I’ve been talking about getting what you want. In the last post, I described three ways you can get results. My belief is that there is only one that works: influence. It alone gets lasting results. As I posted before, when we let our lives speak and pass along the best of ourselves over time, the effect can last a lifetime and beyond – impacting future generations. 

There’s a story from the history books that really illustrates that kind of influence – this is about General Dwight D. Eisenhower during WWII. Ike used to walk among his troops, and one night before a battle he met a young GI and chatted with him:

“How are you feeling, son?”

“General,” said the boy, “I’m awful nervous. I was wounded two months ago and just got back from the hospital yesterday. I don’t feel so good.” 

“Well,” said the General, “you and I are a good pair, because I’m nervous, too… Maybe if we just walk along together toward the river, we’ll be good for each other.”

Eisenhower could have been in that boy’s face – “Suck it up and act like a man!” Or he could have tried to convince the kid – “Everything will be juuust fine, I promise!” But he chose to simply invite the boy to walk beside him. He inspired that soldier by being authentic, by being real. We face those same kinds of choices every day as we deal with our coworkers, our clients, and our families. Which way will we choose?

I’m writing on this site because I want to make a difference – to harness the power of words to help, encourage and empower people. It’s also a way for me to get what I want out of life – to live out my dreams of impacting leaders and being part of their success. I may be tempted at times to use words that are crafty and controlling – or syrupy sweet and convincing – because they can get me what I want. 

But I have a higher goal – to have a positive influence on my world. That’s something we can all do. So let’s strive for authenticity and let our lives show people truth and hope – let them shout out honesty, integrity, excellence, empathy and compassion. Let’s inspire and empower as we choose actions over words and let our lives speak.


Three ways to get results

In an earlier post I talked about getting what you want. There are lots of ways – the choice is yours. Each works differently, has a unique cost, and creates a specific effect. Let’s take a look at three: manipulation, persuasion, and influence.

Manipulation pushes it’s own agenda. It’s the work of a puppeteer – someone who uses power to control you and make you do what he wants. Manipulation wants to capture and imprison, using forces like fear and guilt. It’s like my friend’s ex-boyfriend, who trapped her in their screwed-up relationship by telling her he’d make her pay if she left. He’d hurt her or himself and it’d all be her fault. Manipulation is a costly choice. If we choose to exploit and control, the result is a broken or dysfunctional relationship. My friend left her abusive boyfriend a year ago and he is still alone.

Our second option, persuasion, doesn’t push you, it pulls you over – it uses emotion to convince you, to draw you in. It’s all compliments, smiles, and emotional appeals. One of the salesmen I buy from is a master persuader. He’s a southern gentleman who always tells me how smaaw-t we aaw. He’s got the bait, and he wants to reel me in like a smallmouth bass. But persuasion has a cost – it degrades our integrity when we say whatever it takes to draw ‘em in. I bet that guy tells all his clients how smawt they aaw, don’t you? 

Influence feels different. It invites you alongside and changes you on the inside. It doesn’t push or pull – it inspires and empowers by example, by the modeling of authentic behavior. A positive influence in my life is my friend Cliff, who just ran his 13th marathon. He was so excited to hear about my first 5K race. Cliff inspires me. When I talk to him, I believe I’ll someday finish a marathon too. The cost of influence is time – the effects are slow and cumulative. If Cliff really wants to see me run a marathon, he can’t expect it to happen right away. It might take years of encouragement.

 So I’ve talked about three ways to get what you want. But which one really works?  Manipulation works – it gets what you want, but the effect doesn’t last. It’s been said: “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.” Our victims run away as soon as they can. Persuasion works – we can draw a crowd if we’re good at it. But crowds dissipate when someone else with nicer bait draws them away. Influence works – and it alone gets lasting results. As we let our lives speak and pass along the best of ourselves over time, the effect can last a lifetime and beyond – impacting future generations. It takes patience and consistency, but on the scale of a lifetime, it’s worth it.

How does he do that?

Wouldn’t it be great if every time you walked away from a conversation, you knew you’d left the other person feeling more valued, more capable and more brilliant?

I have a colleague who can do just that for me and the others who work with him. We enjoy working with this person not just because of his skills or contribution to projects, but also because of his knack for bringing out our best.

How does he do it?

The key seems to be in what he doesn’t do.

This guy actually doesn’t give a lot of input of his own. Unlike most of us, he has a remarkable lack of desire to add his two cents to every discussion. Instead, he pulls a dollar or two out of the rest of us. He is an engaged listener who asks clarifying questions. As we answer, his whole body communicates openness, interest, and the sense that he’s impressed. His eyebrows lift, he smiles, and he nods. His questions are open-ended and tend to be short and to the point. He leaves room for us to expand on our own ideas.

The truly impressive thing about this guy is that he’s not our peer – he’s our leader.  We think of the leader as the one who’s running the show, but that’s not how it feels here. It feels like we’re the MVPs. I think it’s because he really listens and chooses not to “add value” to every idea he hears.

The average leader can’t listen to someone tell them something they already know without communicating “I already knew that – I know a better way.” By listening with interest and asking insightful questions, our guy gives the opposite impression: that we’re the wisest, brightest and best around. As a result, that’s who we want to be.

Wouldn’t it be great to have that kind of impact?