High Performance Habits: #5 Develop Influence 1 (part 13 of 22)



Influence Basics

Most of the other high performance habits are under your direct personal control. You choose to seek clarity. The level of energy you feel is largely under your command. How prolific you are with productive output is up to you. But what about influence?

To keep a broad perspective on this topic, at least for the next several pages, let’s define “having influence” as the ability to shape other people’s beliefs and behaviors as you desire. It means you can get people to believe in you or your ideas, buy from you, follow you, or take actions that you request of them.

Ask (No, Really, Just Ask)

One reason people struggle to gain influence in their personal and professional lives is that they simply don’t ask for what they want. This is, in part, because people drastically underestimate the willingness of others to engage and help.

You can’t possibly know whether you have influence with your coworkers unless you ask them to do something. The same goes for your spouse, neighbors, or boss. … Underperformers fail to ask all the time. They let fear of judgement or rejection prevent them from speaking up, asking for help, trying to lead. And the sad thing is, they’re usually wrong.

Finally, when you do ask for what you want in life, don’t just ask once and quit. Research shows that influencers understand the power of repetition, so they try multiple times to get their ideas in front of those they hope to influence. The more you ask and share your ideas, the more people become familiar and comfortable with your requests, and the more they start to like the idea.

Asking isn’t just about making requests to get what you want. If you seek greater influence with other people, learn to ask them a tremendous number of questions that elicit what they think, feel, want, need, and aspire to. Great leaders ask lot of questions. Remember, people support what they create. When people get to contribute ideas, they have mental skin in the game. They want to back the ideas they helped shape. They feel that they’re part of the process, not a cog or some faceless minion. It’s universally agreed that leaders who ask questions and get those around them to brainstorm the path ahead are more effective than “dictator” leaders who just push their demands and requests on others.

This same principle works in your intimate relationship, your parenting style, your community involvement. Ask people what they want, how they’d like to work together, and what outcomes they care about. Suddenly, you’ll start seeing more engagement, and you’ll have more influence.

If you want more influence, remember: Ask and ask often.

Give and You Shall Receive

In all the asking, don’t forget to give. In just about any area of endeavor, giving to others with no expectation of return increases your overall success. And, of course, it increases the likelihood that you’ll get what you want. Researchers have long known that often you can double your ability to influence others by giving before you ask for something.

High performers have a giving mindset. They enter almost every situation looking for ways to help others. They carefully consider the problems people face, and offer suggestions, resources, and connections. They don’t have to be prodded to do this. They’re proactive in seeking give something to others, whether in meetings at work or while visiting in someone’s home.

In organizational settings, often the greatest thing you can give to others is trust, autonomy, and decision-making authority. Researchers call this giving someone “authorship,” meaning they get to choose what to work on or how to get things done.

Be a Champion of People

Since so many people feel ostracized, unappreciated, or undervalued, when you show up and give genuine praise, respect, and appreciation, you stand out. Be grateful for people. Just by offering gratitude, you can more than double the likelihood that those receiving your appreciation will help you again in the future. Give thanks in meetings; write thank-you notes; spend more time noticing positive actions by your people. If you’re the one who appreciates people the most, you’re the most appreciated.

Appreciating people is one step. The next is to become their champion. Find out what your people are passionate about, and cheer on their good ideas. Be excited for people when they do a good job, and publicly praise them. The ultimate measure of whether you really support someone is to trust them, give them the autonomy to make important decisions, and praise them in public when they do well. That’s how people know they are  truly cheered on.

Perhaps all this sounds too basic, but every leader I’ve ever worked with has acknowledged they needed to do a better job of expressing appreciation and giving people more trust, autonomy, and praise. In fact, I’ve never met anyone, myself included, who couldn’t do a better job in these areas. And that’s why I know that anyone, including you, can gain greater influence.

These ideas are the low-hanging fruit of gaining influence. Now we’ll focus on the more advanced strategies. … To gain influence with others, (1) teach them how to think about themselves, others, and the world; (2) challenge them to develop their character, connections, and contributions; and (3) role model the values you wish to see them embody.


Practice One: Teach People How to Think

When I work with leaders, I’m consistently telling them they should always communicate how their people should be thinking about themselves as individual contributors, about their competitors, and about the overall marketplace. I mean that literally – in every email to the full team, in every all-hands meeting, in every investor call, in every media appearance. In the all-hands meeting: “This is how we should be thinking about ourselves if we’re going to win. If we’re going to compete, this is how we should be thinking about our competitors. If we’re going to change the world, this is how we should be thinking about the world and the future.”

Take a few moments now and think of someone you want to influence. How can you shape their thinking? Begin by identifying how you want to influence them. What do you want them to do? Then know your responses to these questions before you meet with that person:

  • How do you want them to think about themselves?
  • How do you want them to think about other people?
  • How do you want them to think about the world at large?

Remember, there are three things you want your people thinking about: themselves, other people, and the greater world (meaning, how the world works, what it needs, where it’s headed, and how certain actions might affect it).


  1. Someone in my life I would like to influence more is …
  2. The way I would like to influence them is …
  3. If I could tell them how they should think of themselves, I would say …
  4. If I could tell the how they should think of other people, I would say …
  5. If I could tell them how they should think of the world in general, I would say …