We are in the middle of really important social and cultural movements right now—movements that have the power to change our future. These movements are generated and supported by conversations that change how we see the world, ourselves, and each other.
How do we gain interest in what we have to say, and become influential in the workplace, in our business communities and beyond? How can we begin to create the kind of situations and conversations that make a real difference?
Many of us face the challenge of knowing that something else is possible, but not knowing how to implement it. If you find yourself over and over again not making the impact you would like, feeling unheard and unseen, thinking that no one has an interest in what you have to say, or that you have no influence in processes, conversations and decisions – it isn’t necessarily because you lack the ability, it is probably because you have been mistakenly taught about what really creates influence and interest.
People, who create interest and are influential are leaders. This reality tells us that in order to be a leader you must be the advisor; the one in charge of others.
What if leadership is actually something entirely different? What if it has nothing to do with title or status?
Being interesting and influential is not about position, privilege or entitlement, it is about your way of being with people and how you engage with them. It is accessible to everyone who is willing to embody the principles of true leadership. The only barrier to making the impact you desire is your own perspective and judgment. Once you start believing that you can be a leader, your attitude towards the world around you, and your ability to make a difference in it will start to change.
Here are 5 keys to create interest and influence as a leader in business, and beyond:
1. Be interested not interesting
Rather than trying to make an impression by being interesting to others, turn the tables and be interested in what the other person has to say, asking them questions about themselves. This means activating the genuine curiosity within you.
Curious people have better relationships, connect more easily, and enjoy socializing more. In fact, other people are more attracted and feel socially closer to people that show curiosity.
Being interested is more important in cultivating a relationship and maintaining a relationship than being interesting; that's what gets the dialogue going. It's the secret juice of generative and productive relationships.
Don’t control the outcome
How often do you go into a conversation or meeting with a particular agenda or result in mind? Having an agenda distracts and takes you away from being present in the moment—it stops you from hearing anything that doesn’t match your idea of how things should go, and you may miss important information between the lines or opportunities to take the conversation in a more innovative direction.
Notice your thoughts before conversations and meetings. Are you expecting a certain outcome? Are you anticipating problems ahead of time?
Would you be willing to let go of all preconceived ideas you have, and be present with the flow of conversation? Ask questions rather than following your expectations. Have curiosity rather than assumption. Approach every situation with fresh eyes, asking: “I wonder what is possible here I haven’t considered?”
It is not wrong to have an agenda or to keep a conversation relevant and on topic. The idea here is to keep open and make sure you are allowing space for new directions and ideas to flow, and not limiting what can occur by functioning from unconscious or unchallenged presumptions.
Ask questions, don’t give answers
Most people build an image that a leader or influencer is someone with all the advice and the answers. In fact, the opposite can be true—you don’t need to have things figured out. The truth is, it is often the person with the great questions that can make the most profound difference. The key to create interest and influence is to ask questions that open up innovation and curiosity in others, such as:
What is possible here?
What choice do we have here?
What questions can we ask that would expand everything?
What can we do differently here that would generate different possibilities?
What needs to change?
What else could I learn/perceive and do here?
Take a neutral perspective
A point of view or perspective is a position from which something is being observed. It's a way of looking at something.
Functioning from fixed points of view and being unwilling to consider a different one will create limitations. It stops you from being willing to question things as you have already decided what your point of view is.
If you allow yourself to have a neutral point of view and not hold on to anything, you will come out of seeing things in terms of right and wrong, good and bad, and come to the place where true power lies.
True influence comes from being willing to consider all perspectives without bias. People are drawn to people who function from a neutral perspective, because they feel less judged and more heard. Neutral isn’t indecisive or being a doormat. It is about being open to seeing what judgments, assumptions and fixed points of view you may have been limiting yourself and your business with, and then seeing what else you could choose that would be more productive for you and everyone.
What points of view could you let go of that would create greater possibilities for you, your business, and everyone involved?
Don’t conflate talking with intelligence
We have come to believe that, if we talk a lot, it will prove our intelligence, influence, and demonstrate that we are interesting. However, intelligence is what you prove—brilliance is what you are. If you know you are brilliant, you don’t need to speak to prove it!
Brilliance for you could be following your instincts and taking a step back or being silent when you know it is required; or speaking up and asking a question when you are aware that it will move the situation, project, or decision forward. It can be observing others and knowing what they need from you to empower them to perform at their best.
A lot of people try to create influence with intelligence, but the true power is your knowing and that goes beyond the parameters of intelligence. Knowing isn’t about knowledge, experience, or expertise. Knowing is that gut awareness or innate instinct we all have, that if we learn to trust it, can lead us to have influence in the most surprising ways.
Not a lot of people talk about knowing in business as a tool for leadership, as it goes beyond measurement and tangibility, but it’s easy to begin exploring. Simply ask, “What do I know about this that I haven’t recognized before?”
Being an interesting and influential leader is not based on being the person with the best idea or the greatest words, or the answers to everyone’s problems. In fact, it is our willingness to empower others that can make us the most interesting and influential: Be curious, open and interested in others. Ask questions to ignite ideas and open new directions in thinking. Leave behind the need to judge, assume or have fixed notions on how things have to be, and don’t give the appearance of intelligence more credence that your innate knowing, and you will begin to have the kind of influence that inspires everyone you meet.
About Doris Schachenhofer
After completing her social work studies in Vienna, Doris Schachenhofer worked with children, homeless people, delinquent teenagers and prisoners transitioning back into the real world. Today she travels the world teaching and supporting people to be more of themselves. Her Right Voice for You and Being You classes are delivered in both live and online settings. Follow Doris here and on Instagram.