You Can Influence Anybody

To achieve the right results, it takes discipline, self-control, and teamwork. These are all decisions that you make. Are you willing to make them?

When you are asked to do something, whether that be at work or at home, do you do the bare minimum or go beyond what is required?

How often do you do more than is required of you? How often do you better than is required of you? How often do you do things before they are required of you?

I ask these questions because to do more, better, and before they are required of you is not easy. You need discipline, and you need self-control. If you need discipline then you must decide to have discipline.

If you need self-control then you must decide to have self-control. These are decisions just like when you decide to get up in the morning, or what time you decide to eat dinner in the evening.

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It is also a decision to embrace personal growth, and deliberately work on yourself to develop your character. Have you made this decision yet?

I talk a lot in my articles and materials about building relationships with your team, and your peers. But, we must also build relationships with the leaders who sit above us in the organisational chart. This can also be our parents and grandparents when we are at home.

1. Building Relationships

For us to influence our leaders in a positive way then we must decide to build relationships with them. The best way to do that is to accept the responsibility for achieving results for the organisation, no matter what the circumstance or situation is.

Then whatever kind of results our leaders want us to achieve, we go out and achieve those results for them and the organisation. Do not try to achieve the results that only you decide to achieve. That will decrease your influence with your leader.

The most highly effective leaders throughout the world are the ones who achieve results for everyone they are involved with. No matter what the circumstance or situation. This includes the people who tear into you because they don’t want to “look at spreadsheets all day.”

Even the people who put you down, or talk about you behind your back. Even the low performing leaders who don’t believe it should be them working hard to achieve results. We must do our best, and be our best to achieve results for everyone we are involved with…no matter what!

When I worked in London as an engineering technical manager, I was at mid-senior level. I also had the role of deputy head of engineering at the same time.

2. Opportunities To Develop Your People

During my time in this role I was asked along with the other mid-senior engineering managers to form a team, and work on a project called “Maintenance, Planning, Resource, Model” or “MPRM” for short. It was a great opportunity for all of us to raise our profiles within the organisation.

But, most importantly it was a great opportunity for us to improve our maintenance processes, improve how we planned our maintenance, and develop our people.

To begin this project we met in a hotel to get away from the day-to-day business. The head of engineering and head of production met with us too (our bosses). They explained exactly what the purpose of this project was, and the results they wanted to see.

However, they wanted the “how we do it” to be down to us. They did not tell us “what to do” or “how to do it”, just what they wanted to see as a result.

This was music to all of our ears because they made us feel like senior leaders. It felt like they were handing the baton over to us. We were now taking the reins and leading the engineering department. So, when they had given us the project scope and told us what results they were seeking, they left the hotel and it was now up to us.

I was head of the engineering technical department, so anything that had to do with my department, I had responsibility for. I was happy to accept this responsibility because I knew that I could get things done and make things happen.

3. Supporting Each Other

I also knew I had the support of the MPRM team. As I say, it was an excellent opportunity for myself and the MPRM team to achieve results that were very, very important to our senior leaders.

I knew I could contribute to making our maintenance and planning of maintenance more efficient. I also knew I could help develop my people in my department.

We decided that the best way to do this would be to set up an event, and call it the “MPRM event” (or something like that). We would invite everyone from the different engineering departments. That would be technical, production, planning, materials, admin, basically the whole of engineering.

We set up the event in a hotel to get everybody away from the day-to-day as we had done with our project kick off meeting.

Everything we had done so far was planned and executed really well. Our senior leaders were really pleased with us.

The MPRM event was a two day event to ensure we got everyone there. Every person on the MPRM team had to give a presentation to the group. We presented on our own departments and what the benefits of MPRM would give us.

I focussed on the people development part of the project because I knew that’s what they wanted to know most about. The maintenance and planning side was good, but for me it wasn’t the most important. I had the belief that if you help to develop your people, then everything else would take care of itself.

Everybody in the group on both days really enjoyed my presentation and were excited for MPRM had to offer us as an engineering team.

Following the presentations and discussions, we had a social evening so we could relax and talk about the project on a one to one basis with people. I soon realised that the head of engineering (my boss) and the head of production were not happy with my presentation.

They were fuming actually. They took me aside and told me that I focussed on the wrong thing. I should be focussing on making our maintenance and planning more efficient, and then we would develop our people later.

I was “told” that from then on, start my side of the project focussing on maintenance, not development. So, I did as I was “told”.

4. Listen To Others

The MPRM team would meet on a weekly basis and we would help each other set up our tasks for the week. I being the engineering technical manager, my first task was to work out how to make the maintenance instructions, and technical documents simpler.

The phrase I used was “write them so your mother can understand them.” This was supposed to be a joke, but everybody loved the phrase, and that I should lead this task with that approach. This I thought would undermine our engineers, and would make it seem that they are not capable of understanding technical documents.

When I discussed this with the head of engineering, he agreed that I should take the “write them so your mother can understand them” approach. So again, that’s what I did.

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Looking ahead to about a month later. I had worked with my technical team every day on making the maintenance instructions a lot simpler, and we had done it. We trialed some maintenance tasks using the new, simpler instructions and the engineers actually preferred it.

The task was completed in a quicker time than before, and the quality was a lot better. Wow, I thought. After me thinking that it would undermine the engineers, it actually made them better at their job. The results that head of engineering and head of production wanted, my team was achieving.

I learned very quickly then that I needed to listen to others more. Especially my senior leaders and my own team.

So, as I said earlier, if you want to have a positive influence on your senior leaders, then do everything you can to achieve the results that they want to see. No matter what the circumstance is, do your best for them, the team and the organisation. Make it happen!

Don’t keep telling people what you are going to do. Do it and surprise them.

I welcome hearing how this post has influenced the way you think, the way you lead, or the results you have achieved because of what you’ve learned in it. Please feel free to share your thoughts with me by commenting below.

Check out my other articles by Clicking HERE

All the best,

Tom (LeadGrowInfluence)

38 thoughts on “You Can Influence Anybody

  1. Your phrase “listen to others more” made me think of myself and my writing projects. I love writing books and getting lost in my stories. A few months ago I became a member in a beta reading group where we read each other’s work submissions and give feedback. Through them I learned to listen to others more when it comes to writing and what to pay attention to. Their comments and feedback are helping me write a better story. So listening to others more is important and applies in every work aspect. It was also something I had to learn 🙂 and now I am glad I did.

    1. Hi Christine,

      Thank you for your comment. I am so pleased that this article has resonated with you and made you think.

      I really appreciate you sharing your experience with your writing group, and I agree that listening more is so important. Listening to understand rather than listening to reply is what I talk about quite a lot.

      Keep listening and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  2. This is a great post, that can be helpful to anyone.
    And I think the #4 is the most important of all. Because once you started ro listen to other people’s ideas or what they have to say, then it builds trust.
    Hence, building a relationship among the team.

    But, I’m just wondering, even you work as a team, there’s always a “competition”.
    As a leader, how would you avoid that?

    1. Hi Mina,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m so pleased that you found this a great post.

      Listening to other people’s ideas is so important, you are absolutely right. Building trust and strengthening our relationships is what a leader must do if they want to continue to increase their influence.

      Competition within the team can be difficult, but I think it is a good thing. It shows that the people who are in competition want to be the best in the team. So, I actually encourage competition, as long as it is friendly. If it starts to get hostile then I address it straight away and I have one to one conversations with each person, and then as a group and I ask them questions that allows them to come to a solution to a problem. I don’t solve the problem for them.

      Hope that helps.

      All the best,

      Tom

  3. Hi Tom,

    I will say that it takes a certain type of person to do what you did.

    I can just imagine that many people, in various industries, when left to their own devices, i.e. being trusted by their bosses to come up with ideas, would then be left fuming and demotivated to be told that they had gone about things the wrong way.

    However, it’s great to see that you took on board what your bosses had to say, without allowing it to hinder your motivation.

    You basically understood what you were being told (in no uncertain terms), and found a way to achieve this that would make everyone happy.

    Funnily enough, just reading about the new engineer instrcutions, and the simplicity model that you came up with, I had the same initial reaction as you.

    I honestly thought that the engineers would feel undermined and undervalued.

    But, it just goes to show, that what we may believe to be the “right path” isn’t always true.

    I also think that one of the greatest attributes that a leader can have is to listen to what others have to say, irrespective of their position, senior or subordinate, and learn how to use this information to your (and the team’s) advantage.

    A very valuable lesson Tom, and one that I think that all highly effective leaders should follow.

    Thanks
    Partha

    1. Hi Partha,

      Thank you for your comment as always. I’m so pleased that you found this article a very valuable lesson, means a lot to me.

      I couldn’t agree with you more, what we may believe to be the “right path” isn’t always true. I know a few people who have planned to go down a certain path, but took a turn onto a new and even better path.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  4. Hi Tom,

    These are 4 easy steps I can follow to learn this skill. No doubt, everyone can benefit from it, not just in a work environment – in our day to day life too.

    I particularly like this quote “Don’t keep telling people what you are going to do. Do it and surprise them.” I’m a person that appreciates a good motivational quote. This is a great one that complements your post.

    Shaun

    1. Hi Shaun,

      Thank you for your comment. It’s great that you found this article valuable.

      I agree that the points made in this article do not just help people in the work environment, but in life generally too. Keep surprising people with your amazing work and message.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  5. Hi Tom,

    Thanks for sharing your experiences! Your article often leaves me pondering about my past work experiences and a reflection of myself.

    Listening is so important, especially in a company. It is communication at its best. A balance of empathy and performance, sometimes difficult, I feel but nonetheless key to having loyal followers.

    I enjoyed this article!

    Cheers.
    SAM

    1. Hi Sam,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m pleased that this article helped you to think a bit deeper.

      I completely agree that listening to understand when communicating is so important. When we listen to understand, the other person feels heard and our trust builds. When we listen to reply, the other person doesn’t feel heard and our level of trust decreases.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  6. Great Tom, just when I thought it is not only discipline and self-control, but the environment as well, you started with #1 building relationships. Which in my eyes too is an important thing. We have to feel save and secure in the environment we are in. And relationships are a huge part of that.

    I am wondering, are the English just as fond of abbreviations as the Americans? Just a thought because I read MPRM and it confused me at first. I know, I should I have paid better attention, because you explained it at point 2. 😀

    Blame it to the language, as English is not my first language, but I didn’t quite understand your bosses being angry at you for your approach. It would seem to me that focusing on people first would be good? Which in fact is done by explaining things in a ‘simple’ way?

    I probably get it wrong, but anyway, as always an interesting read, Tom, thanks.

    1. Hi Hannie,

      Thank you for your great comment as always. I’m so pleased you keep finding my articles valuable, means so much to me.

      You are right Hannie, my boss had it wrong. Focussing on people and making them the priority is right, but my boss was a micro manager. He wanted to us to focus on results, figures, numbers etc.

      Keep returning , keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  7. Hello Tom

    I think its a great and very well written article. I really like it, and especially the leadership model “explain everything so your mother” can understand it. 🙂 This is really good. And something I will remember. I think all too often many leaders lack some pedagogic skills to help support their employees. With this there will be more likely a two way communication lol.

    1. Hi Jesper,

      Thank you for your comment. It means so much to me that you find this a well written article.

      I completely agree that there are many leaders who lack the skills to support their people. They focus on the numbers, business growth, figures etc. They should be focussing on the people and the rest will take care of itself.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  8. I think it’s a great idea “to write the documents so that your mother could understand them” although I’m sure they were a bit more technical than that.

    It’s always a great idea to consider those above us as well as those below us in any organization, after all, we’re all part of the same team and have the same end results as our goals.
    Building relationships, developing people, supporting each other, and listening are all very important, and I believe the ability to listen is the most important skill we can develop.

    Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hi Andrew,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m really pleased that you found this article valuable.

      A lot of people like the line of “write the documents so that your mother could understand them”. It makes things a lot more simpler for people.

      Building relationships, developing people and supporting each other is what leadership is all about.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  9. Another nice article Tom.

    You’ve referenced the importance of listening in prior articles and once again here. As someone who has lead reasonably large multi-regional and multi-racial teams for some years now, its a still that I have had to personally focus on and at my own admission, one that I continually need to work on. Listening, appreciation for, and understanding valuable input that those around you can have and then actively looking to take on board some of those ideas is not only a great way to achieve results, buts it also gains valuable buy-in and support from the team. A sense of collective achievement is yet another way to grow and move a business forward.

    Some good reminders and tips once again though.

    All the best – Jason.

    1. Hi Jason,

      Thank you for your comment. It’s great that you find this a nice article, means a lot to me.

      Listening is so important as a leader. I like to say that when have a conversation with one of our team members, then we must listen 80% of the time and talk 20% of the time. We must listen to understand our people and not listen to reply.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  10. Hey ~Tom,

    What an inspiring read, I must say!

    You said it perfectly that embracing personal growth and deliberately working on yourself to develop an ideal character is a decision everyone should make at some point.

    One of those things we need to develop is a commitment to influencing decision makers. And this for me is my favorite lesson in your piece:

    “For us to influence our leaders in a positive way then we must decide to build relationships with them. The best way to do that is to accept the responsibility for achieving results for the organisation, no matter what the circumstance or situation is.”

    Major achievements flow from there because when we make their objectives ours – we will do what it takes – we will listen to others, we will support one another, we will discover and seize opportunities to develop others because in the end, we can’t achieve substantial and lasting success by ourselves.

    Thanks again for another informative piece.

    cheers
    Femi

    1. Hi Femi,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m so pleased that you found this such an informative article, means a lot to me.

      I appreciate you sharing some quotes from the article, and I hope a lot of other people who read this article can learn from your comment too. Making our leader’s objectives our own will definitely enable us to do what it takes. That is the best way to do it with a team.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  11. What a great post and a great story!

    I think sometimes as low or mid-level managers, we can become arrogant and assume we know our job better than others. The fact is in the majority of situations that senior managers have already been there and done it! They are in senior management positions because they have the knowledge and expertise etc!

    So yes, I totally understand your story and why you ‘did as you were told’.

    At the end of the day, you proved you can influence anybody! With that project alone, you had a positive effect on both your team and your senior management and other departments!

    I totally agree that to go above and beyond and do more than what is required of you requires discipline and self-control and will lead to success.

    Thanks again for a great post!

    1. Hi Lawrence,

      Thank you for your comment. I love how you found this a great article and most of all a great story. This means so much to me.

      I really appreciate you sharing your experiences of being a mid-level manager, as there will be many others who will relate to you and hopefully learn from you too. You are right, that to go above and beyond needs discipline and self-control. Hopefully with that it will lead to success.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  12. Hey Tom, This has confirmed in me that my approach was correct. It reminds me of when I used to manage a Quality Assurance Department. As a QA Engineer I was tasked by the CEO to make sure all of our products were compatible with all supported hardware systems. Once I certified everything worked without glitches, I could send the product into production.

    Before all of this was set in motion the CEO told me to take the existing procedure and streamline it to make it more efficient. Like you I made the mistake to help develop my team before streamlining the procedure. Then I was informed that a review on the process was coming in a few weeks. This is when I changed gears and focused more on the protocol.

    What I found was by focusing on streamlining the procedure, the actual process had a developmental effect on my team, as they were learning and growing in how to get to the end result. This showed me that personal development of my team could be done at the same time as streamlining the procedure. Ever since then I leave personal development for later.

    Thanks for this great article.
    Robert

    1. Hi Robert,

      Thank you for your comment. It really pleases me that you found this a great article, means so much.

      I really appreciate you sharing your experiences as a Quality Engineer. I hope there will be other engineers who can relate to you being tasked by the CEO to make sure the products were compatible. It would also be great if people could learn from how you handled this situation, shows true leadership.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  13. Hi Tom

    Your first point about whether you do the bare minimum of a task or do it to the best of your ability is something I have been contemplating recently.
    I find if I do my best job it increases my confidence and I feel much more like I am becoming my best self and can reach my goals. Doing the minimum makes me feel the opposite!

    Point 4 also struck a chord with me. In a business I was in previously we used to say ‘if you can’t explain it to an 8 year-old, you need to simplify it’!

    Best,

    Jean
    P.S. I think you did the right thing with your presentation!

    1. Hi Jean,

      Thank you for your comment. It is great that you found this article valuable.

      Sharing your experiences of either doing the bare minimum or do it to your best can be challenging. I still find this a challenging task too sometimes. I love how that when you do your best, your confidence increases because that happens with me too. It is not an arrogance, it is a confidence.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  14. Thanks, Tom for the great article You Can Influence Anybody.
    I’ve worked on a number of projects over the years, and there’s a combination of different people in each project. It has always been interesting for me to observe how roles are divided, who are the initiators, who follow, who do more than necessary, who are aware of the full scope of the project not just individual tasks, and the like.
    If you are a project manager, it is very important to create a relationship with team members, listen to them and recognize them by their roles, motivate them properly, encourage them, praise them and reward them. It is necessary to maintain a good project atmosphere and encourage mutual support.
    With my experiences, I can only confirm that everything you wrote is really important.
    Friendly greeting,
    Nina

    1. Hi Nina,

      Thank you for your comment. I am so pleased that you found this article valuable.

      It’s great that you have shared your experiences as a project manager because you really do need to influence people who you lead on a project. This goes for leaders above you and also the people on your team. Relationship building and trust building is so important, just as you say.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  15. Hello Tom,
    I have memorized these profound words, “Don’t keep telling people what you are going to do; do it and surprise them”.
    It is in fact counterproductive to tell people. If you don’t do what you said you will do soon enough, you will meet with lots of criticism. And that embarrassment could sway you from your golls. It is best to keep quite and do what you want to do.
    Thank you for this life-changing statement.
    Regards,
    Aparna

    1. Hi Aparna,

      Thank you for your comment. I am so pleased this article has given you phrases to remember, this really inspires me.

      Please do keep surprising people with the amazing work you do and changing people’s lives. It feels amazing that this article has actually changed your life, I am so humbled for you saying that.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  16. Tom,

    It’s funny that you mention in your listening advise to phrase it so your Mom would understand it. I often used to use a similar phrase, but even more layman than that. I would often tell my employees that when they explain things to a new employee, they should try to explain things like they would to a child. Not that my employees were children, in fact, the opposite. I ran the largest liquor store in Alaska, so everyone had to be 21 years old to work there.
    Unfortunately, I had soon learned that in the retail business, you don’t always get the smartest people, simply because the pay is very low to start out and the hours are often only Part Time. I had always done really well at training my new staff because I explain things so simply. Easy to understand, and easy to follow.

    Great information in this one! Thanks for sharing!

    Katrina

    1. Hi Katrina,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m really happy that you found this article valuable.

      I have heard many people use the phrase “explain things like they would to a child” before too. I think I may have used that phrase myself in the past too. Keeping things simple is so important when working with new teams or team members.

      I really appreciate you sharing your experiences because there will be many who will relate to what you have done and be able to learn from you. I love when people share their experiences, especially if they have had more experience than I have.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  17. Hi Tom,

    Pleased by this excellent piece of content, to me, true leaders are those who are not only effective in their job but have a level of emotional intelligence which inspire others to live their best working life.

    Everything you mentioned in this article about building a relationship, develop people, supporting one another, listen to understand not just to react are true attributes which should be applied in our daily lives by this we can move ourselves to be better and effective leaders.

    Leadership truly means winning the hearts and minds of people regardless of one’s rank or title. He should have twice the dose of optimism and positivity than others and spread happiness.

    Good Work

    Have a Nice Day!

    1. Hi Samantha,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m really pleased that you found this an excellent piece of content, means a lot to me.

      I couldn’t agree with you more that leadership doesn’t mean job rank or job title, it means influencing the hearts and minds of your people. Just as you have said.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  18. I think you have shared some valuable info here! I especially can relate to listen to others. It’s so important to be a good listener and I’m always working on getting better with that skill. Thanks for helping and sharing with everyone!

    1. Hi Alyse,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m pleased that you found this article valuable.

      It’s great that you can relate to this article, and I hope you can share your experiences with us in the future. I love when others share similar experiences because more people who read this can also learn from you too.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  19. Hi Tom,
    Thanks for a thought-provoking article aboutabout influencing others.
    I relate well with all your recommendations.

    Reaching back into my roles in senior management in the corporate world, I can tell you that 2 things stood out for me the most in your article for which I have first hand knowledge – relationship building AND listening to others. Both require patience!

    By relationship building, I don’t just refer to the “so called team-building” exercises alone, but building relationships “one brick” at a time – so valuable. Had to learn this mid career, but …….”never late than never”.

    Listening to others meant removing ego and focusing on the “bigger picture”. When people realize that you genuinely care about their opinion and are seeking to understand why they believe so, it is relatively easy to work the conversation to either arrive at a compromise, or get them to see things your way.
    .

    1. Hi Ceci,

      Thank you for your comment. I am so happy that you found this article thought provoking. It really means a lot to me when I help people to think.

      I am so appreciative of you sharing your experiences in the corporate world in senior management. There will be so many people who can relate to you and what you are sharing. I hope people can learn from you and put into action when they go back to the workplace.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

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