The Elements of Influence
Influence means the power to be a compelling force. But how do we get it? How can we become more influential so that we can lead, team and live better?
When someone has a car crash and you begin to examine the cause, you will find its never just one reason. There are a number of elements that caused that moment of collision.
Likewise when it comes to become a more effective influencer. It’s never just one element, but rather a combination that work together.
Take my story.
In Italy, where all good stories begin…
When I was 22, I had been holiday scheming-and-dreaming with an Aussie friend who was living in London, and this time we had our sights on Capri, a small island off southern Italy. Capri is one of God’s favoured creations. It’s big enough to have two separate towns (Capri and Anacapri), and small enough to travel around in one day. Visited by the mega wealthy – where Beyonce holidays and James packer parks his yacht.
One night early on in our adventure, with the help of a local friend, my friend and I were ushered into one of Capri’s exclusive clubs the Anema e Core Taverna (the Tavern of Heart and Soul). It was humble on the outside, just a plain white brick wall with a terracotta archway framing a door. And yet we were immediately in awe as we stepped inside and saw a long hallway lined with photos of the mega-famous and wealthy who had been photographed within the club – A-List Hollywood movie stars, musicians, US presidents and even royal family smiling back at you from the photos.
We made our way into the bustling tavern and settled in close to the stage where a band was energetically playing, led by their charismatic Master of ceremonies Guido. Sipping prosecco and wildly eyeing the glamorous surroundings, my friend decided on a whim to wave at Guido, and whisper to him conspiratorially:
‘You know … my friend Kirryn is a singer, she could sing on stage with you.’
Before I could protest, Guido grabbed hold of my wrist and pulled me on to the stage. A lull came over the crowded room as the music stopped, and everyone stared at the panicked blonde girl on the stage in her stiletto heels and off-the-shoulder top over skinny jeans. (It was the early 2000s, after all.)
Now let’s pause.
Could I sing? Yes.
Did I have dreams of being a pop star (at the time)? Yes.
Was I also aware that this club the place where people like J Lo, Katy Perry and Beyonce popped in to sing along with Guido in the crowd. Also yes.
Was I petrified? HELL YES.
‘What song, love?’ he asked in a heavily accented English, completely oblivious to my wide-eyed startled look.
‘My name is Kirryn,’ I said. ‘And I’d like to sing …’
And then I stopped. My mind went completely blank.
Under the bright lights and the pressure of the moment, I felt completely incapable of ever remembering another song again. Panicked, frozen, with a thousand eyes on me, I willed myself to snap out of it. I took a deep breath and then it came to me: ‘Fields of Gold’ by Eva Cassidy.
The band sprang into song, skilfully playing the notes as if it had been planned. Guido perfectly accompanied my melody with his voice and guitar as I fiercely wrapped my hands around the microphone, planted my feet and belted out the best damn version that I’ve ever sung.
So how does this relate to influence?
How does my story in a thriving tavern in southern Italy relate to a quest for increased influence?
First I had to Show UP.
I wasn’t just in the room, I was at the front of the room. I had positioned myself ready for the moment. I was ready for action.
Likewise… For your moments of influence and opportunity – you’ve got to be well positioned. Ready and waiting for the moments to happen.
Have you said yes to trying that new role? Are you signing up to that sales course to put yourself in front of your clients? Have you updated your LinkedIn profile ready for an opportunity?
This first step is also about the first impression that people have of you and how you can influence their perception from the first moment. Popular consensus suggest 7 seconds is all it takes to form a first impression of someone. Experiments by Princeton researchers even suggest that people can make accurate judgments of others within 1/10 of a second (https://www.scienceofpeople.com/first-impressions/).
When I work with leaders, sales teams, marketing teams and discuss how we can positively influence their first impression either in person or online – we consider how do you establish credibility, how do you contrast and how can you create consistency over time. If you’re curious about how to make a powerful first impression, you can read a past article here.
Then I had the chance to TEAM UP.
Would I have been on that stage without my friend. Nope. I would have thought about it. Maybe dreamed about it. It’s very likely though, I wouldn’t have taken action.
When we build better connections will become better influencers.
We’re in a season where we’re better connected then ever through technology and systems… and yet many are feeling disconnected or disengaged in their relationships at work and in life.
Meaningful and social connections that happen naturally in the office – small talk in-between meetings, while making a cup of tea in the kitchen, or across desks – play an important role in helping people build rapport, deepen trust, and create emotional connections at work. The absence of these incidental interactions during periods of lockdown, or change to working rhythms has been intensely felt by employees and have been difficult to facilitate within a hybrid working environment.
This phenomenon is well summed up by Wall Street Journalist Joanna Stern, “while remote work has many advantages, building trust between employees isn’t one of them. Online, there is no water cooler, no nearby coffee shop for informal brainstorms, no place to grab a drink after work.”
The over-reliance of virtual-only communication erodes rapport and emotional connection. As Adam Grant said, have we forgotten how to talk to each other when “we’re working in a room full of mirrors”, which is hugely exhausting as our brain is on over-drive reading the micro-movements of people for 8 hours a day.
I believe we need to rehumanise our connection. We need to reset the rhythms of relationship and the chemistry of connection so we can lead, team and influence better.
And third I had to Step UP.
Bravery was required. Personal courage.
And if I extend this into our quest as an influencer – it’s also about the stories we tell. First the stories we tell ourselves, and then the stories we share with others.
Facts may be forgotten, but stories will stick. Stories will open doors and create deeper connections that will help to amplify your influence. Stories will help you to be more persuasive in your teams and with your customers. Stories will help to inspire and motivate yourself into action.
A number of studies suggest that sharing personal stories at work can be a powerful tool for building relationships and connections among colleagues. It can increase trust, empathy, and psychological safety, which can ultimately lead to more effective teamwork and improved performance.
Looking to step up your influence?
You might be interested in joining The Influencer Series.
If you would like the recording so far (of Michael Grinder on the influence of nonverbal language, Alice Haemmerle on the influence of tone, or myself on the Influence of connection), and want to join us for the rest of the series, make sure to register at:
Looking forward to seeing you in the next session.
 Stern, J. 2021, ‘Tech That Will Change Your Life in 2021’, The Wall Street Journal, 1 January 2021.