Zig Ziglar said, “You can have everything in life you want if you will just help other people get what they want.” This principle, like most of Zig’s, is spot on. It’s not self-serving and places the interests of others ahead of our own. And that’s the paradox. The more we help others, the more likely they will help us. It’s not why we do it, but it is something that seems to happen.
The secret to Zig’s success was his humility. He genuinely enjoyed helping other people. Zig knew his success hinged on his ability to help other people solve their greatest problems, obstacles, and challenges, and he lived his entire life based like that.
It’s a terrible feeling when you know someone is just interested in how you can benefit them. We’ve all had that experience. But the people who rise to the top never allow their personal interests to get in the way of understanding and resolving the biggest problems of the person they are engaging. This is a powerful way to live.
Influence begins by helping others be successful.
How would your leadership change if you were solely focused on the success of others? This is a vitally important question. Don’t allow your thinking to be limited to the people who report to you and those to whom you report. What if your posture in life was to understand how you could help everyone you encounter to take a step toward a better life and a better future? You [don’t have to wait for a title or positionl; you can influence others today.
It’s easy to become obsessed with what must get done today. There are deadlines to meet, reports to write, goals to achieve, and Boards to whom we must give account. But to deliver on those things, you must invest in the success of the people above you, below you, and next to you. If you do that, then you’ll take your leadership to the next level and your influence will multiply.
The size of your influence will determine the size of your impact.
The poet, John Donne, wrote, “No man is an island.” You can’t accomplish what you need to accomplish without the help of others, and those around you can’t accomplish what they need to accomplish without you. It’s a productive ecosystem when it is fully functional and healthy.
How do you help others get what they want? Let me suggest five things:
1. Get to know the people around you. Influence is personal and relational. If you don’t know what’s important to the people around you, you will never be able to help them accomplish what’s most important to them.
2. Be clear and specific about goals and outcomes. It’s easy to get lost in philosophical conversations and possibilities. But when goals and outcomes become measurable, they become achievable. There is nothing that can bring people together than when you are headed in the same direction and for the same purpose.
3. Listen attentively. Being a leader and person of influence is somewhat like being a therapist. You must listen to what is being said, how it is said, and what remains unsaid. The meta-conversation is just as important as the conversation itself.
4. Adjust accordingly. Nothing builds rapport with people faster than when you adjust to maintain alignment with others. It’s easy to be inflexible. But if the outcomes have already been agreed upon, then turning those goals into reality is more important than how we get there.
5. Be gracious. Encourage someone when they stumble and give credit where credit is due. Builds trust with people by being truthful, honest, and consistent. When you show gratitude toward others, it will come back to you again and again.
I am where I am today because other people invested in me.
I’ve been blessed by friends, family, and tremendous success. I could allow all that I’m thankful for to cloud my judgment and make everything about me. Or I could allow all that I’m thankful for to remind me I wouldn’t be who I am or have achieved what I have achieved without the people who invested in me. That, in turn, makes me want to invest in the success of those around me.
Here are some practical ways you can make this true in your leadership:
· Share a story about when you messed up and how you recovered when someone confides in you about a mess up in their life.
· Take the phone call of a friend or colleague who needs a fresh perspective on something they are working on—even if you’re busy.
· Make time for feedback sessions with your team. You control your calendar. Not the other way around.
· Send a handwritten note to someone you think needs to know that other people are noticing their hard work or to someone who simply needs to hear a word of encouragement.
· Give people space to make a mistake. Then help them work through it and recover from it.
If you help others succeed, you will succeed and your influence will grow.
Very few things in life happen in a vacuum. Influence can only happen when you are in a relationship with the people around you. Otherwise, you’re just exercising your authority over people, and that misses the point completely.
The leaders who influenced me the most consistently challenged me to grow in my thinking and experience. It wasn’t always comfortable. But I am who I am today because other people saw something in me they wanted to develop, grow, and mature over time—especially when I didn’t or couldn’t see it in myself. Their commitment resulted in a changed life and person who is now dedicated to developing others.
Influence is most potent when you help others accomplish what’s most important to them. It will multiply your effectiveness and ensure you continue to achieve what’s important to you.
REFLECT: How are you helping those around you accomplish what’s important to them? Do you know the people around you well enough to be able to articulate how they define success? How would your influence change if the people around you became more important to you than your personal agenda?