school with lessons so difficult they often seem insurmountable. Some people, the less successful types, don’t even have the courage to walk through the virtual doors of this school. 

 

It’s the school known as “The School of Hard Knocks.” Some people call it the school of life.

 

For those of you unfamiliar with this school it isn’t found in a building. It’s not located in any particular place. The school never closes, not even when you want it to. When you’re trying something new or working your butt off to succeed you can find yourself in this “school” with no notice. All of the sudden it just happens!

 

The “classes” taught there can be very challenging but once learned they tend to stay with you forever. They are frequently life changing. They are most often self-taught. The “tests” associated with these classes can leave scars that last a long time. Some of the scars can be seen but many of them are only felt. But the feeling can be incredibly painful. 

 

These lessons cannot be bought, they must be earned. As difficult as they can be I’d encourage anyone to attend “The School of Hard Knocks” because some of life’s best lessons are taught there. It seems as if that Hard Knocks place is the one that shows you how to use all those fancy degrees and formal education you received from the other schools.


Don’t shy away from life’s tough lessons. The stuff you learn in a school with four walls can help you make a living but the stuff you learn outside those walls can help you make a life.