Influence without the ego [Wise Wednesdays]
How can I influence better at work?
It’s a question that often comes up in coaching.
After all, how can you bring your vision alive if you can’t get others on board? As they say, if your vision can be achieved by you alone, then the vision isn’t big enough.
Or one of my favourite: if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.
But what is influence? And, if it entails engagement, collaboration and making alliances, how do you stay true to your vision and values while accommodating the needs, vision and values of others?
Do you have to compromise? Must you bend your principles? Is there some game you must learn to play?
In the Presence Power Possibility coaching group (PPP), we’ve been exploring the theme of Radical Authenticity. Authenticity because it’s a human to want to be self-actualised (which feels pleasant); and radical because this self-actualisation requires a dropping the masks made of internalised expectations and conditioned identities (which is often painful).
These masks (made up of egoic defences) protect and help to succeed in the first part of life. But in the second, when a deeper potential starts to awaken, they get in the way. It’s the premise of the Success Trap book.
The focus in PPP isn’t on a lot of clever communication strategies – which can reinforce ego defences - but on awakening the courage to be visible while extending a hand to another person to connect without knowing how they’ll respond. This can be very vulnerable. The reward can be deeper connection and more powerful impact on others.
I’m proud of the work we’ve done in PPP. And how a group of busy, brilliant professional women have made the time and energy to show up week after week with courage and vulnerability.
The work isn’t theoretical but experiential (you can experience some of it in the next Leaders Circle – see below).
Here are some key ideas and distinctions around authenticity we’ve explored that you might like to think about in how to influence effectively:
Power versus force:
The great man myth of leadership is still very much alive. It assumes there’s one mover and shaker who gets people to do what they want through a kind of force. However, it is possible to direct energy with softness – like an Aikido master. Perhaps this is you? You might not say a lot but your presence is felt. And when you’re not in the room, something is missing. You’re like a kind of balancing factor who helps keep others grounded and sane.
Who you think you should be / who you want to be / who you are:
You most likely have many identities and wear multiple hats in your life. This multiplicity can create tension and inner-conflict when responsibilities clash, and make you less effective as a leader or in your influence. Who are you beyond the hats you wear? Here are a few pointers in this exercise from a previous Wise Wednesdays on figuring out what you really want.
Passivity versus presence:
At the other extreme of the influence spectrum is total passivity (as opposed to forcefulness). But your presence can be powerful, as mentioned above, and it is not the same as passivity. Speaking from presence also has deep impact. If you’re wondering how to do this, the non-violent communication framework is a helpful tool (it’s based on similar principles to Gandhi’s non-violence approach which influenced civil rights movements throughout the world). So you may not want to reproduce the psychological violence that toxic work cultures resort to in order to influence, you can make an impact with your strong presence and (non-violent) communication.
Legends in the making: Celebrating E who’s completing a year of transformation and six months in Presence Power Possibility with a sense of having more control over her time, decisions and path in life. She’d started her coaching journey this time last year with the Uplevel Your Career course I ran online. She’s gone from feeling totally frustrated about her career track, to getting a new, exciting role as a leader in tech as well as setting up her own ventures and starting to coach other women in leadership! The coaching process served her in reconnecting with her sense of innate-worth, owning her zone of genius and letting go of unnecessary responsibilities that were draining her energy. The transition wasn’t without its challenges and dilemmas. She courageously turned down a job offer with a £250k a year salary plus equity because the culture the CEO was creating didn’t align with her values. She took something with a lower salary but that did align with her values. That takes guts. And this kind of voting with your feet where possible makes small dents – influence - that help end toxic work cultures.
You may have been on assertiveness trainings or come across various frameworks for communication which help somewhat.
But in the end, it’s the practice in daily life, at the coalface, in the most inconvenient moments, that grows your influence magic.
You might think moments of tension and conflict are problems to be avoided. But every act of communication is an opportunity for connection, even conflict.
Influence, like radical authenticity, isn’t about being comfortable. As Tim Ferriss points out: your success is proportional to the number of uncomfortable conversations you’re willing to have.
Your willingness to go through a little discomfort – the ambiguity, the uncertainty, the unknown without ego defences - is the doorway to what you really want.
To your courage.
p.s. Wise Wednesdays will be taking a break but back in September with more wisdom, coaching tools and stories of career leaps and life transformations. We’ll be kicking off with a new Leaders Circle on Sept 15th. If you want to explore deeper approaches to ‘managing up’, ‘getting buy in from your team’ or ‘stakeholder engagement’, join the next Leaders Circle on Influence without the Ego. This is a special 2 hour event. More info here.
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