By Stacey Hanke
A major driver of being influential is practice.
If you have ever played a sport, a musical instrument, or any similar pursuit that takes muscle memory, you know that improvement never occurs without practice. Let’s say, for example, you have been playing golf for more than 10 years and you’re tired of your family and friends telling you what to do. You decide to hire a coach.
The first step that coach is going to ask you to take is to show your swing. He or she will want to observe your style. After you swing the golf club several times, the coach begins to pick it apart. This is where some people will give up.
Your subconscious tells you that if it doesn’t feel right or comfortable to know about these observations, so it must be wrong. But if you take the advice of your golf coach and practice, suddenly your swing improves. Enhancing your influence is the same concept.
Everyone hopes to maintain a reputation that communicates trustworthiness, confidence and, most importantly, influence. Most want a quick fix, but no one can be more influential after one coaching or training session.
Being influential through every word you speak and every movement you make, Monday to Monday, takes deliberate practice and a lot of hard work. That’s it. You can’t read a how-to book or rely on your title and comfort level to be influential.
The hard truth is that being influential is a lifelong journey of practicing through day-to-day interactions. The good news is that we communicate 24/7. Not having time to practice is not an excuse.
Harvard Business Review explained this concept of deliberate practice: “It entails considerable, specific, and sustained efforts to do something you can’t do well—or even at all. Research across domains shows that it’s only by working at what you can’t do that you turn into the expert you want to become.”
Therefore, get comfortable being uncomfortable. Feeling uncomfortable is a completely normal reaction any time we start practicing a new skill that is outside our comfort zone or beyond our current competence.
Let’s return to the golf example: How many people do you think go back to their old form because the new swing is too uncomfortable and changing their swing requires too much work? A lot! How many people have I known who stopped practicing influence skills because it felt a bit awkward or uncomfortable? A lot!
This week, take on this four-step commitment:
- Clarity. To determine how much you need to practice, get clear on what you want to achieve. When you’re clear on what you want, you’ll be able to recognize when you’ve reached your desired outcome.
- Feedback. It takes discipline to ask for feedback. Do what it takes to get motivated and focused so that you can take action on the feedback, which will get you to your desired outcomes.
- Take a look. If you’re not regularly seeing and hearing yourself through the eyes and ears of your listeners, you’re missing out on huge opportunities to improve. The only way you can clearly know how others perceive you is through video and audio recordings. At your next meeting, simply press “record” on your tech gadget. Audio record your phone conversations.
- Trust. Recording yourself is useless without immediate playback. When you review your playback, do you come across the way you want to? What do you want to enhance or improve? Trust what the video playback shows. Nothing is more honest.
Stacey Hanke is the founder and communication expert, Stacey Hanke, Inc., Chicago, Illinois, and author of Influence Redefined: Be the Leader, You Were Meant to Be, Monday to Monday, and Yes You Can! Everything You Need From A to Z to Influence Others to Take Action (www.staceyhankeinc.com; @StaceyHankeInc).