Oct 04, 2015

How to Increase Your Influence

Robert Harding World Imagery

Robert Harding World Imagery

Sometimes it’s the simplest experiences which provide the greatest epiphanies. I woke one early morning around 2:00 AM. I followed the path the little lights of TV clocks, the alarm system, and the refrigerator lit for me. I found my phone in its familiar place on a ledge in the kitchen. It was easy to find because of the blinking light indicating that there were emails, voice mails, and other media that had been sent during the previous evening. When I clicked on the button to display the screen, the light was facing me and I could clearly read what was there. As I began to walk toward my home office looking at the screen, it was as if my surroundings had gotten much darker. I couldn’t see the lights from the refrigerator or the microwave. I couldn’t see the light seeping in through the windows from the street lights outside. The light from the screen of my phone was blinding me to all else. When I turned the phone away from me, then I could see my surroundings so much more clearly. Not only could I see all the little lights from the appliances and the street lights, but I could see the path to my office. I could see the doorway to my office. And, I could use this small light to find my way to my desk and the switch to turn on the light for the room. As I pondered what had just happened, I began to think about the larger meaning that this experience could hold.

How many times do we, as leaders of organizations, companies, and families, find ourselves shining our light upon ourselves, blinding us to our surroundings? We may talk the talk of authenticity, empathy, and caring for others, but with the twist that the light always finds its way back to shining on us. We hope and look for people to thank us for helping someone in need. We make sure that our name is somehow included with a kind gesture. A gift is given with an expected return of acknowledgement and praise. A member of our staff brings up a creative idea which drastically improves a process, increases sales, or has some other positive effect and we take the credit. Just as when I had the light from the screen of my smartphone pointed toward me, yes, I could see myself quite easily and brightly, but I was blinded to so much more that was surrounding me.

What happens when we are shining our light outwardly, taking the focus off of ourselves? Just as I was able to see my path more clearly and see the bigger view around me by shining the screen of my smartphone away from myself, the same happens when we put the focus away from ourselves in business and life. Let’s say, for example, you are serving on a committee. The committee is finding it difficult to discover an answer to a perplexing problem. Then, suddenly, you have a great idea! The problem is solved through your idea and the committee is now able to move forward with its task. At this critical moment, where do you choose to shine your light? On yourself so that you get immediate recognition and the opportunity to bask in the moment? Or, on the committee, the team that worked together and you contributed to as a member? By focusing the light on yourself, you get immediate and instant gratification. By focusing outward and allowing the light to shine on those around you, there may not be that instant gratification and recognition, but the long-term effects could be so much more. Just suppose you shined the light of your contribution outward to the committee, and, because of that, later on you were selected for a larger role of responsibility? Maybe others will look at your contributing as a team member without the need to take the credit individually as a show of authentic leadership and offer you a promotion. The other members of the committee may recommend you in ways that lead to you being given a position of trust. By shining your light outward and away from yourself, the possibilities are so much more than one of instant and brief gratification.

I imagine you either have personal experiences related to this post or have observed them play out. I would love to hear from you about those experiences for the benefit of the readers!

Dr. Edward Lewellen is a Master Executive Coach, leadership and sales expert, and keynote speaker for some of the largest global organizations.

Author of The 90-Second Mind Manager