You Want Influence? Serve Others First
I’ve been a Simon Sinek fan since I first watched his Ted Talk on “The Golden Circle.” If you haven’t watched it yet, I strongly encourage you to take the time to do so. It’s worth every minute. It’s based on his first (and most famous) book, Start With Why.
I just finished re-reading his second book, Leader’s Eat Last. If you’d like a quick intro to the book, check out this slide deck. This book also has some powerful reframing of what it means to lead and influence others.
People are at the heart of influence and leadership.
My big takeaway from Simon’s book is that people are at the heart of influence and leadership. It’s our job as leaders not to value the needs of the organization above the needs of the individual but to recognize that people are the heart of every organization. When your people are healthy, growing, and successful, you will be too. Ideas, strategy, and planning aren’t the marketplace differentiators; it’s your people who will make or break your organization.
If you want to elevate your leadership to new levels of influence, then you’ll need to first refocus your efforts on finding great people, putting them in the right places, and creating the right environments to unleash their creative potential. It sounds so simple, yet it’s so hard to do. In the midst of agendas, strategic planning, and Board meetings, leading can feel like herding cats. But that attitude is precisely what can foster thinking that the people in your organization exist to serve you rather than the other way around.
Influence starts with valuing people more than projects.
Leaders who value people more than projects:
· Take the time to get to know them. If you don’t know any personal details about the life of the people you directly lead and interact with on a regular basis, you’ve missed a huge opportunity to connect and influence them.
· Work to find roles and opportunities that fit their greatest strengths and interests. It’s not about what you need to get done; it’s about helping people who believe in your dream find a way to leverage their knowledge, insights, and skills. That’s when their full potential is unleashed.
· Acknowledge their contribution and appreciate what they bring to the table. Leaders who understand how influence works understand that all cooperation and collaboration is voluntary. It’s a “check and balance” if you will. When you respect that dynamic, people will outperform your expectations most of the time.
· Celebrate when new opportunities take them in new directions. Don’t be that leader. When someone tells you that you’ve helped them grow and develop to the point that someone else wants to invest in them in a new and different way, be excited for them and their accomplishment. Don’t just think about how it affects you.
These are not universal experiences. Not every leader I’ve worked for has exhibited the characteristics and traits identified above. I’ve felt like a hamster in a wheel at times, and that’s a difficult place to be. But I’ve tried my best to learn from the poor leadership I’ve seen and experienced and do things differently for those I lead.
If you want to know the secret to exponential influence that will take you, the people you lead, and your organization to the next level, I’ll tell you. At the heart of influence is the willingness to serve others.
What does serving others look like?
· Serving others begins with gratitude. Never underestimate the power of being thankful has on framing our perception of others.
· Serving others requires you to place the needs of others above your own. It’s not about what you want; it’s about how you can help them grow.
· Serving others means you are willing to be inconvenienced. Make time to invest in others. You’ll consistently be surprised on their ROI.
· Serving others means you step out of our office and onto the production floor. Don’t stay in the ivory tower. Roll up your sleeves and sweat with the people you lead. You’ll earn their respect.
· Serving others eliminates your need to be the source of all the answers, solutions, and ideas. Invite advice, insights, and ideas from the people on the frontlines of the problem you are trying to solve or barrier you are trying to overcome. They’ve likely thought about the situation way more than you have already, and their ideas are likely to be very practical and tangible.
Gratitude and thanksgiving will change your level of influence.
It is the little things in life that matter. When you call someone by name, ask them about their children, or share in the emotion of their experiences, you transcend being a boss and become a mentor. In an age where the pressure to perform has never been higher, you have a choice to make. Will you drive people to accomplish your goals, or will you inspire them to accomplish their dreams? The result is the same, but the path to getting there is very different.
Your influence will multiply when the people you lead believe that you want the best for them, that you appreciate who they are and their contributions, and that you need them to get where you’re going. If people are just resources to you, then you’ll never be able to tap into the genius within them, and you’ll limit the impact potential of your organization. Whether you are a pastor, entrepreneur, educator, or business executive, influence begins when you start serving others.
CHALLENGE: Identify three people you work closely with. Write down how they have helped you be successful. Send them a handwritten note telling them how much you appreciate their efforts and contribution. Notice how many of them mention that note the next time they see you.