You might not be as influential as you think. Misconceptions about influence keep us from continued success. Anyone at any level, with any title, can influence others to act willingly upon what we have to say, but only if they are willing to do the work. Influence is a learned skill requiring self-awareness, feedback and ongoing practice. But why?
We don’t intentionally want to hold ourselves back, but the truth is hard. It’s easier to believe we have influence and believe lies than to put in the hard work required to get better. If you believe one of these 10 lies, it’s time to start focusing and practicing on what it takes to earn and maintain real influence.
- My title and position wield influence.
Authority does not equal influence. We believe that when we have an authoritative title, we naturally resonate influence. You may have power by default, but do your employees want to follow you? Unlike authority, you can’t mandate influence; you earn it.
- I can turn my influence on and off as needed.
Many people believe they can turn on the influence needed for high-stakes meetings or big presentations. They fail to realize that influence is earned by the way you show up to every interaction, every day. Your listeners don’t automatically grant you trust or believe you to be credible when you’re front and center. You earn that perception in the consistent behavior you demonstrate in even the smallest interactions.
- I feel confident, so I know others see me the same way.
It’s natural for us to believe that the way we feel inside is the way others perceive us to be. Rarely is this true. Our behavior, reactions, body language and habits displayed every day create our identity. When we show up late, are distracted, interrupt others, fidget or ramble, others question our credibility. Even if we feel confident, that’s not necessarily what others experience.
- Only face-to-face interactions count.
Digital interactions are as crucial to our influence as face-to-face meetings. Perhaps even more so. When body language and tonality are missing, people only have our words to interpret. If they’re too short, we are considered curt. Too long and we are rambling. Even the simplest of digital messages tell a story and provide us an opportunity to stand out from the crowd.
- Day-to-day interactions don’t count.
Think of how many casual conversations you have with co-workers. Or, consider the number of emails you send. It’s easy to believe they don’t matter, but they do. You build influence from these small exchanges. They are easily misinterpreted and can damage your reputation. Your influence is always on display, no matter how important or casual the interaction is.
- People look at their phones when I speak because that’s just our culture today.
Every day we try to influence the digitally distracted. Heywire Business found that 97 percent of people respond to business-related messages within three minutes. That means no matter how high the stakes are, chances are your listeners are distracted. If your listeners are paying attention to their phone, they aren’t paying attention to you. If you don’t have people’s attention, you can’t expect to influence them.
- Influence is required in more than high-stakes situations.
Influence requires you to show up for every moment, conscious of your actions and behavior. Don’t discount the impact of an after-hours email or a simple social media post. It’s vital for people to experience your daily interactions as consistently as your high-pressure moments. If you have a commanding presence on stage then send an email filled with typos, your listeners will be confused, and your influence will diminish.
- People will follow because it’s their job.
Gallup recently reported that 63 percent of employees lack engagement and 87 percent of team members are unmotivated to do their job or give more than the bare minimum. Effective leadership requires much more than delegating tasks. Influence requires you to inspire others to act, to be their best. Your team is only as good as your ability to motivate them to rally around a common cause.
- My previous work got me promoted and will keep me climbing the ladder.
The higher we climb, the more others expect of us. Our good is no longer good enough. With all other factors considered, our good won’t beat out the competition for a raise or promotion. Our past won’t create a future of influence when new teams of employees willingly follow us. Today, it is the experience we create for others that builds trust, resulting in new opportunities.
- People always show up to hear me speak because they find what I say to be important.
Leaders believe that if people show up to hear them speak, they will listen. Physical presence doesn’t mean mental presence. You must earn people’s attention. For others to believe what you say is important, it requires you to create a standout experience that they can remember and later act upon.
Only with consistent behavior is credibility established, trust given and influence earned. Stop believing the lies and start doing the work required to earn influence and see success in your career.