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Building Influence & Standing Out

Hello, everybody and welcome to this series of blogs and videos called 'The Coaching Conversation' presented by me, Graham Whiley. I've been coaching business leaders for the last two decades and in this series, we're going to explore some of the things I've seen and learnt in that two decades, that will hopefully help you see how you can become more focused, more effective, and happier in your life.


So, it's now time to sit back, relax and enjoy The Coaching Conversation.


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GRAHAM: I'm really pleased to be joined today by three fantastic and very experienced coaches who are going to tell you a little bit about themselves and their practice starting with Roz.


ROZ: Hi, I'm Roz MacDonald from Sagegreen Consulting. We work with organisations in all different sectors from SMEs through the third sector PLCs, and we work with business leaders in those organisations to help them address the issues that they have - it could be personal issues or bigger problems within the organisation itself. We carry out non-directive coaching to help them find their goals, we help them get clarity around finding solutions, but overall, it's very much about achieving things and getting things done, and making a change.

TINA: Hi my name's Tina Orlando. I coach under the brand of Tina Orlando Coaching. I've been coaching executive leaders for five years. I did my training and certification in the USA, I lived in New York for eight years and prior to that I was in global organisations for 15 years where I co-founded a strategic business communications agency in New York, which still runs today. CEOs and founders, and essentially trying to help them be the best that they can be, whatever situational circumstances that's in.


MAT: I'm Mat Hayes. I’m a co-founder of Humble Associates. I been a coach for a long time now, but I'm also an enterprise agile coach and I work with executives as well.


GRAHAM: As coaches, we often meet leaders and businesses executives who believe they need to develop their ability to create influence and to stand out. So, the first question would be what is influence and how do you build it?


TINA: To me, influence is about shaping something or having an impact on something - you're essentially changing something or moving direction, and it could be influence on a person, on a product, on a company, on a situation or on an action. I think influence is very broad. I think from a coaching perspective, it's particularly interesting to talk about the soft and the hard aspects of influencing, because if you're in a role with a leadership capability, then obviously you have direct influence and hard influence, but often it's the influence around the edges that can really make a difference - That could be through relationships, it could be through being a subject matter expert, it could be having great presence, it could be through being a brilliant storyteller and moving hearts and minds. It can depend on the person. I think it depends on the situation.

ROZ: I'd agree with that completely. I think that emotional piece; I think if you can understand people, if you know what triggers their emotions, what makes them tick, you can ultimately influence them and therefore it makes your position as a leader much easier because they will come with you.


MAT: Yeah. I agree too. I think having the ability to get people to go on the journey with you, to understand where you're coming from. Enthusiasm and just been sort of person that people look up to and follow that's really key. I think they let you set the soft skills; that if you don't have a position of power, you can still influence people. Some of the people that you end up really admiring have no standing in the organisation, and yet they do some wonderful work.


TINA: That's where the magic can happen, right?


ROZ: Yeah. I think that influence that comes from the authority piece only goes so far. It works in certain situations. It works for a certain period of time, but absolutely the building, the relationships, the emotional piece makes better progress in the long run.


GRAHAM: So, if we've identified influence, how would you describe standing out?


MAT: Well, standing out can be many things; It could be a positive or a negative thing. If we were standing up for a positive reason it could be that we are doing things differently that maybe people wish that they were doing. Maybe they like what's happening and it's not and so standing out that way - in the way you approaching something - that can lead to influence, but being different and doing something in a positive way can lead to that.


Obviously, the opposite is true - If you can stand out because you're doing something negatively or that affects people, you'll be known for that also. I think when we're coaching people, they may not always notice that that's what's happening for them.

TINA: Yeah, agreed. I also think about standing out in the sense of it could be a business, it could be a product, and its differentiation from your peer set in a certain way. Also, from an individual perspective, you can stand out from your peer group within your organisation and what's the reason for that? It could be because you're a bit of an outlier, it could be because you run lightly counter-cultural to the prevailing culture within the organisation, and any of these things can be good things or bad things. It depends on the context and figuring out if standing out, in this situation, is a good thing. And if so, how can you then achieve it, or, is standing out a negative thing and do you want to dial down and be a bit more like everybody else?


ROZ: Yeah, absolutely. I think some of the traits you talked about like the positive ones, the ones that people tend to look for, perhaps the confidence or the expertise; those traits are also the things that allow you to influence often. So, if you're good at those things, and you stand out because of those things, you may well be better at influencing. I think it's a common theme.


MAT: I think that by putting your own mask on and helping to show the change that you want to see and helping people see that you are part of the change as well, rather than just talk. Also, do what you say you're going to do - If I say I'm going to do something and then it happens people, I get confidence. So, I could stand out for that. I'd probably be influencing people if that's something that interests them.

TINA: I've come across an American coach, a thinker-leader called Dorie Clark, and she has some really good resources around becoming a thought leader and understanding where you sit versus your environment and your context, and then finding a very specific niche for yourself. So, what's that point of differentiation; if everybody else is saying X and you said Y, what might that look like and how might that serve you? It's actually a really practical tool that you can use if you're looking to differentiate yourself from a sea of sameness, whether it's in your own company or external to your company.


ROZ: That sounds like something that would work both inside and outside the organisation.


GRAHAM: Do you think influence, or standing out, is really just a different way of describing gravitas?


ROZ: I think the gravitas piece is more about the weight that you bring, the presence that you have. I think it's perhaps complimentary; I think there are some core traits running through the influence piece of standing-out piece the gravity task piece. But I don't think that they are essentially the same.


TINA: Yeah, I would agree with that role. I almost see them as Venn diagrams - there's an area of overlap where they can be very similar. I think for me, gravitas, there's also this sort of states person ship around this identity, around the notion of gravitas and experience, you know, you've lived a couple of lives, you've been around the block, you can see how things might play out - when you talk, people listen. I think you can be an influence. If you think about all the influencers on social media at the moment, and have zero gravitas and that's okay, because if your role is to be an influencer, then that's what you want to achieve.


Whereas I think you could also have a lot of gravitas and not necessarily stand out. You could be one of these people that says nothing throughout the whole term of a meeting, and then literally as you sum it up at the end, you bring everything together - you mentioned the five things that everyone's got to do and it's like ‘wow’.

MAT: I think building on that, it's then about people talking about that; it almost extends it further. When you hear about something, the influence starts becoming larger as people are talking about how great that thing was or how great that person did that thing, and then it also starts growing itself.




GRAHAM: So how, how has building influence or standing-out helped your clients? Have you got some simple examples of how that's worked?


TINA: I have a client who stood out. He was a young leader; Ivy league Oxbridge educated MBA, on paper, an absolutely stunningly capable guy. He went into a role where he was one of the youngest in the team and he stood out because he was the youngest in the team and also, he had a reputation for being the data cruncher and into the minutia, and always answering questions about data. He really wanted to try and reposition himself to be an influencer, to have influence, and to establish presence. So, we talked about ways that he might do that, and also why wasn't that happening at the moment? One of the interesting things that came up is that he was very conflict averse – so, whenever someone challenged him, and it was a very challenging culture, he almost felt like it was attack on himself as opposed to challenging the intellectual idea or the notion of the concept.


So, really separating those two things, and taking him back to an academic environment - where people challenge and debate all the time and defend their ideas and promote other ideas - almost supplanting the conflict notion with the academic debate, enabled him to flourish more in those group dynamics and those team situations where he’d get defensive and he was really engaged with it and brought energy. Then we also talked about some techniques about standing out, around perhaps getting known beyond your specific business units, and taking on some cross-functional cross-business projects where he developed a reputation beyond just his normal business. And it worked - over the years, he's progressed and feels a lot more comfortable with that role.


ROZ: How did he feel? Would he have addressed somebody else and thought it was a personal attack on them?


TINA: Not at all. I think at the heart of it, there was a bit of imposter syndrome; even though he had all of these amazing qualifications, when you're suddenly surrounded by all these other insanely smart people, you inevitably to a degree start doubting yourself. And the other thing that came to mind for him as well was that because he's the ‘data guy’, people don't think about him as the ‘big picture guy’.


Another thing that I think influence and gravitas is a macro as opposed to micro and pivoting a little bit from answering questions about data, to posing broader questions about the business also helps the perception of sharing, perhaps how that fits into the bigger picture that you understand outside of your realm.


MAT: I often work with agile coaches and their role is to be a servant-leader for the teams that they're working with. Unfortunately, when they get brought in, the teams often aren't on board with that and they're sort of like ‘go and do’ and they have to spend a lot of time building their own gravitas and their own influence to say ‘there's a different way of working’ and ‘it's not going to, you will work like this’. It's about helping them do small things that demonstrate benefit - bringing them along the journey, helping them to feel part of it, iterate with them, understanding the problems.


So, coaching someone who is hitting a brick wall with a team is all about them - helping them step back a bit and finding some quick wins to help the team, starting to understand why they're there and not feel like it's imposed on them. But it's a very strange dynamic with certain leaderships that you’re not in control, but ultimately you influence because people want to work with you because you're allowing them to do things that maybe they couldn't do before.


TINA: That's really interesting, isn't it? Taking the command and control out of it and the direct reporting line out of it and still having that influence and being accountable. I guess, for the results as well, which is tough.


MAT: It's a strange dynamic when you’ve literally got to help everyone changed course without doing anything in the same way.


GRAHAM: Well, thanks guys. This is the kind of subject that we could talk about for quite a long time, but we are now at the end of our time for this edition of The Coaching Conversation. Thank you, Matt, Tina and Roz and goodbye.

 

So, there you have it, the next edition of The Coaching Conversation. I hope you found it interesting. I hope you found it useful. You can find out more about our coaching programmes at theexecutivemindset.co.uk

If you want to reach out you can send me an email at theexecutivemindset@sagegreen.com you can book a free 30-minute coaching session at theexecutivemindset.co.uk which will give you a really good feel for how coaching can help you.

Thanks, Graham Whiley

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