In General, Influence

Well, part 2 and the end of the Q&A. From 100 plus questions I’d clubbed similar questions and created a list of 40 questions. I don’t claim these answers to be sacrosanct as they are a reflection of my experience of over twenty years as a facilitator,professional speaker and a Toastmaster. The context may vary. I’ve omitted many questions on humor as my blog already contains copious references on it. Maybe I will write an exclusive post on humor later.

I attended a ‘Principles of Persuasion’ workshop by Dr Robert Cialdini in Phoenix,Arizona and ever since I’ve become addicted to his teachings. Here are two books to get you started. At the end of the Q&A I’ve listed other authoritative books on the subject. Please visit his website to know more.

21. What should be the basic quality of an influencer? Be AUTHENTIC. In other words,CREDIBILITY is the foundation of an influencer. And you gain credibility by being an expert in your domain AND TRUSTWORTHY. The world is filled with many examples of ‘smart’ performers who have a severe trust deficit and they fizzle out in the long run. And remember influencing is not a quick fix activity.

22. How to influence an extremely selfish and arrogant Senior person who is also a super performer from another department? ‘Extremely selfish’ and ‘arrogant’ are subjective,right. Generally,high performers set an exacting standard for themselves and expect the same from others and lash out when they are not met, lacking empathy in total.To answer this in a generic way, high performers with massive ego levels,unfortunately are tolerated and encouraged by organisations because of the sheer numbers they bring in. However,in recent years, many organisations are willing to sacrifice their star performers if they are not able to carry their team along. Moreover,don’t forget,even these performers have bosses with an appraisal system. If your view is shared unilaterally by your team,they will be flushed out of the system. I know of at least five high profile exits in various organisations because of similar reasons. Keep faith. Do your best.

23. In the era of brand domination, how much does ‘you’ as a brand weigh while in authority? Establishing a brand takes time. Similarly,to build your personal brand if you religiously follow the ‘constellation of capabilities’ mentioned last week,your brand will still stand out.

24. How to stop professional jealousy? My layman’s answer is I have control over only my thoughts,words and actions. In spite of all the influencing skills that I may use,I still can’t prevent envy and jealousy. On a lighter note take it as a compliment and move on! However,if this is getting toxic,I would suggest improving relationships,discover common interests and again,a dialogue to sort out assumptions,if any. Again,no easy answers here and would welcome our readers to offer tips to overcome professional jealousy from their experience.

25. How can you influence of the person/group in front of you does/do not know about you at all? In presentations,we use a term called primacy and recency. Irrespective of your background, the way you present information in the first few minutes will determine whether you will be taken seriously or not. I remember in an anti-smoking seminar in Bangalore,after many experts from the medical profession,an unknown speaker got up to speak. The audience was impatient as it was nearing lunch time. The speaker started with, ‘SMOKING HELPS YOU LOSE WEIGHT……………………. ONE LUNG AT A TIME!’. It had a stunning effect. Audience perked up and sat glued to his talk and extended the Q&A by 10 minutes. You may start with a handicap because of your anonymity but once again, EXPERTISE,EXPERTISE and EXPERTISE !

26. As a leader when I have one opinion but my team members have the opposite opinion, in that case, should I exert authority and make them act in favour of my opinion? Not necessarily. As an influencer you should focus on data. Mr Narayanamurthy, the iconic founder of INFOSYS used to begin his meetings with ‘IN GOD WE TRUST. ALL OTHERS BRING DATA TO THE TABLE’. Facts are friendly. It is impossible to argue with facts. Second,if it is an unpopular decision, setting the context or explaining the background will help sway the opinion in your favour. Authority should be used only if there is an urgency,crisis or no scope for discussion.

27. What to do in scenarios where the conflict starts getting aggressive ( not physical but more of unparliamentary language use) Here’s some sensible advice from Prof Mary Kaye,MIT. “ Never meet hostility with hostility except in physical self-protection. Use interruptions to deal with unprofessional behaviour. Ask for a break out when faced with rudeness. If it gets intolerable,politely and firmly say, we will meet again when we both agree to disagree agreeably. Continuing the discussion after a break has helped me on many occasions.

28. How to excel at public speaking? Input on speech preparation/delivery. How to speak with authority? How to improve vocal variety? TAKE TOASTMASTERS SERIOUSLY!

29. Why is authority designed when we can achieve goals without authority? To prevent anarchy,chaos and disruption. However, you cannot achieve ONLY with authority. Authority is the harness we use for highly energetic horses.

30. How to expand your network? Have a vibrant LinkedIn profile and interact regularly. Get involved in trade and industry associations,professional associations,alumni associations, personal development clubs/ associations,philanthropic associations and recreation organisations. Meaningful social media accounts.

31. Sometimes being empathetic and soft spoken is perceived as being a weak leader. What is your thought on this ? True. Most managers/leaders find it difficult to balance the tension between empathy and assertiveness. Roger Fisher, HBS Professor and author of a cult classic on negotiation advocates a ‘SOFT ON THE PERSON and TOUGH ON THE ISSUE’ approach. Once you master this, you will be perceived as a strong and caring leader.

32.Virtual Relationship building for influence In our Toastmasters club, we log in 15 minutes before the start of the meeting with light hearted banter about how each one is coping up with Lockdown and general talk. This way,we discover similar interests and improve our bonding. The art of small talk is a good way to start. But, please know when to stop and don’t get too personal. 😎😜

33. Share some insight from storytelling front Storytelling is an excellent way to convey your message. Please visit, the site of an amazing business storyteller INDRANIL CHAKRABARTY for more insight. I’ve always relied on powerful personal stories to enhance my message. In my Toastmasters club,I am known as ‘Anecdote Uncle’😜😎

34. How to involve collegue in your project ? By addressing his/her WIIFM? ( What’s In It For Me). Also what she would miss out if she doesn’t join the project,

35. When a team member isn’t motivated from within, how can we influence that person without authority? By having an open dialogue away from the workplace by assuring confidentiality. Probe in a non-threatening manner by asking open-ended questions to understand what precisely is inhibiting them to give their best. The reasons may be personal like emerging from a broken relationship,divorce,death of a loved one, health issues either of self or a parent or an inferiority complex. See if you can don the mantle of a friend or mentor and nurse his self-esteem back. This is a long drawn process and a bit sensitive. Handle with care. It is worth the effort because otherwise the individual would have auto- destructed.

36. How to convince collegue to go out of their regular habits ? By ‘regular habits’ I assume those which are interfering in his work culture. Once you identify the problem, it is better to leave this job to professionals like counsellors and therapists as this may be beyond your scope as a friend/ superior or peer.

38. As a talkative girl, i always heard my parents say “speech is silver but silence is golden”..whats your take😊 I think it depends on the context. Like the saying’ the early bird catches the worm’. Makes sense for the bird but for the worm? 😎😜 I think because of their experience what they are trying to say is ‘situation directs strategy’.

37. How do we influence ourselves? Indeed! 😎😜 I consider this to be the easiest or most difficult task depending on your willingness to change. Meditation has proven to be an effective method where you spend time with YOURSELF without wandering. Once you reach the stage to be able to focus on nothing without distractions you may want to ask ‘ Am I relevant today?’ and seek to act step by step to condition your mind to change.

39. How to keep the Toastmasters spirit high in and around the club during this tough time? Why think of it as a tough time? Think of it as an opportunity to improve networking. At least in my club, Smedley Speakers’ Society, Bangalore, members who skipped meetings because of traffic are regularly taking part. And,to add value to members, on a mutually agreed day and time we get together on zoom to have a table topic session to practise just two techniques with instant evaluation. We hope to extend it to evaluation, role playing and anything that can improve yourself. And it is done with a lot of fun without sacrificing the content. Once members see their aspirations are being met they get interested. Please check with TMI Facebook page to get ideas about how other clubs manage to humor their flock. Consider inviting celebrity Toastmasters, anywhere in the world,to conduct online sessions for you.

40. Can humour be practised or it’s inherited? In my humor workshops, I am invariably asked, ‘are humorists born?’ and my answer is ‘ONLY BABIES ARE BORN’😎😜🤪 . Yes, a few of us have that innate sense of humor and are ‘naturally’ funny. But the vast majority of us can learn by practising,failing,practising,failing,practising again without losing hope. Choose good mentors, watch stand up shows, take part in improv workshops, open mic programs and chisel away fear and doubt and the world will laugh at your jokes. All the very best!

Here is a list of some more books that provide fascinating insights into the art of persuasion and influence.


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