Dale Carnegie once said, "You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you."
And it's still as true as when he first said it. While this isn't a new page in the playbook of influence, it's one that is vastly underestimated.
Think about the impression it makes when someone puts above average effort into an everyday interaction. Most of our daily exchanges with people are transactional, from the person we pay for our morning coffee, to the person running the meeting, or the attendant who checks us in at the gym. You give a little, they give a little. But what if you started giving more? Most people would sit up and take notice.
One simple way we can increase our influence is by remembering details that others forget. While it takes a little more practice and effort, the payout is huge when we remember (and use) people's names in our interactions. Dale Carnegie has more to say on that subject:
"We should be aware of the magic contained in a name and realize that this single item is wholly and completely owned by the person with whom we are dealing."
Names foster instantaneous connection. When someone we barely know remembers our name, we hold them in a higher regard for putting forth the effort, and we should! Remembering a name signals trust and above-average effort.
Use people's interests to motivate them
Offering a generic "good job" at work, or anywhere else, isn't enough. For example, if you've ever competed in any kind of long distance race or endurance event, you can relate to this. It's not the generic "keep going" signs you read along the way that help you slog to the finish line. It's the clever use of humor that makes you push hard the rest of the way. Signs like, "I hear there's free pizza at the finish line."
Think about what helps people relate (oftentimes it's humor) and tap into those elements with your team. It takes a bit of creativity but it really counts when you need to build trust or higher levels of engagement on a project.
Encourage other people to talk about themselves: you'll learn a lot
Part of being an influential leader or team member means knowing how to converse with others. And what better topic to start with than the person in front of you! Ask some introductory questions and watch them dive headlong into their passions. Helping people talk about themselves does two things:
- Fosters trust
- Teaches you things you need to know for later conversations
Likability, ironically, isn't about talking at all; it's about being a good listener
Ask instead of tell
Asking for involvement before making decisions cannot be underestimated for leaders. It's true that the basis of good decision-making isn't top-down, but an integrated process of gathering feedback and making an informed decision with the contribution of others.
If your team has a level of control on what they're working, they are far more likely to actually enjoy their work.
Discussing tasks to conquer in the form of a question instead of an imperative completely reframes the conversation. Instead of a top-down direct order people will feel like they're doing the work they choose because their input has already been considered.
Many of us don't actively take stock in what matters to other people because it requires extra effort. But fostering a genuine interest in others is essential for having influence, whether we're overseeing a team of 10 or an organization of 100.