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Leaders, Check Your Influence

For a leader, image really can be everything. It can affect employee relationships, performance and most importantly, a leader’s ability to influence outcomes.

co_0829_short_302Some senior leaders might scoff at the notion that they need to watch how they come across at their companies, but they might want to reel in their pride and egos and pick up a mirror.

Popular belief might suggest differently, but a person’s title has little if anything to do with whether or not they’re influential, said Chicago-based communications executive and coach Stacey Hanke of Stacey Hanke Inc. “Influence is not about you show up, you turn it on, and then you’re done with that event. If you’re going to have influence, it’s about your body language, being consistent with your message Monday to Monday.”

Hanke said her team’s philosophy on influence revolves around this: Everyone has a brand. Whether a person shows up with a consistent brand irrespective of environment or interaction and with confidence, credibility and integrity will determine the level of influence.

Influence is not just about the message a person delivers, said Hanke, author of “Influence Redefined: Be the Leader You Were Meant to Be, Monday to Monday.” “It truly is how do people experience you before, during and after.”

Stacey Hanke

Stacey Hanke

Often, the higher up leaders go, the less likely they are to receive feedback on how they’re presenting themselves, which can hold back their effectiveness. Here are a few questions for leaders to consider based on Hanke’s influence model:

Are you getting to the point? A lack of brevity, filler words and the phrases leaders use can stifle their message and keep them in the weeds, Hanke said. “We like to say ‘Land the plane. Stop circling in the air and just land that plane.’ ”

Are you speaking when you see eyes? People often think good eye contact means looking at everyone and scanning the room. Instead, leaders should speak only when they see eyes. “Having this level of connection through the eyes gets people to feel like they’re the most important person in the room, and it allows you as the speaker to be constantly focused in the moment of what’s happening between you and your listener.”

Are you showing you want to be at the table? Hanke said when clients view videos of themselves they are often astonished at their overall posture. Whether its fidgeting, pacing the floor, slouching or crossing their arms, people across industries show up with these behaviors. Hanke said part of the reason might be that no one is bringing it to their attention. But again, these habits detract from a leader’s presence.

To identify and address their problem spots, executives can start by video and audio recording themselves on a regular basis to see what experience they’re creating or not creating. In the short- and long-term, how leaders show up will make an impact at the business level as well as the professional level.

Hanke said if listeners can’t hear or understand an executive’s message, it’s unlikely influence can occur. Without the influence to drive change, how can sales leaders enable front-line employees to sell products? How can a nonprofit development leader expect to grow critical funds? How can a leader in any organization create a team that follows them? “If your team isn’t following you, they may be going in a different direction and the results never occur,” she explained. “If you’re the CEO people aren’t following, that could jeopardize your career.”

Bravetta Hassell is associate editor for Chief Learning Officer. Comment below or email editor@CLOmedia.com.

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