Leadership, Influence & Relationships

Leadership, Influence & Relationships

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer, N2growth

Have you ever wondered why some people have more influence than others? It’s because they invest more “in” others. Those with influence have built into others through some form of consistent direct or indirect contribution. Those with the greatest amount of influence almost always have the strongest relationships. My hypothesis is a rather simple one: If true leadership is about influence, then influence is about relationships, and relationships are about the investments made into people. In today’s post I’ll examine the ties between leadership, influence and relationships…

You cannot be an effective leader without influence. Let me make this as simple as I can – if you’re a leader, influence needs to be a competency. The key to developing influence is understanding contacts and relationships are not synonymous. Don’t confuse a database with a sphere of influence. A database consists of information records, and a sphere of influence consists of meaningful relationships built upon a foundation of trust – a point of distinction lost upon many. Spammers and info-product sales people add contacts to a database, while savvy professionals interested in creating influence invest into people for the purpose of creating and sustaining high value relationships.

As business people nothing is more valuable than the quality of your relationships. Whether you realize it or not, your success in business (and in life) will largely be dependant upon your ability to not only establish key relationships, but in your ability to influence and add value to your relationships. We have all known professionals that have been smarter, more affable, better looking, possess a better CV, or are more talented than their peers, yet they never seem to rise to the top. These professionals who seem to have the whole package yet fail to grab the brass ring simply don’t understand the power of relationships – they’ve failed to invest in people.  Again, leadership isn’t about any single person, but rather a complex ecosystem of meaningful relationships.

Lest you think I’m overly mercenary in my approach, and only view people as pawns in a chess game, let me introduce you to Myatt’s golden rule of building relationships: ”Give, give, give some more, give until it hurts, and then when you have nothing left to give, you guessed it…give even more.” The best relationships are not built on the backs of others, but rather they are built by helping others succeed. It is by building into others and through assisting others in reaching their goals and objectives that you will find success. Reflect back upon your own experience and contrast the responses you’ve received when you ask for help from someone that you’ve previously provided assistance to, versus asking the same favor from a casual acquaintance that you’ve never lifted a finger to help.

When you closely examine the core characteristics of what really makes for great leadership, it’s not power, title, authority or even technical competency that distinguishes truly great leaders. Rather it’s the ability to both earn and keep the loyalty and trust of those whom they lead that sets them apart. Put simply, Leadership is about relationships, and the trust, stewardship, care, concern, service, humility and understanding that need to occur in order to create and nurture them. If you build into those you lead, if you make them better, if you add value to their lives then you will have earned their trust and loyalty. This is the type of bond that will span positional and philosophical gaps, survive mistakes, challenges, downturns and other obstacles that will inevitably occur.

You don’t change mindsets by being right, you do it by showing you care. Logic and reason have their place, but they rarely will overcome a strong emotional or philosophical position. Trying to cram your positional logic down the throat of others will simply leave a very bad taste in their mouths. This is a very tough lesson for many to learn, but a critical one if you take your duties, obligations and responsibilities as a leader seriously. The best leaders are capable of aligning and unifying opposing interests for a greater good. You won’t ever become a truly successful leader until you understand a person’s need to be heard and understood is much more important than satisfying your need to impart wisdom I’m going to make this as simple as I can…leadership is all about relationships. It’s the people – nothing more & nothing less.

Being right isn’t the goal – accomplishing the mission is. If you can only lead those who agree with you then you will have a very small sphere of influence. Stop and think about this for a moment – history is littered with powerful leaders who have fallen, failed, or who have been replaced, usurped or betrayed. Fear doesn’t engender loyalty, respect or trust – it breeds resentment and malcontent. A leader not first and foremost accountable to their people will eventually be held accountable by their people.

Generally speaking there are two types of spheres of influence…those that just evolve over time by default, and those that are strategically engineered. While contacts are rarely purpose driven, relationships are highly intentional. People who are influential have spent years developing relationships spanning geographies, industries, and practice areas. They have invested both time and money developing these relationships to a high level of mutual benefit.

So why is it that most people aren’t as influential as they would like to be? The answer is that most professionals, even if they intellectually understand the benefits of what I’m espousing, just don’t do the work it takes to build an influential network. Great relationships take great amounts of effort, energy and commitment. Think of the most successful people you’ve ever known and they will always seem to know the right person to call on in any given situation to influence or decision the needed outcome. This type of influence doesn’t just happen, rather it has taken years of painstaking effort. If you want to create a powerful sphere of influence start by taking the following ten steps:

  1. Create a Vision: Take pause and examine where you are currently in your professional career as contrasted with where you want to go. Think about the people who could help you reach your destination more quickly and efficiently. Don’t put any artificial ceilings on your thinking – remember that almost anyone on the planet is only a few degrees of separation away from you. Be sure that your vision is based first and foremost on adding value to the lives and careers of others. Building a great relationship has little to do with what you get out of it, but everything to do with what you put into it…
  2. Take an Inventory: Once you have a clear vision of where you want to go, take a personal inventory of your contacts and relationships. See who it is that you know, but also pay attention to who they know. Review in detail each and every relationship in your network and rank them on a scale from 1 to 5 with 5 being the contacts perceived to be of the greatest value to you. Make a detailed relationship plan for each of the people that rank 3 or higher. Take a personal interest in rekindling those relationships and finding out how you can help them succeed.
  3. Participate in the Dialogue: Develop a strong core competency, and then give freely of your time and knowledge. Be visible and accessible, and don’t approach business solely based on a “what’s in it for me” attitude. Don’t be a joiner unless you can be a contributor. I belong to a number of organizations I will likely never see a paying client from, but it is through these groups I build relationships that will help me serve my clients. These relationships are only built because of the time I invest in them. Relationships don’t get built overnight, and are not built without active participation.
  4. Value Your Network: It is critical you develop a keen understanding of the following point – your network is your business. The core value of your business is not actually steeped in the conventional thinking imparted to you in business school. The reality is the true intrinsic value of a business is in your network, which adds value to your products, services, brand, stakeholders etc. A strong network = sustainability.  It’s your network that will provide you much needed resources, influence and leverage in both good times and bad.
  5. Focus on the Positive: Don’t waste time with those who only see problems and flaws, but cannot ever seem to create solutions. The world is full of bitter people, small thinkers, naysayers and those who just get their kicks out of sniping from a safe distance. Remove these people from your network. Associate with energy gainers and not energy drainers. People do business with people they like, and avoid doing business with people they don’t like – it’s just that simple. Are you approachable, positive, affable, trustworthy, a person of character and integrity, or are you someone who is standoffish, pessimistic and generally not to be trusted? Those who fall into the camp of the former as opposed to the latter will find themselves having more influence and success.  The key take away here is that being a jerk doesn’t lead to the creation of influence.
  6. Quantity and Quality Both Matter: Successful networking requires an understanding there needs to be a balance between quantity and quality. Well built spheres of influence are both inclusive and exclusive, and while the emphasis should always error on the side of quality, this assumes you have sufficient numbers to create leverage and scale to your networking efforts. You want to avoid at all costs the appearance of simply being in it solely for the numbers, but it is also important not to be viewed as a networking snob who doesn’t reciprocate.
  7. Influence is built upon a foundation of trust: If a person is not trusted there is a firm limit on their ability to create and use influence. People will rarely make a leap of faith for someone who hasn’t earned their trust. However most people will gladly take a blind leap of faith for someone whom they have come to trust. Trust matters.
  8. Influence is built upon making others successful: This is often times referred to as the law of reciprocity. The theory is that if you invest yourself in making someone else successful, then they in turn will likely be predisposed to helping you become successful. While this principle will not always pan out, in my experience it has held true across the overwhelming majority of my interactions through the years. True influence is rarely built upon the backs of others, but rather by helping others achieve their goals.
  9. Influence is most often possessed by those with authority: It is important to realize that there is a reason for the statement “the highest authority is that which is given, and rarely that which is taken.” Authority is most often given to those who display honesty, competency, empathy, expertise and wisdom. With authority comes credibility, and with credibility comes influence. While influence can be wielded by those without authority, it will be limited in both scope and scale. Those with the most authority will always have the most influence.
  10. Value and scarcity drive influence: Understanding the value of your position, brand, authority, resources, access to people or knowledge and any number of other items as it relates to fulfilling the needs and desires of others creates influence. To the extent anything under your direct or indirect control is scarce or proprietary your ability to create influence will increase significantly.

Keep in mind the purpose of developing influence is not to manipulate for personal gain, but rather to facilitate for mutual benefit. Take a sincere interest in the success of others, work on your likability factor, become adept at gaining commitment, develop your authority, secure access to things of value and/or scarcity, and your influence with others will increase.

Bottom line – engineer a relationship development plan built upon service, trust, giving and adding value – then work the plan. Before you whine about how much time this will take, consider if you will the potential rewards at stake and ask yourself this question: Can I afford not to do this?

If you have any additional tips or advice to add to what you’ve just read, I’d love to have your feedback and input in the comments section below…

Why Influence Matters

Why Influence Matters

Why Influence Matters

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer, N2growth

Leadership without influence – isn’t. In fact, understanding how to leverage the influence factor can make a defining difference in your ability to drive change, build cohesive teams, and to successfully implement strategic vision. As a CEO or entrepreneur your “Influence Quotient” is the IQ you need to pay attention to, as it will be a much greater determinant of your ultimate success than your “Intelligence Quotient” could ever be. Innate, raw intelligence while certainly something to be prized, is much more common and much less powerful than real influence. In today’s post I’ll examine the often misunderstood value of influence…

Let me be clear; when I mention influence I’m not referring to manipulation, elaborate schemes, or other forms of skulduggery. Ill-gotten gains will always be exposed for what they are, and moreover, they will never be worth the compromises that were made in order to achieve them. Not only is true influence much easier to acquire, but it is also sustainable. Put simply, true influence is nothing more than understanding how to work with and through others to achieve a stated objective while staying true to your core values and maintaining your integrity. The following fundamental concepts of influence, which if properly understood and implemented, can help anyone become more efficient, productive and successful:

1. Influence is built upon a foundation of trust: If a person is not trusted there is a firm limit on their ability to create and use influence. People will rarely make a leap of faith for someone who hasn’t earned their trust. However most people will gladly take a blind leap of faith for someone whom they have come to trust. Trust Matters….

2. Influence is built upon making others successful: This is often times referred to as the law of reciprocity – if you invest yourself in making someone else successful then they in turn will likely be predisposed to helping you become successful. I prefer to think of it as service. Care for the interests of those you lead and they’ll care for your interests. While this principle will not always pan out, in my experience it has held true across the overwhelming majority of my interactions through the years. True influence is rarely built upon the backs of others, but rather by serving others and helping them achieve their goals.

3. Likability: People do business with people they like, and avoid doing business with people they don’t like – it’s just that simple. Are you approachable, positive, affable, trustworthy, a person of character and integrity, or are you someone who is standoffish, pessimistic and generally not to be trusted? Those the fall into the camp of the former as opposed to the latter will find themselves having more influence and success. Let me be blunt – don’t be a jerk.

4. Influence is wielded through helping others maintain commitments: Professionals respect other professionals who keep their commitments. In the business world you are most often judged on your ability to keep your word and deliver on your promises. The key behind influencing people via commitment lies in your ability to have people adopt an initial position that is consistent with a behavior, such that they are willing to agree to requests that are consistent with their prior commitment. People desire to be perceived as dependable, reliable and successful, and will normally go to great lengths not to have their track-record or reputation tarnished. Gain strong commitments early on, and then simply hold people to their commitments. This ultimately helps them enhance their reputation for delivering on promises made.

5. Influence is most often possessed by those with authority: It is important to realize that there is a reason for the statement “the highest authority is that which is given, and rarely that which is taken.” Authority is most often given to those that display honesty, competency, expertise and wisdom. With authority comes credibility, and with credibility comes influence. While influence can be wielded by those without authority, it will be limited in both scope and scale. Those with the most authority will always have the most influence.

6. Value and scarcity drive influence – to a point: Understanding the value of your position, brand, authority, resources, access to people or knowledge, and any number of other items as it relates to fulfilling the needs and desires of others creates influence. To the extent anything under your charge is scarce or proprietary your ability to create influence will increase significantly. However it is important to note you can cross over to the dark side and actually lose influence if you attempt to hoard scarce resources as opposed to share them. The creation of silos, having a protectionist mentality, or simply not being willing to share knowledge is more about control and power than leadership – it undermines your ability use influence in a positive light.

Bottom line…Don’t manipulate for personal gain, rather facilitate for mutual benefit. Take a sincere interest in the success of others, work on your likability factor, become adept at gaining commitment, develop your authority, and have access to things of value or scarcity and your influence with others will increase.

Thoughts?

 

How To Create Lasting Influence

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

The Influence Factor

Anyone can create moments of influence, but creating lasting influence is where your sights should be set. Understanding how to leverage the influence factor can make a defining difference in your ability to drive change, build cohesive teams, and to successfully implement strategic vision. As a leader your “Influence Quotient” is the IQ you need to pay attention to. In fact, your influence quotient will be a much greater determinant of your ultimate success than your “Intelligence Quotient” could ever be. Innate, raw intelligence while certainly something to be prized, is much more common and much less powerful than real influence. In today’s post I’ll examine the often misunderstood value of influence…

Let me be clear…when I mention influence I’m not referring to manipulation, elaborate schemes, or other forms of skulduggery. Ill-gotten gains will always be exposed for what they are, and moreover, they will never be worth the compromises that were made in order to achieve them. Not only is true influence not difficult to acquire, but it is also sustainable when you understand the proper constructs.  

Put simply, true influence is nothing more than understanding how to work with and through others to achieve a stated objective while staying true to your core values and maintaining your integrity. The following fundamental concepts of influence, which if properly understood and implemented, can help anyone become more efficient, productive and successful:

1. Influence is built upon a foundation of trust: If a person is not trusted there is a firm limit on their ability to create and use influence. People will rarely make a leap of faith for someone who hasn’t earned their trust. However most people will gladly take a blind leap of faith for someone whom they have come to trust. Trust Matters….

2. Influence is built upon making others successful: This is often times referred to as the law of reciprocity. The theory is that if you invest yourself in making someone else successful then they in turn will likely be predisposed to helping you become successful. While this principle will not always pan out, in my experience it has held true across the overwhelming majority of my interactions through the years. True influence is rarely built upon the backs of others, but rather by helping others achieve their goals.

3. Likability: People do business with people they like, and avoid doing business with people they don’t like…it’s just that simple. Are you approachable, positive, affable, trustworthy, a person of character and integrity, or are you someone who is standoffish, pessimistic and generally not to be trusted? Those who fall into the camp of the former as opposed to the latter will find themselves having more influence and success.  The key take away here is that being a jerk doesn’t lead to the creation of influence.

4. Influence is most often possessed by those with authority: It is important to realize that there is a reason for the statement “the highest authority is that which is given, and rarely that which is taken.” Authority is most often given to those that display honesty, competency, expertise and wisdom. With authority comes credibility, and with credibility comes influence. While influence can be wielded by those without authority, it will be limited in both scope and scale. Those with the most authority will always have the most influence.

5. Value and scarcity drive influence: Understanding the value of your position, brand, authority, resources, access to people or knowledge and any number of other items as it relates to fulfilling the needs and desires of others creates influence. To the extent that anything under your direct or indirect control is scarce or proprietary your ability to create influence will increase significantly.  

Bottom line…Don’t manipulate for personal gain, rather facilitate for mutual benefit. Take a sincere interest in the success of others, work on your likability factor, become adept at gaining commitment, develop your authority and control, and have access to things of value or scarcity and your influence with others will increase.

If you have any other suggestions on creating influence please share them in the comments below.

Thought Leaders

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

Thought Leadership

Thought Leadership…What is a thought leader, and what does thought leadership mean in today’s business world? These are interesting questions as we get ready to kick-off the World Business Forum today in New York. Over the next two days I’ll be with some of the worlds most notable CEOs, an Academy Award winner, a Nobel Laureate, New York Times and Wall Street Journal Best Selling authors, distinguished business school professors, champions of innovation and other titans of industry. But are they really thought leaders, or are they simply just plowing old ground with more eloquence than their predecessors? In today’s post I’ll examine the subject of thought leadership in an attempt to separate fact from fiction…  

As much as some people wish it wasn’t so, a thought leader is not someone who simply restates someone else’s views and positions. Even going beyond uniqueness of thought, a true thought leader’s positions also challenge established norms and conventions. Moreover, the true litmus test for a thought leader is when their unique ideas are implemented in the marketplace, they tend to create disruptive innovation, and often change the way we view the world.

Regrettably the label of thought leader has evolved to become a self-bestowed title for anyone who has something to say or promote, often without regard for qualitative issues. Some would say that the term thought leader, once synonymous with futurist and innovator, is more closely aligned with snake-oil salesman today. Don’t get me wrong, true thought leaders still exist; they are just much harder to spot these days.

Let me begin by stating that authentic thought leaders, the real deals, are not created via great marketing and PR alone. While they are oft published, quite outspoken, and many times represented by marvelous publicists, they are not merely contrived, self-promoted legends in their own minds. Rather true thought leaders are born out of real-world successes, achievements, and contributions that have been recognized by their peers and competitors alike. 

The collection of speakers at WBF causes me to ponder what really constitutes thought leadership? I’ll be sharing my observations with you over the next two days, but my advice to you is to  judge people on their actions and results, not their rhetoric. Don’t accept conventional wisdom as gospel unless you can validate proof of concept, and then only accept it if you can innovate with it, or around it.  Here’s the deal - when you run across a real thought leader, you’ll clearly recognize them as such for there is something truly unique in both their words and deeds.

I’d be interested in your thoughts on what defines thought leadership. I’m also interested in your thoughts about the speakers I’ll be profiling over the next few days – do they deserve thought leader status? Lastly, if you have anyone who stands out to you as a real thought leader in business I welcome hearing about them. I look forward to your comments…

Social Media Influence

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

Social Media InfluenceSocial media influence; the harsh reality is that you either have it or you don’t. I’m going to tell you the cold hard truth about social media…what you need to know that most people won’t tell you. While anyone can have a social media presence, not everyone possesses social media influence. It’s clear to those in the know that social media is a universe of the haves and have nots. It’s the difference between relevance and irrelevance, visibility and anonymity. You might have something to say, but without influence, nobody will be listening. Put simply, having a social media presence without influence is little more than an exercise in frivolity. In today’s post I’ll share some thoughts on the importance of social media influence in the building of personal and corporate brand equity.  

Before we go any further, I think it’s important to address social media critics and the naysayers by answering the questions: Does social media work? Is social media right for business? Can you generate an increase in revenue and brand equity with social media? How does social media compare with other mediums? If you’re still asking these questions WAKE-UP – get your head out of the sand, and stop broadcasting your ignorance. Validating proof of concept around social media ROI is a discussion that may have had a bit of relevance 24 months ago, but unless you’ve been stranded on a desert island for the last couple of years you know that numerous case studies abound which validate social media beyond any reasonable doubt.

If you think you don’t have time to Tweet or Blog, the reality is that you don’t have time not to. Here’s the bottom line: How can you possibly justify not communicating with your key constituents, stakeholders, and influencers in an environment of their choosing, where they are actively having conversations in real time? News Flash: you can’t. That said, if you’re still a social media basher, watch the following video we put together and judge for yourself:

 

Okay, it should be clear after watching our video that social media can produce huge ROI, but here’s the real story line: only if you know what you’re doing. The one thing that each of the personal and corporate brands profiled in the video all had in common is that they leveraged social media influence to accomplish their objectives. If you choose to dive into the social media world without a strategy, without understanding how to create social media influence, you will not be pleased with your results. Like anything in life, if you’re going to do something, you’re better off to do it right or not to do it at all.

There’s nary a week that passes where I don’t have a conversation with somebody who proudly proclaims that they created a Twitter page, to which I usually respond; “that’s great, but why?” Don’t get me wrong, recognizing the value of participating in the most powerful medium on the planet by getting in the game is a good thing, but it’s an even better thing when coupled with a plan. Let me say this as clearly as I can…a ready, fire, aim approach will rarely find the target.

For all you well intended ad agencies, consultants, marketing managers, brand managers, entrepreneurs, and professionals ready to dip your toe, or your clients toe in the water that is social media, keep in mind that it does no good whatsoever to have a blog that only has one published post in the last 6 months, a Twitter page with 4 followers, a LinkedIn profile with 18 connections, a Facebook account with 7 friends, etc. It’s like flashing a neon sign that says I’m irrelevant and nobody cares. It won’t do anything to help you, it will only hurt you. In today’s world no one wants to do business with a company that’s not connected, has no influence, isn’t engaged, and that doesn’t get it.

While having little or no online following can easily brand you as being without influence, having legions of followers solely for the sake of amassing large numbers doesn’t necessarily mean you have any real influence either. Anybody can amass tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of followers just by following as many people as they can and waiting for them to reciprocate. The important thing to understand is whether or not anything of substance or value underpins the numbers? Think about it for a moment…almost nothing can hurt a brand faster than constantly messaging irrelevance to a large constituency. Not a good move… 

Who you choose to follow on Twitter, which blogs you read and comment on, who you add as a friend to your Facebook account, or which invitations you accept on LinkedIn speaks volumes about what you’re attempting to accomplish online. Like most things, building and maintaining your social media footprint should be engineered by design, but the truth is that most people allow it to be constructed by default. In a perfect world you would build relationships with the largest possible universe of targeted constituents where you can productively engage and contribute.  Just as you don’t want to add to the noise, nor do you want to remain part of the silence. Having a relevant, highly engaged social media following means you have influence and can create action. Here’s a simple formula to ponder as you create your social media framework:

Social Media Influence = engagement+relevancy+knowledge+trust+presence+value+time

So, how do you start to build social media influence? The best way is to start off on the right foot by not tainting your brand or reputation.  Don’t begin by trying to sell something, but rather by listening, engaging in conversations, building trust, and adding value. Contribute knowledge and information to the constituencies that you want to build influence with. Become a part of them as opposed to a vendor to them…This is a difficult concept for old-school marketers to get their arms around, but a critical one nonetheless. I would strongly suggest reading two previous posts: “Shut-up and Listen” and “Stop Selling and Add Value” as support for these positions.  Following are a few tips to help you build influence online:

  1. Have a Strategy - If you want to create success and influence using social media you better have a plan. This sounds reasonable enough, but here’s where it gets a bit tougher – the plan isn’t about you. To be successful in creating social media influence your efforts need to be centered around others. It’s not how well you sell, it’s about how well you listen, add value and build meaningful relationships. Remember that connections are not the same thing as relationships, but that connections can develop into relationships with the proper effort on your part. 
  2. Commitment-  While technology is a natural accelerant helping to catalyze new opportunities and extend relationships, creating trust and influence will still take time. While there are exceptions to every rule, don’t expect overnight success. Regardless of the medium, you’ll rarely find influential people who don’t recognize the value of staying the course.  
  3. Don’t breach trust- you work far too hard to create a trust bond with your followers, so don’t blow it by not following through on your commitments. I would also suggest resisting the temptation to have all your communications be self-serving. Do this and you’ll be viewed as just another sales broadcast. When you do sell, do it properly, and for the right reasons.
  4. Don’t be a jerk, hater or taker - People don’t want to hear from those they don’t like. If you want to build lasting social media influence you must be seen as valuable resource and not a taker of other’s time, resources or ideas. Take a sincere interest in others – help them become successful – give more than you take.
  5. Have command over your subject matter – If you don’t know what you’re talking about, remain silent. Voicing your opinion isn’t nearly as important as helping someone else refine their thinking with wise counsel. The easy rule is to stay out of conversations where you don’t add value.
  6. Listen and respond- If you’re forcing an agenda rather than responding to the needs of your followers you’ll lose any chance at creating influence. Remember that most people will go to great lengths to help someone who has been of assistance to them.   
  7. Publish quality content that adds value – what you produce in terms of content will be become synonymous with your online reputation. It will either serve you well, or be your undoing. Frequency is important but only to the extent that qualitative considerations are not sacrificed.

As I’ve espoused before, I’m not a huge fan of one-size-fits-all strategies, and this opinion holds true in regard to building your network as well. Despite countless opinions to the contrary, I’ve come to the conclusion that while no single “right” methodology exists for building your online network, I regularly observe many “wrong” approaches…

The conclusion here should be obvious - you’ll be successful in creating real social media influence when you take the time to seek out wise counsel, and implement an authentic approach to a well crafted social media strategy. If you don’t, while you might not fail, you certainly won’t maximize the potential that exists for you. I would love to hear your thoughts on what I’ve put forth above – Please leave a comment and let me know whether you agree, disagree, or have a different take altogether…