In October 15 years ago, my daughter, Dannielle who lives in Maryland called, “Dad, I signed you up for the half at Virginia Beach on St. Patrick’s Day. Half what Dannielle? I asked. “Half Marathon. It’s only 13.1 miles. I can’t run that far.” I protested. “Sure, you can.” Then she hung up.I ran, but then a long run was 3 miles. At Christmas Dannielle gave me a watch to time my runs and a training schedule starting at 3 miles. Every Saturday she scheduled a long run. I called her after the long runs to report how I did. I became accountable to her. Two weeks before the race I finished a 12-mile run. I was ready.
On St. Patrick’s Day, it was surreal to be lined up with over 6,000 runners at Virginia Beach to run 13.1 miles. We talked the entire race. It was fun to get to talk to Dannielle without distractions for over two hours. With a mile to go my legs were getting tired. Dannielle stirred up my competitive spirit. She said, “Can you catch that man in the blue shirt.” I did. Then it was, “How about the girl in the pink shirt?” As we neared the finish line she said, “Can you catch the man in the funny green hat?” I dug deep and blew by him crossing the finish line in less than 2 hours and 21 minutes. Dannielle and I were a team with a dream. Anything is possible if you believe and do the work. That was the first of now 40+ half-marathons Dannielle and I have run together. What are you capable of? The purpose of this story is to influence people to believe in themselves.
A few years ago, I spoke at a conference and closed with that story. The following year at the same conference, a young lady saw me and came running over. “You and Dannielle inspired me. I just ran the Pittsburgh Half-Marathon. That’sgreat!” I responded. Then she added, “I figured if an old guy like youcould run a half-marathon, then I could too.” Lynnda and I recently returned from Influence 23, the National Speakers Association’s annual convention. As professional speakers and trainers we can’t command, demand or regulate. We can only influence, which is more effective. Influence can be defined as, the power to have an important effect on someone or something. To cause someone to change a behavior, belief or opinion. Leaders use their influence to cause people to change or take actions by their own choice not by command or threat of the leader.
Leadership expert John Maxwell defines leadership as the ability to influence people and developpeople. Position or title doesn’t matter. Influencing is much more difficult than commanding, controlling and managing. Influencing requires understanding people and what is important to them.
How can we be a better leader by learning to influence. Here are a few thoughts;
- Lead by example. Influencing is about showing not just telling. At the Last Supper Jesus, the Son of God and their leader washed the feet of his disciples. Jesus led by example saying, “I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you.” If we expect our people to be on time or work hard we must first be on time and work hard.
- Show appreciation. People like to feel appreciated. Just because someone is in a position to command doesn’t mean they should. “Please” and “Thank You” should be part of any leader’s vocabulary. In my corporate days I routinely led special teams. Maybe because we got results. No one got any extra money for being on a team. Just extra work. One thing I could do as team leader when we were successful was to thank my team members individually by email and copy their supervisor and the next two levels of management. They couldn’t tell management how good they were. I could. People were happy to serve on my teams.
- People have dreams. They want to make a difference. People will follow a leader who they believe will help them achieve their dreams. Great leaders know their people’s dreams.
- A leader must be person of integrity if they expect to influence others and be followed. That means always telling the truth and doing what you say you will do.
- Praise is powerful. Routinely, praise people. People repeat the acts they get praised for. When necessary let people know where they can improve. Don’t wait until performance appraisal time.
- Leaders think win-win instead of win-lose. One way to positively influence people is to put them in a position where they can win. The late Hall of Fame Speaker and sales expert, Zig Ziglar said, “You can have anything you want if you first help enough other people get what they want.” People like to be part of a successful team.
- Collaboration is a powerful skill all leaders can develop. In collaboration the leader is still responsible for the result but they step back sometimes becoming the facilitator giving more authority to the group to work together for a result. This process allows the skills and creativity of the entire team to be used to get a better result than the leader could achieve alone.
Fear isn’t on the list because it doesn’t work. People don’t like to be commanded or told what to do. They are willing follow and be influenced to take actions by a leader who they respect and trust. We manage things. People must be led. Today’s work force responds to leadership. At the Plastics News Executive Forum in February, the 10 Best Places to Work, lead their people. Employees stay at these companies. They have people waiting for an opportunity to work for them. Leadership and influence are the solutions to work force, business and society’s problems. Choose to be a leader.
Greg Kozera, [email protected] is Director of Marketing and Sales for Shale Crescent USA. www.shalecrescentusa.com (You can follow SCUSA on Facebook) He is a professional engineer with a Masters in Environmental Engineering and over 40 years’ experience in the energy industry. Gregis a leadership expert, high school soccer coach, professional speaker, author of four books and numerous published articles.