Guest Post by Catherine Wong of Chorev Consulting International (Learn more about Catherine at the end of this post)
My hairstylist told me he is currently reading the all-time business classic: “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Cargenie. As a leadership coach, I was intrigued because I have known Decky for years. He has been very comfortable with his directive style in leadership. He once told me, “This is how we effectively manage frontline employees who only have high school education!”
After some probing, he admitted that issues at home and work made him realize change is needed – otherwise he will miss peace at home and team excellence at work. I had not have watched the movie Silver Linings Playbook when my conversation with Decky took place, otherwise it would be a good reference point for our discussion about influencing people.
Oscar winning Jennifer Lawrence plays Tiffany Maxwell, who helps Pat Salittano Jr. (Bradley Cooper) overcome his mental illness despite having her own set of problems. This delightful comedy sheds light on the challenges of the recovery road of mental patients and the importance of support and focus in life.
On the surface, Tiffany is not a “typical” influencer as you would have imagined. She stalked Pat’s running routine, walked out of her sister’s well-prepared dinner in a rather impolite manner, and “forced” Pat to go through a dancing exercise with her. However, she demonstrated three important qualities in influencing people, and these qualities are especially easy to find among women leaders.
Be Vulnerable, with Courage
Brene Brown’s research shows that recognizing shame and being vulnerable is indeed a courageous act. This is the key to better connecting with people. Leaders, especially in Asia, shy away from this idea, because we grow up in a society where media used to say power is a must for leaders. With the proliferation of the Internet, people are instead looking for authentic connections today. This is an area that women leaders could excel in.
Tiffany, a former sex addict (triggered by her husband’s tragic death, which was arguably caused by her indirectly), is ready to open up her dark and shameful past with Pat. She knows opening up may cause her pain, but she does it anyway. Yes, Pat asks her a number of embarrassing questions at first. But this opening up allows her to begin connecting with Pat, at the same time he starts to understand and trust her more. From that day onwards, Tiffany begins to gradually influence Pat’s life.
Your words bear weight as an influencer. Sharing failures (usually the greatest ones) allow people to see a true, vulnerable side of you. And naturally, they can see you as a fellow human-being. They will become more in tune with what you care about and dislike when you’re working together. More importantly, they are more willing to listen and trust what you say.
Putting Others First
Putting others first does not mean giving them what they want, but to provide what they need. Tiffany knows (or senses) that discipline and focus helps mental patients to recover. So she entices Pat’s commitment to practice dancing with her every week in exchange for her service of connecting with his dearly loved ex-wife. She takes note of what is important for Pat and uses that as an incentive to keep him focused despite her fondness of him.
We begin to take a very different perspective the moment we put others first. For example, if your employee has not completed the task as well as you expect, will you just think this is an incompetent person, or will you try to find out the reasons? Perhaps it’s really something that he is not good at doing. It could also be him not understanding the right directions, or even perhaps there are certain things that happened in his personal life which are affecting his performance. As a good influencer, sometimes we need to stand in others’ shoes first, then find a way to help them using our unique way.
Speak Your Mind
Sometimes we are afraid to speak our mind – believing that it is impolite. If our objective is to criticize when speaking our mind instead of for the sake of another person’s development and growth, then this belief holds true.
An influencer speaks with honesty. This is especially important for those who have worked for some time. How many of us have friends who we get to know at work who will truthfully tell us what we did wrong, and encourage us to do better next time? Women leaders can leverage the softer side of our personalities to be tactfully honest with our followers.
In the movie, Tiffany confronts Pat while others just speak behind his back. Pat’s motto is “Excelsior” and believes “if you stay positive, you have a shot at a silver lining.” What stops him from achieving excelsior and causes his mental illness is his unwillingness to admit he is who he is and forgive his past. Tiffany asks Pat, “There’s always going to be a part of me that’s sloppy and dirty, but I like that with all the other parts of myself. Can you say the same about yourself? Can you forgive? Are you any good at that?” With this realization, Pat starts to work on a strategy to come to himself as who he is.
“Leadership is influence.” This is a quote from John Maxwell, author of best selling book The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. This is especially important for 21st century leaders because your followers are looking for someone with authenticity. So as women leaders, let’s begin to use our natural talent of connecting with people. We can be influencers by being vulnerable, considerate and honest.
About the Author
Catherine Wong, corporate trainer, leads Chorev Consulting International, a Hong Kong-based talent development company offering management training sessions, workshops, team-building activities, small group sharing exercises, one-on-one coaching and mentoring sessions to nurture and develop leaders. She is the former Hong Kong office head of APCO Worldwide, a global strategic communications consultancy headquartered in Washington D.C. Catherine graduated from the Richard Ivey School of Business where she obtained her Bachelor of Arts (Honors Business Administration) degree. She is an accredited practitioner of Myers-Briggs Type Indicator ® Step I & II.