The more I focus on influence, the more convinced I am that we are the message. As Walt Whitman wrote, “We convince by our presence.” If we want to shift people’s energy along The Energy Bar™, our presence matters more than the techniques we use.
There are many techniques out there for getting people engaged in conversations. Techniques that show you how to involve people at every step in the life of a big project. And many of those tools are quite good.
But, often something gets lost. People (us included) can follow these techniques to the letter, and yet fail to capture people’s interest and willingness to consider what we are suggesting.
Amy Cuddy, author of Presence, writes, “Presence with others is first about showing up.” That means literally showing up. I recall a CEO who wanted to let people know how important a diversity project was for the company. He flew across the United States simply to open a planning meeting of this project team. He wanted them to know that attention to diversity was important to him and the company. He could have sent an assistant, recorded a video, or wrote a memo. But he didn’t, he showed up. He didn’t even have to have good slides. His actual presence in the room made the difference.
But showing up must be coupled with likeability. The reason why Chainsaw Al Dunlap was called Chainsaw Al was things weren’t pretty when he showed up.
Amy Cuddy’s own research and writing is valuable and her book is well worth reading. Here is one example. She cites a study of over 50,000 leaders that rated them on a wide variety of behaviors and traits, and on their overall effectiveness. The researchers found that there was a strong correlation between likeability and leadership effectiveness. Cuddy says, “. . .your chance of being seen an unlikeable but effective leader is about one in two thousand.”
I often ask my clients a question. When you walk in the room, do people mutter to themselves, “Oh God, not him again.” Or do they mutter, “Oh good, it’s her again.” And if they can’t answer that question, their ability to influence others will likely be pretty low. By the way, I am yet to work with a leader who would score high in the “oh good” category and not realize that his or her own presence made a big difference.
If you would benefit from a safe place to test your ideas, or a thinking partner for planning, consider my 1:1 consulting services.