How do you seek influence in the areas that matter? What kind of influence do you have at work, at home, with your friends? Do people regularly take you up on your suggestions and recommendations? How persuasive are you?
In order to be influential, you must shape people’s thinking. Parents do this sort of thing all the time to their children. They’re constantly reminding them how to be, how to act, what to think, suggesting how to feel, making recommendations. They realize that their kids don’t know the world in which they live and are unsure as to how to interpret it. It is up to parents to act as guides in shaping their kids’ lives and thoughts. It is clear that parents are hugely influential people in their children’s lives.
Leaders shape the thinking of their subordinates. They make suggestions as to how they should treat one another; how they should be thinking about the competition; how they should be thinking about their industry; how they should be thinking about their community. Leaders make suggestions and recommendations and solicit feedback from their people, seeing what they think about given topics. They also set the standard, the tone. The tone always starts at the top. When people don’t know what to do, they look to their boss for cues. It is then up to the boss to set the standard of behavior. the boss also shapes behavior in this way. This is a vital point: the boss either displays wisely or does not. If not, a toxic culture may result. Note how important this is: leadership is responsible for company culture, the standards by which people treat one another in the workplace. One person can shape the entire culture of a firm based upon how he or she treats their staff. This is a powerful idea. And it can either be a great experience for people or it can be a pitiful experience for people. It is up to the leader and their staff, and it is done by choice. This is how powerful shaping peoples’ thinking is. Do not undermine what’s at stake here. Bosses have great power, and with that power comes shaping peoples’ thinking.
Raise their ambition. Get them thinking higher about themselves and their capabilities. It is very easy to get stuck in the minutia that we tend to forget about what else we wish to do with our careers, where else we wish to go, what direction we desire. Leaders and coaches do a great job of lifting peoples’ ambitions to higher levels than they currently are. They say things like, “I know you can do better than that.” Or, “Why don’t you go again. Only this time, try this way.” Or, “Great attempt. Have you thought about…” Often times an outside perspective is needed on the things we do to remind us of what we’re truly capable of. You can do more. You’re capable of great things. What you’re doing right now is not your full suite of capabilities. Yes, it is a reassurance of sorts but it is more than that. You’re raising their ability to think higher of themselves than they currently do. So much good comes from believing in someone and telling them that.
We rise to the level set by our expectations and expectations of others. This is why it is so important to hang out with people who have high expectations of themselves and their peer group. They up your game. They make you better. They seek constant improvement. They won’t settle for mediocrity or less than you’re capable of. People with high ambition tend to hang out with other people with high ambition. Then, it becomes a self-reinforcing system, a positive, virtuous circle. We’re better simply by hanging out with people who are better thinkers and better doers and possess high ambitions.
As a parent, it is vital to have high expectations of your children. You’re constantly saying to them, “You’re better than that.” Or, “I know you’re capable of more.” Or, “This is not your best work. You’re far more creative than you give yourself credit for.” Or, “That’s too bad. The world could really use your talents right now. You have so much to offer.” It is statements like these that keep people on their toes and rethink their efforts and ambitions. We are better than the effort we usually put forth. We wing it. We phone it in. We give it the college try. We are quick to applaud the ‘A’ awarded to a given subject, but we’re not usually quick to applaud the effort put forth. This is what really needs the accolade. Effort and ambition go hand- in-hand. You can be ambitious all you want, but if you’re lazy, you’re not going anywhere fast. By raising kids’ ambitions and effort, you’re lifting their spirits of capability and self-belief. Say it to them often enough, they come to believe it in themselves and they rise to perform. All because someone took the time to believe in them and transfer that confidence to them. We don’t know what we’re truly capable of. This is true for kids but it is especially true for adults. It is up to parents, coaches and leaders to raise their ambitions and let them know what high levels of achievement they can attain through effort and reassurance and confidence transfer.
Tomorrow — Be the example you wish to see in others.