Not too long ago, a General Manager and I began working together to enhance his communication skills.  However, as we worked together I realized his real desire was more about influence versus communication.  He wanted to have a 360◦ level of influence.

Whatever your role in the family and/or the business, you may find yourself in the same position – wanting greater influence so your message has a strong impact.  If so, the following are some tips and techniques used by those considered to be effective communicators.

  • You cannot not communicate.  

Everything you do or say or don’t do or say communicates a message and influences others.  So, with that in mind, the ability to communicate and influence others are skills we all naturally possess.  The rub comes when you get a response from those listening to your words or observing your behavior.  The meaning of your communication/influence efforts comes in the response you get.  So, if your words don’t get the level of influence you’re after, check your behavior.  If you’re a consistent “do as I say, not as I do” person, getting the result you want is possible but not probable and not predictable.

  • Give people a reason to like you and your message.  

If you want “buy in”, frame your message in a way that answers the:  “OK.  So give me a worthwhile (to me) reason for doing this.”  To do this, you have to know your audience, whether it’s an individual, a small group, or a large group.  Usually, this can be accomplished by reaching one or more of:  Pride; Pleasure; Peace of Mind; Profit.  If you don’t reach at least one of these personal motivators, your personal influence will be severely compromised.

  • Deliver a compelling message in a compelling way.  

Most people are not rational, they are rationalizing and base their decisions/actions on how they feel rather than how they think.  If you want to move their head, first move their heart.  The heart has reasons the head will never understand.

  • Make it personal. 

Recently a first time CEO told his direct reports the good news about their annual performance increases.  As is always the case, there were a number of ways to communicate this message.  He chose one of the worst – quite possibly the worst. He sent them a two sentence, 25 words or less, email.  His “I really care about you and your personal growth and development” hasn’t rung true since.  It will be a while before his personal influence rebounds – if it ever does with this group. 

  • Get people to commit publicly.  

Back in 1836, Colonel Travis drew a line in the sand and said those who crossed the line were free to leave the Alamo and save their lives.  According to the song made famous by Marty Robbins, “not a soul did cross the line”.  Travis had profound influence because he reached their hearts by appealing to their pride, he made leaving voluntary, and they had to take action by crossing the line or by staying behind the line.  We sometimes see similar behavior with business organizations and/or families that are struggling for some form of survival.  What would happen in your family/business if you had to play Colonel Travis? 

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