Talk less, influence more
There’s a common misconception that senior executives have – the more you talk, the more influential you are. It’s a common trait of senior people, who like to take command, dominating the conversation and driving their own agenda. Interrupting others and over-talking the detail are tell-tale signs. Do you do that?
There’s a tendency for some leaders to use senior team meetings as a one-way communication – an opportunity to assert views rather than involve everyone in constructive discussion.
To be influential you need to build relationships based on trust and empathy. You’ll never achieve that by steam-rolling through meetings. Instead you need to remain open to others, put judgement aside and be curious about the views of your team. There needs to be genuine collaboration and real outcomes – in other words, you will have far greater influence.
We try and achieve this at our annual national conference. Our virtual work force comes from across Australia, the Pacific Islands and Asia. Most of our coaches and mentors have led significant businesses and have wonderful insights and experience to share. We saw it with small groups of listening and talking, reconnecting and building relationships with others. There was some debating, lots of questions and just as much listening. We all walked out of the event feeling inspired to do even better work for our clients.
It’s a skill many leaders are yet to achieve. They need to learn to build influence through interpersonal trust and empathy with their teams.
We all need to focus on the ‘middle space of communication’ – rather than just talking and, occasionally, listening, we should focus on how we are being perceived. How often have you seen someone’s eyes glaze over in a conversation, yet the other person is unaware that they’re failing to achieve the impact they’d like?
To develop really effective interpersonal leadership skills we need to find a way of knowing what part we play in every interaction. Holding the mirror up in this middle space can be challenging; you have to take feedback and be open to learning about yourself.
Think about your own reaction to every interaction you have:
- What happens somatically, what random thoughts arise, what hypotheses do you form?
- Did you stay open and curious or are you judgmental?
To ask these questions just requires you to be self-aware of your body and mind and be present in the moment. It can be hard work but it’s worth the effort. Otherwise, you could be left wondering why your team isn’t coming up with the ideas that will take your company forward.
For a checklist of influencing myths and your influencing skills go to http://goo.gl/1rRuPA
About the author: Virginia Mansell, Executive Chairman, Stephenson Mansell Group.
Virginia Mansell is an expert in executive coaching, mentoring and leadership. She is also the author of The Focused Executive, an important resource for CEOs and senior executives determined to perform at their very best. The 2nd Edition is now available.
In 1998, Virginia established The Mansell Group to provide coaching and leadership development services. In 2005, she merged this business with The Stephenson Partnership to create Stephenson Mansell Group, arguably Australia’s longest-established executive development firm. Over the last fifteen years, the Stephenson Mansell Group has coached and mentored over 5000 executives in more than 500 organisations in Australia and internationally and has worked with 30 of Australia’s top 50 companies.
In addition to her own experience as a business leader, Virginia brings to her role over 30 years of experience in human resource management, counselling psychology, psychotherapy and organisational consulting.