Episode 36: The Power of Influnce


Who had the greatest influence in your life? What leader saw something in you that you may not have seen in yourself? What would you team say about your influence skills? Are you trying to leading change in your organization that requires influence skills? Please join Jeff Smith and Jennifer Owen-O’Quill in a conversation about influence and the impact of your leadership. We will offer tools and tips to grow your influence and help you become a better leader and achieve more success.

Jennifer Owen-O’Quill, Leadership Director for Voltage Leadership Consulting, is an executive coach, facilitator, organizational consultant and leadership guru. With 25 years of leadership experience across a broad range of industries, she has coached leaders and their teams to execute institutional culture change through effective organizational management and leadership development. Some of Jennifer’s clients include: Carilion Clinic, WDBJ-7, Fenway Sports Group, Novozymes Biologicals, Yokohama Tires, Canatal Steel, Polymer Solutions, Interactive Achievement, Corvesta and the Roanoke Regional Chamber of Commerce. Not-for-profit clients include Washington and Lee University, Goodwill Industries, Habitat for Humanity, New Horizon’s Healthcare, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Southwestern VA, and CMR Institute. Jennifer coaches professionals in firms in the Southeast and across the country, including Abbott Laboratories, Baker McKenzie, and Kirkland & Ellis.



Jeff: Welcome. This is Jeff Smith with Voltcast. I am so happy to have you here today with us, Jennifer Owen-O’Quill today. Hey, Jennifer. How are you?


Jennifer: I am great, Jeff. Good to see you.


Jeff: Thanks for joining us today. If you like to reach out to us during the week, please connect with us at voltageleadership.com. If you want ever send me an e-mail it is jeff@voltageleadership.com or Jennifer is jennifer@voltageleadership.com. Each and every week you guys send us notes and fill us in on what you are doing, and we so appreciate that. Please know that we do not get a chance to say all the things that we received but we really appreciate hearing from you.


This is one of the topics that folks want to hear about and it is about influence. Who has been an influence in your life, how can you be an influencer, how do you grow influence? I invited Jennifer, she teaches a program on executive presidents, leadership presidents, have you measure your impact. She is the real thought leader on this so I am looking forward to hearing from Jennifer on this topic. Jennifer, welcome to the show.


When we talk about influence, first off, what influence, influencer, mean to you?


Jennifer: Well, I think about it in 360 degrees actually. There is a way that folks influence us from the external world that both the people we know and the thought leaders that are out, there is also the influence of people that we do not know and our thought leaders just have with us. Then there is the influence that we have over others and then there is that influence that we are accomplishing with our peers. This is 360 degrees of influence, it is complicated.


Jeff: Yes. I think, yes, continuing, it is in all aspects of our life.


You saw our time we keep our focus here on the workplace, our organizations that we are in and all that but I really know it from, as many of you know I am a parent of four kids, the person when I am coaching on the sidelines, I can be that dad but some of those people that I am coaching against or whatever, I am still going to see there are some times the people that I work with or I am going to be a client of ours, and then there is my Sunday school teacher so there is different type of influence to the youth that I am teaching and advise on Sunday nights.


There is a different type of influence and I know Jennifer you are very passionate about our community so I know you are very much a community influencer in out shaping the voice of the community. It is not only does it come from all these different places inside organizations but we play a lot of roles and the influence is so large in so many places.


Jennifer: We do and what the influence that we have in one area does not necessarily translate or apply to another. One of the things that can happen as we can walk into an area where we think we will have influence or that we will not and we have more or less than we anticipated. I have a story about that.


Jeff: I will note as mark down for later in the show, failure of influence story. Tip for the audience, I just tapped on my tongue there with the pen. I actually did that yesterday in my coaching conversation. I literally hit it. I am like wow I really did that? I think we will start just kind of a fun place. This is going to be counted about an easy flowing conversation today. Maybe Jennifer will tell us about a key influencer for you, sort of your life history. I do not care what domain it comes from.


Jennifer: I thought about that question and the person who came to mind, there is two, but the one who come to mind first is this professor I had in college, undergraduate professor. He is actually the reason why I chose that school. He was the philosophy professor, emeritus actually, at Scripps College in Claremont, California. Shout out to my people in Southern California. He was walking his dogs when I was touring the campus and I could tell he was brilliant.


We start up a conversation and there is a difference between a philosopher and some who teaches philosophy and he was both. I thought I want to learn from him and so I chose that school for a variety of reasons. But he really became a real influencer in my life. How about you?


Jeff: I think it starts my parents obviously. Sometimes it is good, sometimes bad. In my case, it was very positive, a great experience. Both my mom for her grit and willingness to lean in, do hard things, always provide for the family. My dad is probably more like me in personality. He is a school teacher, a coach of sports. For me, I saw it day in and day out, we were not a rich family on a school teacher salary and state government worker and all that but there was always, as I like to joke, there is always more month than there was money but there was always more love than we probably required. It was it a great household and so I think that I learned a lot.


Everything from my parents were very progressive in sort of race relations and with dad being a city school teacher, we had all kind of colors and backgrounds and all that coming through our house. I learned from a very early age how to be curious and learn which probably led to sort of a career in human resources and coaching. I think from that, that is where I started. Let me fast forward to college similarly, his name is Mark Warner. If you are in Virginia, that is not the senator. We have Senator Mark Warner who I know as well but this is the Vice President at James Mass University. Our families have an interesting history. My dad taught his daughters, that is what happens when you are college in your hometown, and then I go and he really inspired me to look at leadership and study leadership. There was this class that we had. It is like leadership lessons of I do not remember the exact title but we say it like Matilda Han.


We get to study the Kouze and Posner leadership challenge book, that was what we read. He is relatively young but up and coming leader and the teacher of our class, being the next president of JMU, we are studying from these but he saw things in me that I did not see myself. He was the one that gave me feedback like put your voice into the room more. Challenge me to do some different things and so that influence, I respected him, he was a role model but he also shaped me as a leader and helped me find my passion as well as my leadership voice. It is sort of a multifaceted influencer and friends to this day.


Jennifer: Those lifeline relationships are so important. I remember the phone call from Professor Ross's daughter and having a conversation with me about what he really wanted at the end of his life and navigating that and making those decisions and being invited into that space, those lifelong relationships of influence really matter. I just remember walking across that campus that first day and this white-headed bearded man saying hello to me and the long conversations of a couple of decades but then the moment in time Ray said, 'Where did you get so wise?' To be sitting across the table, drinking coffee with a philosopher, and him asking me as he is in his 80's and how did I get so wise at 19, 20, 22, 25 years old. Maybe that is why I am not quick, right?


There is something to be learned at all different stages of life. Right now, I am learning to get quicker. Let us keep diving a little bit more. One of the things I want folks, the listeners, to really be thinking about is I want you to go back maybe as you are listening to this in your car or running or wherever you are listening to, who has been a key influencer and if you lose us for a minute or two as you ponder who that person was, that is okay. You will come back and you can always re-listen to this segment but it is really point to just ground like what was it and what did they do specifically that really impacted you?


Part of that is as we go through the show, what we are going to try do is say so how do you use your influence in the work setting, in the organization, in your life? It is really critical say what was it that they did that helped you and how you are going to pay that forward? I love that term by Marshall Goldsmith is really paying it forward. These mentors did not necessary to expect you to come back and pay it back to them but someone influenced your professor, Mark Warner my case, someone influenced. He knows he is him and what he into me is going to continue exist because I am handing it to the next generation. I really want you to really think about that. Additionally, I think it is beneficial sometimes to think about someone as a key influencer. It was not a positive experience either.


Jeff: I am sure there are some other resources but there is a book called Influencer: The Power to Change Anything. It is by the authors of crucial conversations. Authors like Patterson, Greeny, Maxgale, McMillan, and Switzer. But I guess Influencer is hard to get. It is a good book, it got lots of ideas, lots of stories and some tips and tools. If you are interested in how you take this conversation and put some practical usage to it, grab this book called Influencer. You know an idea of maybe before we go to break, is there someone, an influencer in your life that was not positive? I have one if you need more time to think.


Jennifer: I have plenty but what is yours? I am curious.


Jeff: I am going to go back to college as well and this was someone who was in charge, he was a vice president, and he was over a club that I was president of. He was just really difficult to work with. It was almost like the students were there to serve him and not the administration is there to service students. There is probably a give and take but it was several times where I was able to find that this person had not told the whole truth and there is always these sort of half true stories that kind of happened and he kind of try to pit our group against another group to try to get things that he wanted done. He just really taught me a lot about transparency. As a leader, I was looking to really follow him. I am very impressionable at that point, 19 or 20 years old, and I thought that he had my best interest. I would open up and some things that we are facing or challenging, and he would go and use that information and it really was like oh my gosh it really is a trust break.


I learned early on that transparency and trust are really important and earned. Now, I will wrap up on that to say that he also gave me some great advice. There is an organization that I was going to step away from and I try to go see the person who is in charge and the person was not there, I tried twice. I ended up leaving a phone call instead of doing it face to face. He pulled me in just said, 'Jeff, you are better leader than this. You need to work harder to find the person and resign and look him face to face.' Even in the face of someone that I did not always respect as a leader, I still got some really great wisdom too about how to be a better leader. I think that is often the case is. That person that maybe was not our greatest influence that we enjoyed, there was still wisdom to be gained.


Jennifer: I think we have to learn a lot from the people that might rub us the wrong way and oftentimes I find that it is the people that challenge us, that they challenge us because they like us. Not saying that those things are in you but say that that is not what I am inferring. But I do hear in conversations when people have co-workers that they have difficulty with or team or supervisor that they are challenged by. With the chemistry it is often because it is similar, chemistry.


Jeff: Well, so we are coming up against break. Stay tuned for more feedback from Jennifer to Jeff, apparently and no I am just kidding.


But we will continue this conversation and talk some about how do we put this influence to work for us. We will be back in two minutes.




Jeff: Welcome back. This is Jeff Smith. I have got Jennifer Owen-O’Quill on the show today. Jennifer, great you could be here and thanks for being here.


Jennifer is going to be with us the whole day. We have been talking about influence, who influenced us, and then we are going to start to talk about where does influence show up in the world, how do you use your influence? But I really, I want to again commend people that take the time to be a leader, to be an influencer. I challenge you in the last segment to really think about that influencer and then if they are still alive, go back and tell them.


I will tell you that one of the great things I ever did, not because I did it, but I did this when I was about 26 or 27, I took the top ten influencers in my life and I wrote a letter to the whole group. This is old school, you have still had to write. This is early 1990's. I wrote a letter and gave copies to everybody but I listed all ten in a paragraph of each person so they could also see each other. I am not saying everyone has to do that but you will not believe the hugs and friendships that came out of that. Again, just take a moment to go back and think. A person or two that has been in your life, that has been an influencer, tell them why and how much you appreciate it.

The crackup is they probably will say things like I was just doing my job or you really did the great work, I was just there to help you and that is the beauty of it. It really does some great things. Jennifer, you and I were talking on break. You had a couple ideas of were to sent us off next, I am intrigued. I am intrigued.


Jennifer: What we were talking before the break about people that influence us in negative ways, people that had a difficult influence on our lives. I thought about that in two ways. There is individual certainly that have had a negative influence on me or that their influence has taught me how not to be, so it is two ways. One is that wow look at that and I see what I do not want to be, and I learn what not to do good. But there is also a person who under whose influence we start circling and we start to become something we do not want to be so they draw us in their direction and it is not a direction we want to go. We worry about that with our kids but when we get older and get on teams, they can see that have it like the way that gossip flows through an organization that you come under the influence of someone who sends gossip around the business.


The other is that there is ways that we actually can also be influenced by groups, that is what culture comes into it. We are influenced by the culture of an organization or we do not know fully what that culture is and so we might miss mistakes or mishaps, some were new and we are not familiar with the culture. But I have certainly been in a culture that was toxic and have the experience of becoming a much more strident person than I naturally am because of the response of this I had to the culture I was in. It was how you survive to that culture. One of the questions I would like to ask is do you like the things that have grown in you in order to be in the environment that you are in? If the answer is yes, then good. If the answer is no, then can you change something in that environment? Is the cost too high and you need to make a different choice?


Jeff: I had forgotten about I was probably late 20's and I had a great mentor. Early, they were fantastic but as I grew older bit more, like what I started to find was when I was with this person, and this person is in the organization, it really became gossip and bitching and moaning sessions. It was kind of interesting. I got into a place of, yes I guess power is the right word, I had enough gravitas, to use the word we used early this week, to have my own department and things where information that was flowing to my mentor was beneficial them.


I was still thinking that we are in this sort of mentoring relationship and he was taking my information and going and use it in some other places, right? But the part that I looked at my own leadership was I was sometimes we meet for lunch normally about once a week. I kept coming away from those meetings feeling not so great about myself because often he would lead in with his gossip. For folks that know me well, I am not a gossip, like I generally do not speak of it. My wife is always like you do not really talk about like anything happening at your work. I was like yes it is work, it goes there. I am interested in things that happened but the gossip part was not something. What I found was that was kind of what he treated him.


His influence was kind of going behind the scenes and undermining a lot of the authority, a lot of the culture. I did not realize I had gotten sucked in and so I kind of picture of Darth Vader. This guy is not Darth Vader. He is wonderful, he is great, he probably just did not know how to re-create his leadership style and so I stopped having that lunches with them and just would occasionally meet with them but I really had to fire my mentor because I was kind of getting sucked in to an influence and that led to me being connected to him in a group that did not have a positive or most positive reputation. I have completely forgotten about until you mentioned it.


Jennifer: That is so interesting how we respond and when we are with people we trust and how slowly things happen, and we suddenly find that we are at a place that we did not intend to be.


Jeff: That was a solid year and a half for me to really, I told it two minutes but it was a year and a half probably of me studying it and figuring out and watching and being like I think something has happened here. This is really pre-coaching and hanging on the doors chore challenge. I was not nearly as self-aware as I do think this is where coaches and mentors properly use can really help.


Jennifer: Yes, it is interesting to travel back to those places where that was not very helpful, those influencers, but learned a lot. I mean you learn a lot from getting out of the situations or making the decisions about what to do inside of them.


Jeff: Let us draw in. What should we be doing to try to influence the culture, influence our team, individuals on our team, as you start to think about how do we do it? I have asked the folks to reflect a little on who did they admire as influencers and how does that impact your leadership style, so that is a start. But how do we get more intentional about using our influence?


Jennifer: I went in a couple of different directions. This is probably quickest side. One of the ways that I would like to use my influences to make sure that I have a checkpoint outside of the organization so that I can stay honest or so that I stay tethered to what the different reality is to know what the nature of the of the group I am in is. As I found that to be helpful, it helps me bring more wisdom and that outside perspective. That is one thing in terms of influence because those ideas are usually fresh and bright but they were not mine but they come through me and that is interesting.


I think it is important to bring fresh thinking to a group. How do you look at the kinds of ideas that are coming and what is needed to create something fresh and new. That is also for me, I want to look at around the room. Are you taking the right amount of time and how do people respond to you and what is the current reality, right? Then where do you want to be given your current states. To your point of the conversation you just had, you had a mentor and for a while that was a good great relationship but as your role changed, that relationship needed to change. That is being aware of your GPS, your organizational GPS, where you are and where you want to be, I think that is important. What do you think is important to keep in mind internally?


Jeff: The word that keeps coming to my mind is just intentional. Are you being intentional with your influence? You alluded to right at the start of the show too, what role am I in? We are working with the health system up North where they have multiple different roles. Sometimes they are chairs, sometimes they are clinicians, sometimes they are leading an apartment meeting, sometimes they are the project manager, sometimes they are the follower. What role are you in and when you are coming to meeting are you being intentional about the role that you are even in? What is your voice supposed to be? I suppose it is a big word but there is sometimes in one meeting you are in charge and in another meeting you are in a group of peers. If you do not make that shift, all of a sudden, feedback is going to come your way like you are off track or dude what are you doing in here, you know?


I think it is the word that came to me first was intentional. Understand what setting are you in and then let us think about that. The next word that came to me is authentic. The closer you can be to who you are, still know what role you are in, but who are you? Whatever influence that you are giving off is authentically you and not like, 'Oh, I am in this role so I guess I need to be Joe Charisma today,' instead of it being, 'No, this is I am excited, I am passionate about something,' right? I have talked about this previously. I am thinking about one CEO who is just not a rah rah guy. For him to get up and try to influence an audience by being we are the rah rah guy, it is just we fall flat, right? Instead, it is okay I know who I am, the way I influence is through building trust, providing a path, sort of helping people understand we are okay because we have got good process. That is not the way I would inspire, that is not the way I influence but that is the way he influences.


Knowing sort of who you are being authentic to it are the first couple things that intentionally being authentic are two things that really come out mind for me.


Jennifer: The image that came to mind is when you are watching a TV show, the character is the same character and there is a variety of scenes. We travel through different scenes in our day and there is a theme that I have when I wake up and mom and the toast gets left on the floor and how do I respond to that versus the drop ball at work versus the mistake that happens to a colleague at lunch and how generous I am to help that person. What are the different responses in those different contexts and who do I want to be through the, it is helpful to have some... These are my north stars that people can trust, that helps people center on that. I find that followers or the people around you get confused if there is flipping in, well, this is the way that he is when we are in the car together but this is the way he is every other time.


It is whiplash. How do you still have maintains that true north of well I am still a leader and I have the ability to warm it up a little bit all the time and I am still going to be serious in the car, whatever that is.


Jeff: I think that, the conversation if you are just joining us is all about influence and who has influenced us and then how do we use our influence, as we continue through the show what we are going to do is dig down a little bit more in some do's and don'ts. Jennifer, I am still waiting for this failure and influence stories. We definitely have to come back to that one, cannot wait.


Sounds like it is a good clipping here. We will be back in two minutes to pick up the story.




Jeff: Welcome back. This is Jeff Smith with Voltcast. I have Jennifer Owen-O’Quill with me today. We are having a lovely discussion and having just a joyful time together. Are we not, Jennifer?


We had a tease, right before the break as they say, about a failure of influence.


Jennifer: Failure of influence. True, it happens for the rest of us.


Jeff: Let me pull up my chair, I prop my feet up, I am ready, Jennifer. Go for it.


Jennifer: Tell me all about it, failure. It happens and sometimes in the line that we feel brilliant, right? I coach leaders all day long. There is a baseball team that my son is playing on and it is a mess. It is clear that the experience is poor. That there might be a 'Lord of the Flies' situation if we do not put a stop to it. There could be kids gone wild running through the streets but luckily that is not what is happening because I decided to get into the drama triangle and try to rescue the situation. It is terrible idea on my part in retrospect. Intentions were good, trying to do my best to create a good experience or the best experience I could for my kid. But a third person in a failed leadership relationship when I am learning does just not help. If there is a relationship of leaders that is not working, adding more does not help necessarily unless I invite you to help them.


I got invited by one but not by both and it is hard, it is just hard. We had a game last night, I left feeling discouraged and frustrated and being angry in 360, right? I am frustrated with the little people and I am frustrated with the peers and I am frustrated with the families and that is not helpful. It is like I have to stop and look at myself like wait a minute. Like I said a moment ago like what is growing inside of this group, right? This group is not helping me be my best self.


It is ten-year-old baseball. It is only four more games so I am going make it through the end and I am going to change it up. That is what you have to do. I have to change the environment because it is not working.


Jeff: I think that is one that did critical things with influence is we are only one part of the equation. You have to start to look around. One of the things that I would like to do is to think about how do enlist others. Part of this is knowing yourself and then you look around and say okay what is going on with this organizations, the most time you are trying to make a change of some sort. Understanding who is going to benefit, who might this hurt, and how do you start to get others to buy in? Some are great at sort of giving the, let us say, the Christmas Day speech and storm the hill. Others are great at going behind the scenes and explaining it. Others can do a small team meeting. I do not really care style, you have to discover that for yourself but what is critical is if you are trying to get something changed in your organization, you are going to have to get others to buy in.


You have had them figure out what is the best method to making sure other people buy in. It is something we talk about from a who is key stakeholders, what is the role in it, are they decision maker, do they just need to be informed, Do they have to implement. You have to get really clear and make sure you have your talent to do a communication so that each person gets what they need out of it and, where we started the show, how you influence and how you show up those people will be different. Your role may be different, the style you are going to use for influence may be different. This is this is much more about an art than a science.


Really understanding, we will go back to the very first show of Voltcast, thinking about if it is a driver you probably just need be able to tone the facts and here is what I need to do and here is where we are going, what else do you have? Then give them some space versus this corner, you may want to be enlisting one on one and talk about loyalty and how wonderful they have been and how can they help support you, right? It is going to be different per person but you have really got to be intentional about going and enlisting others if you are trying to draft change and influence organization.


Jennifer: I think it is important to start with quiet time and some thinking and some data when you really are going to try to drive change to really map out who the whole are because everything gets done through people. In all of those areas, the people who do the work, the people who are your peers and care about the work that you are doing, the leader that oversees it, but also the people, stakeholders, and community, the people that are served by the organization. Whatever it is who are the key influencers and stakeholders inside of those different groups and getting 10% of each of those gives you a place to begin. That is my starting point when I am thinking about driving changes, who do I need to get with first.


Jeff: You I had a discussion of weeks ago actually about you thought it might be time for me to go to the CEO to have a discussion. I was like not yet because I understood that this CEO, that there was a vice president that this set CEO would really lean on and we had not given that vice president a chance to weigh in yet. While the CEO will need this information at some point, if we had not brought the vice president along, it would have hurt our credibility and our influence. I was like I hear you, you are right, however in this organization if we have not brought the vice president into a loop because some of the stuff spills over into this vice president's area, the first question the CEO is going to be like have you talked to said Vice President. If we had not, it would be like oh boy.

I think it is another culture though and any of our clients that you and I both are in, I am picturing if we did not just go straight to CEO, we would be crazy.


Jennifer: Right and that is about culture. It is about understanding their context. That is the thing that I would point to is that influence changes from setting to setting where we started. Change is certainly in the different roles we play in our life but also changes in the different organizations that we are in and there are different seasons in that is organizations so stopping to say what worked for me then does not work for me now, what I need to do next? That is always that puzzle piece.


Jeff: How do you enlist others, we got the stakeholders, we have enlist the stakeholders, it is also what are you asking them to do? What are the key behaviors? If we are trying to get change to happen and we are trying to influence this change, we have got to be able to say what is the next thing you do differently. Sometimes when I see influence not at work, I ask you to just, 'Hey are you in?' People are like, 'I guess.' They might like you, you might have proper influence, but if you do not come with a sort of a specific request and here is directionally what I am asking you do and here is how that looks and so I see some influencers, the reason they fail, is that they stay too vague, looking myself in the mirror on this one. Will they stay too vague and while people are excited and they want to change and would love to support you, they are kind of clueless like okay I got it but in my case I am sort of a moving target.


I moved on to the next thing and they are like, 'Jeff, I would like to help you out but I need the next step or two or the behavior too that you are asking me to change. I really, as an influencer, one of the things I want to do is to slow down just a little bit and make sure that folks not just that they hurt you but the influencers are often are successful than one who say,' Hey, this is why I am investing in you, why I am hearing this conversation with you, and here is what I need from you. Here is behavior that I need. Here is the next step or two that I need. Now, it is like that is an influence that I can follow.


Jennifer: I also think when you have something as idea or a vision that you want to articulate. That is the first step but that is not the vision that is going to win. It is a version of that vision that has been transformed by the conversations that you have with all of the other folks so that you gather their piece of that vision so that it sounds like it is theirs too. Particularly, if you have a transformational idea, something that you know is a game-changer, a winning move for the organization. How is it that as you go and have those conversations that it is not what I want you to do up but it is also depending on who it is, right? What are you interested in? What matters to you, what are the burning questions and problems, what is your vision that you are carrying and how do you co-create something so that has more power so that when it moves forward in the organization, you have a greater chance for buy in and for the thing that you want but also the thing that you are bringing forward is shared by a broader group, that is so important.


Jeff: For me, I know the listeners, our last segments normally sort tips and tools. I am kind of starting us down that path a little early. If I am a listener, okay that is interesting. I want to start to get better at this, I want to start to do something. I want to increase my influence and this kind of continuous topic that we talked about a couple weeks ago on executive presence, if you want more on executive presence and leadership presence, go back and listen. Actually, Jennifer and I hosted it on May 2nd. Go back and listen to that one. But this continues that conversation about how do I go about and use that influence? My one quick thought analogy, saying something before our break here, is that you probably should use your own influence.


On your development plan you can say I want to learn how to increase my influence, I want to become a better influencer. Development plan is different but standing up in a meeting and saying I am trying to influence you, okay, that is just bad. In trying to sort of say I am a key influence around the organization, again, if you have to declare it, there is probably something wrong. My first thought for you is this is more like you learning what where do people listen to you, where do you have influence, but do not go around saying it and declaring it. Just do it. 


Jennifer: And wait and see what happens. There is something to influence that is being curious about what happens when you are sitting in one place, who comes to you, right? It is a way to identify a map where your attractional value is. What is it that people come to you for, what kinds of things are you respected for, and then you have a circle of influence you can help identify. From there then you can map where would I like to gain influence, in what areas, who would partner with me in that, and what do I need to learn maybe, is there a body of knowledge I do not have to become an expert and that will allow me to do some of the next things I want to do. 


Jeff: Good. Like you said, you can be an expert in one field and as father to his teenage daughters. You do not always have to be an expert there.


When we come back from break, I will not tell that one but we will give you some tips and tools about how to be an influencer in your organization. Talk to you in two.




Jeff: Welcome back to Voltcast. This Jeff Smith. I am here today with Jennifer Owen-O’Quill. We have had a lovely conversation around influence and how to use it and who is our influencers. This is our last segment of the show so we normally get into some tips and tools and best practices here. Jennifer, I know that is something that you deal with often and working with leaders all around the world on about how do they use their influence, how they shape it, how they grow it, how they recognize it. As you think about some of your best practices and you coach these folks up, what are some of the tips and tools that you like to share with folks?


Jennifer: Well, here is a practical one I want to be sure and share. If there is something important you are about to go do for pitching something in a level that you have not been at before, take out a note card and write a map of who you think will be in the room, what matters to them, what they care about, what they are bringing with them not as it relates to your thing but as it relates to their world. These are the main things that they might think about. One of the exercises I do with young leaders is to imagine the organization from the point of view of the CEO. It is a helpful exercise, gives you a different perspective. But when you map out the meeting that you are going to have with the different stakeholders in it and what they care about and then you think about how they feel about your piece. It allows you to intentionally shape the conversation in a way that is going to land well in everyone.


What you want is a war room. When you have to actually pitch something, take some time and think about that. In the middle of a meeting, you can do the same thing. You can take a look around who is in the room and what do they care about. What is their circle of concern, who has spoken and who has not spoken? If you are saying something that really matters to you, take a moment to think about it and then speak. It will help you be wise with what you say. Remember the context counts and that is what really is. Context counts but that is how you learn to think about it quickly. You actually write it out and practice.


Jeff: Consider your audience, who is in there. When you did that, I merely thought back to my interview entering into healthcare. I knew every person that was going to the room. I looked it up, this is pre-LinkedIn days but I was able to get information on each person and what would be their slant, and I knew I was coming from financial services healthcare that that was probably going to be their biggest concern. I just stressed it head on. I said, 'I imagine if you are sitting there in my seat, how can someone coming from finance be successful in healthcare?' You could just see a collective breath in the room like come down, like the stress level, like well we really like this candidate but how are we going to deal with this? So, I put together a plan and said, 'Look, I am going to have to learn. We are going to do this together. I am sure you have got lots of knowledge to teach me and I am excited. I have already been reading on this and doing this and I found a program where I can go learn a bunch of information.'


All of a sudden it was like now the rest of the interview went pretty easy. Because it was the unanswered question and so I was able to influence the group because I looked at it, like you said, from their point of view of like what was my biggest weakness, I did not have a healthcare background. Now, I have worked with Cleveland Clinic in NYU and Carilion Clinic and all those others, I think I solved that one. 


There is something else I recount. We talked earlier in the conversation about the book, Influencer: Power to Change Anything, that certainly I recommend that. I also talked about Scott Eblin's book called The Next Level. The reason for that is as you move to a different level in the organization, you may not realize but your influence and your sphere of influence and how you use your influence changes. I often think that people where they get in trouble is when they move up a level, they do not realize that their voice is different. It is heard differently.


I was giving feedback to Christian Clyde yesterday and they still feel like, they are vice president now, they still feel like they are a director and that everyone is still their buddy and that they are going to come to them. I am like you sit in the administration every day, you are right next to the CEOs office, people do not come in to the administration wing. Then like, 'I know, I still walk the floor.' I am like, oh you walk the floor. I said let me walk the floor with you. I am like watch how many heads are going to duck in, not out. He is like, 'Oh my gosh.' Like he still thought he was the same person and was still getting the same feedback and that I am like do you understand that everyone that works for you now is worried about their mortgage and they are worried about do all these things and you can shape that for everybody. They are going to be honest to a point.


But they are not going be as honest as you think. When you say things, you cannot just joke anymore. This person has a great sense of humor and like that gets translated and that story is retold three times so while it was a joke to an old friend, by the time it is removed three times over, people were worried about layoffs. It was just really eye opening. Scott Eblin's book, The Next Level, does a nice job in sort of outlining what changes, What behaviors do you need to drop off and what behaviors you need pick up as you move and your influences changes in the organization. 


Jennifer: I have certainly sat with CEOs when they say they watch where I put my coffee cup and it means something. Everything gets meaning ascribed to it. It is hard to take at leadership or leadership role and to carry that kind of power authority over people's lives. It is such a tricky place to be in.


I was chuckling because I heard you say... Did you say sphere of influence or spear? The spear of influence. Like I just imagined someone going through a hallway with a spear of influence. The last thing I would say is in what direction do you want to grow? In what direction do you want to grow and where is the light or the sunshine, right? Plants grow in the direction of the light. Who has that in your circle of influence? Now, that can help you grow. Those people change and so if you keep going to the same people and allowed to influence, you are being shaped by the wrong environment. As you change roles, it is also important to change who is shaping you and the kinds of mentoring you have and the kinds of people who you are listening to.

I think at a certain point you also need to pay more attention to of being influenced by people who are reporting up, who are joining the workforce, that it is really important or you lose some very important knowledge. If you are always looking up and out, you will miss some very important things about leadership.

Jeff: I think it is a failure of influence from early in my career. I was really a first time director and I went to lunch once or twice a week with the same guy and I did not realize that the whole organization was watching that and that they thought he was a favorite when he was not. But because I went to lunch with him all the time and he was telling everybody that I was his favorite. I never said that but my actions seem to suggest that. I go to lunch with him once or twice a week, right? Yes, you got to watch that. I also think here in the last two minutes of advisory board, like who is it that can give you that feedback, who do you admire, who do you respect, are out seeking that feedback, I think that is good.

Jennifer, as usual, fantastic. Time flies, thanks for being here. It is great to be here.


Jeff: If you are interested, please go out to voltageleadership.com. Check out Jennifer. We have got a program on this. We got on Executive Presence and how do you grow your influence skills, your leadership presence, so please feel free reach out to Jennifer directly as well. It is a fantastic program. Let me tell you a little bit about upcoming weeks here. Next week we are going to have Maged Khalaf on the program. We are going to talk a good bit about that transition from being a peer to a boss or that buddy to the boss here and the transition and what happens. Then I am going to have Joanne Loce in a few weeks.

We will be talking a lot about succession planning. Then June 15th, John Hagmaier and I, the book that we have been working on with Bill Long will go live. We will probably have John here on a few weeks. Lots of really great topics coming up. As usual, if you want to reach out to us during the week, voltageleadership.com and e-mail to jeff@voltageleadership.com or jennifer@voltageleadership.com. Twitter is @VoltageLeaders, LinkedIn you can find at Jeff Smith Voltage Leadership Consulting or Jennifer Owen-O’Quill at Voltage Leadership Consulting. 

Please know that we do everything from helping you with public speaking to grow in your influence skills and if you need any help we would be happy to do it. In the meantime, thanks for listening to us each and every weekend and send us a note. Make it a great week and we look forward to talking to you next week. Take care.