High Performance Habits: #5 Develop Influence 2 (part 14 of 22)

Practice Two: Challenge People to Grow

High performers challenge the people around them to rise to higher levels of performance themselves. If you could follow them around as they lead their lives, you would see that they consistently challenge others to raise the bar. They push people to get better, and they don’t apologize for it.

This is perhaps the most difficult practice in this entire book to implement. People are afraid to challenge others. It sounds confrontational. It sounds as though it might make people push back, feel inadequate, or ask, “Who the hell do you think you are?”

But this isn’t about confrontation. It’s about issuing subtle or direct positively framed challenges to motivate others to excel.

As with any communication strategy, intent and tone really matter. If your intent is to diminish others, then your challenges will likely influence people in negative ways. Look for a similar result if you sound condescending. But if your intentions are clearly to help someone grow and become better, and you speak to them with respect and honor, then your challenges will inspire better action.


Influencers challenge others in three realms. First, they challenge their character. This means they give people feedback, direction, and high expectations for living up to the universal values such as honesty, integrity, responsibility, self-control, patience, hard work and persistence.

Challenging someone’s character may sound confrontational, but in practice it’s a supportive, helpful gift. I’ll bet someone influential in your life once told you, “You could do better,” or “You’re a better person than that,” or “I expected more from you.” These were standard setting statements that challenged your character. You may not have liked hearing them, but I’ll bet they got your attention and go you to rethink your actions.

Of course, challenging someone to develop more character can happen in subtler ways, through indirect challenge. Asking someone, “How would your best self approach this situation?” challenges that person to be more intentional in how they behave. Other indirect challenges might sound something like:

  • “Looking back, do you feel you gave it your all?”
  • “Are you bringing the beset of you to this situation?”
  • “What values were you trying to embody when you did that?”

For leaders, I suggest the direct approach of asking people to think of how they can challenge themselves in future scenarios. Ask, “What kind of person do you want to be remembered as? What would life look like if you gave your all? Where are you making excuses, and how might life turn out differently if you showed up stronger?”


The second area where you can challenge others concerns their connections  with others – their relationships. You set expectations, ask questions, give examples, or directly ask them to improve how they treat and add value to other people.

What you wouldn’t condone is poor social behavior. High performing leaders call out anyone who is being inappropriate, rude, or dismissive of someone else on their team. … The just don’t let bad behavior slide.

What’s important to note here is that high performers are explicit in their expectations for how people should treat each other. Im’m always surprised at how direct they are in telling people, over and over, how to treat one another. Even when people around them are treating one another well, they still keep pushing for them to unite even more.

If you’ve observed a high performing leader in a team meeting, you’ve probably noticed how often they suggest how the team should be working together. They say things like:

  • “Listen to one another more.”
  • “Show each other more respect.”
  • “Support each other more.”
  • “Spend more time with each other.”
  • “Give each other more feedback.”

The word more seems omnipresent when they are challenging others.


The third area where you can challenge others in in their contributions. You push them to add more value or to be more generous.

This is perhaps one of the more difficult challenges that high performers issue. It’s hard to tell someone, “Hey, your contributions here at work aren’t enough. You can do better.” But high performers don’t shrink from saying this kind of thing.

When high performers issue challenges to contribute more, usually they are not giving feedback sole on the quality of what you’re delivering now. Rather, they challenge you to contribute more looking ahead – to create or innovate so that you make the future better.

In almost every in-depth interview I’ve done, it’s clear that high performers are future oriented when challenging people to make better widgets today; they challenge them to reinvent the product suite, to brainstorm entirely new business models, to find adjacent markets to go after, to push into unknown territory, to add new value.

Though I initially thought that high performers were doing this on large scale, telling their entire team to crate a bigger future, I was wrong. Instead, high performers challenge individuals specifically. They go desk to desk and challenge each person on their team.

They adjust the level of challenge they issue to each person they are leading. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to pushing people to contribute. That’s how you know you’re working with a high performing leader: They’ll meet you where you are, speak your language, ask you to help move the entire team toward a better future, in our own unique way.


Think about a person in your life you are trying to influence positively, and complete the following sentences:


  1. There person aI am trying to influence has the the following character strengths …
  2. She could become a strong person if she …
  3. She is probably too hard on herself in this area …
  4. If I could tell her how to improve who she is, I would tell her …
  5. If I could inspire her to want to be a better person, I’d probably say something like …


  1. The way I want this person to interact differently with others is to …
  2. Often, this person doesn’t connect as well with others as I would like, because he …
  3. What would inspire this person to treat other people better is to …


  1. The greatest contribution this person is making is …
  2. The areas where this person isn’t contributing well enough are …
  3. What I really want this person to contribute more of is …


Practice Three: Role Model the Way

High performers give a lot of mindshare to thinking about being a role model. Seventy-one percent say they think about it daily. They say they want to be a good role model for their family, the team, and the greater community.

Of course, everyone would say they want to be a role model. Who doesn’t, right? But what I’ve found with high performers is that they think about it much more often and specifically in relation to how they are seeking to influence others. Meaning they aren’t just seeking to be a good person in general, as you would typically think of a role model – someone who is kind, honest, hardworking, giving, loving. They go a step further and think about how to act so that others might follow them or them them achieve a specific outcome. It’s less “I’m trying to be Mother Teresa” and more “I’m going to demonstrate a specific behavior so that others will emulate that exact behavior, which will help us move toward a specific result.”

There’s just something magical that happens in our life when we let all the drama go and decide to ask how we can be role models again.


  1. If I were going to approach my relationships and career as an even better role model, the first things I would start doing are …
  2. Someone who really needs me to lead and be a strong role model right now is …
  3. Some ideas on how I can be a role model for that person are …
  4. If, ten years from now, the five closest people to me in my life were to describe me as a role model, I would hope they say things like …

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 …

High Performance Habits: #4 Increase Productivity 3 (part 12 of 22)

Practice Three: Get Insanely Good At Key Skills

To become more productive, become more competent. You have to master the primary skills needed to win in your primary fields of interest.

When we say “skill,” we often mean a broad range of knowledge and capabilities that allow you to perform adequately in any given area. General skills might include communication, problem solving, systems thinking, project management, teamwork, and conflict management. There are also specific skills for any given task or company, such as coding, video production, finance, and computational skills. And, of course, there are personal skills such as self-control, resilience, and other forms of emotional intelligence.

My goal here is for you to determine the five major skills you need to develop over the next three years to grow int the person you hope to become.

One principle lies at the heart of this effort: Everything is trainable. No matter what skill you want to learn, with enough training and practice and intention, you can become more proficient at it. If you don’t believe this, your journey to high performance stops here. Perhaps the three best findings of contemporary research tell us that you can get better at practically anything if you keep a growth mindset (the belief that you can improve with effort), focus on your goals with passion and perseverance, and practice with excellence.

The concept of progressive mastery is very different from how most people approach skill development. Most people get interested in an idea, try it a few times, and gauge whether they are “good” at it. If they are not good, they chalk it up to a lack of natural ability or talent. At this point, most quit. And those who carry on think they have to use brute repetition to get better, hoping that simply by doing a thing enough times, they will become proficient and progress.

This, it turns out, is one of the lease effective ways to master a skill. Repetition rarely leads to high performance. and that’s why it’s important to understand “progressive mastery”:

  1. Determine a skill that you want to master.
  2. Set specific stretch goals on your path to developing that skill.
  3. Attach high levels of emotion and meaning to your journey and your results.
  4. Identify the factors critical to success, and develop your strengths in those areas (and fix your weaknesses with equal fervor).
  5. Develop visualizations that clearly imagine what success and failure look like.
  6. Schedule challenging practices developed by experts or through careful thought.
  7. Measure your progress and get outside feedback.
  8. Socialize your learning and efforts by practicing or competing with others.
  9. Continue setting higher-level goals so that you keep improving.
  10. Teach others what you are learning.

These ten principles of progressive mastery are a more nuanced version of what is often called deliberate practice, a term coined by Anders Ericsson. Like deliberate practice, progressive mastery involves getting a coach, challenging yourself beyond your comfort zones, developing mental representations of what success should be, tracking your progress, and fixing your weaknesses.

The difference is that progressive master places a high emphasis on emotion, socialization, and teaching. In other words, you are more strategic and disciplined in how you attach emotion to your journey, enhance your capabilities by training or competing with others, and leverage the extraordinary power of teaching to discover greater insights into your own craft. I find it a more humanistic, social, and enjoyable approach to mastering a skill.


  1. Three skills I could develop that would help me feel more confident or capable are …
  2. The simple steps I could take to improve the skills are …
  3. The coaches or mentors I could seek out concerning those skills are …