4 ways to immediately change behaviors and enhance influence

A major driver of being influential is practice.

If you have ever played a sport or musical instrument, or engaged in any similar pursuit that takes muscle memory, you know that improvement never occurs without practice. For example, let’s say you have been playing golf for more than 10 years and you’re tired of your family and friends telling you what you need to do to improve your game. You decide to hire a coach.

The first step that coach may ask you to take is to show your swing. They want to observe your style. After you swing the golf club several times, the coach begins to pick apart your form. This is where some of my clients will give up.

Your subconscious tells you that if it doesn’t feel right or comfortable, it must be wrong. But if you take the advice of your golf coach and practice, suddenly your swing improves. Enhancing your influence is the same concept.

Everyone hopes to maintain a reputation that communicates trustworthiness, confidence and, most important, influence. Most want a quick fix, but no one can be more influential after one coaching or training session.

Being influential through every word you speak and every movement you make, all the time, takes deliberate practice and a lot of hard work. That’s it. You can’t read how-tos in a book or rely on your title and comfort level to be influential.

The hard truth is that being influential is a lifelong journey of practicing through day-to-day interactions. The good news is that we communicate constantly. Not having time to practice is not an excuse.

An article in Harvard Business Review explained this concept of deliberate practice: “It entails considerable, specific, and sustained efforts to do something you can’t do well—or even at all. Research across domains shows that it’s only by working at what you can’t do that you turn into the expert you want to become.”

Therefore, get comfortable being uncomfortable. Feeling uncomfortable is a completely normal reaction any time we start practicing a new skill that is outside our comfort zone or beyond our current competence.

Let’s return to our golf example: How many people do you think go back to their old form because the new swing is too uncomfortable and changing their swing requires too much work? A lot! How many people have I known who stopped practicing influence skills because it felt a bit awkward or uncomfortable? A lot!

This week, take on the four-step commitment to practicing something new:

  1. Clarity. To determine how much you need to practice, get clear on what you want.  When you’re clear on what you want to achieve, you’ll be able to recognize when you’ve reached your desired outcome.
  2. Feedback. It takes discipline to ask for feedback.  Do what it takes to get motivated and focused so that you can take action on the feedback, which will get you to your desired outcomes.
  3. Take a look. If you’re not regularly seeing and hearing yourself through the eyes and ears of your listeners, you’re missing out on huge opportunities to improve. The only way you can clearly know how others perceive you is through video and audio recordings. At your next meeting, simply press “record” on your tech gadget. Audio record your phone conversations.
  4. Trust. Recording yourself is useless without immediate playback. When you review your playback, do you come across the way you want to? What do you want to enhance or improve? Trust what the video playback shows. Nothing is more honest.

Written by Stacey Hanke for CW Magazine.

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