At the beginning of the year, Stacey Pezold, Paycom’s COO, encouraged us all to innovate. In addition to having an idea, she said that, in order to innovate, you have to:
- get your mind in the right place, which is intent, and
- ensure your heart is ready and open for change, which is inspiration.
But above all, you must have influence. This means that before people buy into an idea, they must first buy into the person. This makes influence such a critical component to becoming an innovator.
You might say, “But Jim, I’ve only been in my position for a few months. I can’t possibly have any influence.” Here’s the thing: it doesn’t matter what position you’re in or whether you’ve been here ten years or ten days. You can start being influential today if you use these five tools.
Tool One: Create the environment.
I was asked to coach sixth-grade basketball at my son’s school. However, this particular coaching job came with one stipulation: In addition to coaching the A team, made up of extremely athletic individuals, I would also have to coach the B team, the “Bad News Bears.” They played in fourth and fifth grade and had zero wins and 18 losses. They had two years of futility, but I was up for the challenge.
From the beginning, I set the same standard for both teams: At the end of this, both teams would walk away champions. I had no idea if we could do it or not, but I wanted all of the kids to hear that they could.
We started practice together with all 25 kids working the same drills. The top group we called Thunder and the new group we called Lightning. The Lightning would fall behind in team offense, so we incorporated a few Thunder players into the mix. Sure enough, the Lightning started picking up the pace. They learned how to move, how to cut, how to pass.
The first game of the season rolled around and the Lightning won! It was pandemonium in the stands. But the good news doesn’t end there; these boys ended up taking the championship title for their league.
What’s my point? We’re talking about influence and the Lightning team was positively influenced by the more experienced Thunder team. The Lightning witnessed the Thunder’s work ethic and practice habits. Eventually, they started doing the same thing. They started thinking, “maybe I can be a champion too.” Why? Because they were inspired and influenced to do it.
So my question for you is this: When people interact with you are they influenced to be better? Or like the B team, are they inspired to take their game to the next level?
Create the environment.
Tool Two: Understand the power of the written word.
In this digital age, it is uncommon to receive a handwritten note from someone. Its rarity is what makes the written word so powerful. College football recruiters keep this tool in their toolkit, and when they really want to make an impression on an athlete, the sit down and write a note by hand.
A handwritten letter is personal and unexpected; it shows respect, and it insinuates that someone put in the extra effort. Make an impact by sending a handwritten note. Customize your message and increase your influence.
Tool Three: Create your personal brand.
Just like companies have brands, we all have our own unique personal brands. What association do people make when they hear your name? Are you the person who makes people say, “Oh, Jim, he’s a good guy to have on your team, but you want to keep your distance on Monday mornings.” Influence depends a great deal on how people perceive you, so it is important that you make a conscious effort to cultivate a positive personal brand. What do you want people to think about you?
Tool Four: Recognize that little things matter.
Don’t overlook the value of human contact. Tell people “good morning” when they walk into work. Call people by name. Remember, the sweetest music to a person’s ears is the sound of his or her name. Recognize that the little things matter and you will make a greater impact.
Tool Five: Be a great listener.
When you become a great listener, you’ll notice that several things start happening. People want to talk to you. They get to know more about you and they might even start asking you for advice. When people begin confiding in you, your influence starts to grow. You can make a lot of progress in terms of expanding your influence by becoming a great listener.