The Secret To Having Influence | Ron Carucci | TEDxBeaconStreet

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in some form or other we all imagine

being people of lasting influence so how

many of you have ever picked up the

hairbrush in the morning while getting

ready and into it belted out the song

playing on the radio

come on said the words I'd like to thank

the Academy banked over on your cocktail

table as the gold medal got put on your

neck - you're streaming down your face

as your flag unfurled of course we've

all done these things if you didn't

raise your hand we know the truth but

why do we do them because we're a closet

megalomaniacs with delusions of grandeur

no well maybe you are but that's not

evidence of it no we do these things

because we all come wired with the

capacity to imagine our lives as

something more as organizational

consultants to executives my colleagues

and I at nav illan spends our days in

the throes of wild organizational

transformations years ago I had the

privilege of working with a young leader

who also had dreams of being very

influential everybody saw him as having

enormous potential and at the end of our

project he was offered the opportunity

to take on a position of greater

influence in his organization well

nobody was surprised everybody thought

assumed he'd be very successful about

nine months later I saw his name in my

caller ID and I was excited I assumed he

was calling to tell me about all the

great progress they had made sadly he

was calling to tell me he'd been fired

and that he needed help finding another

job well I barely had time to recover

from that call when two hours later a

CEO called also to tell me they let him

go and that he was angry implying that

some of the responsibility for his

failure was mine for not having better

prepared him I was devastated I asked if

we might come back into the organization

to see him be killed

what went wrong well that short

investigation led us to a ten-year

longitudinal study of more than 2700

people you know we've known for decades

that more than 50% of those that take on

positions of greater influence in their

organizations fail in their first 18

months meaning they're no longer in

those positions and not by their own

choice that leader was just another

statistic well being partially held

responsible for his failure made me

resolve we just had to do better we took

on this comprehensive study and

documented it because the idea of

otherwise promising and influential

talent continuing to be set up to fail

the notion of all the good their

influence could do going to waste so

utterly unacceptable well our research

did reveal some good news the data

uncovered for remarkably consistent

patterns among the exemplary people in

the other 50% of those that actually

succeeded in positions of influence the

problem was no matter how we cut up the

data even after like a hundred

regression analyses the best influences

were set apart by being exemplary and

excellent across all four patterns and

as much as I didn't want to have to say

that I couldn't deny the data it did

have partially explain some of the

failure rates even those that did three

of the four well were not successful but

the best news of all was a closer

examination of the exemplar group show

that these were in four mysterious

attributes that they were lucky enough

to have been born with no these were

four capabilities acquired through hard

work and therefore capabilities that

anybody who wants to have greater

influence can learn so the first pattern

recalled context these folks were

remarkably astute at reading the

environment around them as the adage

goes they knew their audience deeply

they were eager to learn about the

people and settings in which they wanted

to have influence so they could adapt

themselves and their ideas

accordingly the unsuccessful leaders

started by assuming they already had an

answer or an idea everybody else needed

but the successful leader it started by

first learning about the world that they

wanted to have impact in context means

understanding that those you want to

have influence with have as much to

change in you as you have to change in

them so how do the best leaders learn to

recontact so well they cultivated

curiosity they put themselves in

unfamiliar environments where they had

to learn they became naturally faceted

like anthropologists think about the

people you want to have influence with

how much do you really know about them

about what frustrates them or what

motivates them what assumptions have you

made about them that may not be true to

be influential with context start by

learning about those who want to

influence the next pattern we called

Brett's the successful leaders have the

amazing capacity to see how all the

pieces and parts of their organizations

fit together they knew that those they

wanted to influence fit into a bigger

story they also knew that it's common in

organizations for people to be

fragmented from one another the

unsuccessful leaders ignore that

fragmentation and targeted their

influence so exclusively on one group at

the expense of others

sometimes they made the division worse

but the successful leaders knew they had

to build coalition among those that were

disconnected from each other they knew

that it's really at the seams of an

organization where people in groups come

together that transformation actually

happens brett's means learning to see

our communities and our organizations as

a whole not just the sum of their parts

so how did the exemplary leaders learn

Brett's they cultivated the ability to

build bridges between people one guy in

our study who'd risen to the position of

school district superintendent inherited

great tensions among parents and

teachers at administrators but he helped

them find their common ground they first

found out where there was fragmentation

among them and then they brought those

fragments together

to be influential with breath start by

stitching the seams among those you want

to influence the next pattern we called


the successful 50% had the courage to

make hard choices even though they knew

that sometimes that might mean

disappointing people they knew that

sometimes you have to focus people on

just a few things in order to help them

have lasting impact the unsuccessful

leaders focus more on pleasing people so

they said yes too often and ended up

confusing people with their choices but

the best influencers knew when and how

to include people in their decision

making choice means narrowing your focus

on just a few things in order to be able

to do them with excellence so how do the

best leaders learn to make great choices

they cultivated courage they knew that

sometimes it meant having to focus

people on just a number of things in

order to help them do it with excellence

even if it meant disappointing them so

what hard choices do you need to lean

into do you say yes too often to avoid

disappointing people to be influential

with choice start by getting comfortable

saying no so that your yes can actually

mean something the final pattern recalls

connection the leaders who ultimately

thrived were the ones everybody wanted

to be around they were respected

incredible they had deep trusting

relationships and they were genuinely

seen as wanting to help others succeed

the unsuccessful leaders focused more on

connections with those from whom they

wanted something in essence their

relationships were more political than

they were genuine but the successful

leaders focused on deepening their

connections with people who relied on

them one of the leaders in our study

told us about three questions he asked

everybody he works with first he asks

what can I do to improve in order to be

a better colleague to you what are you

working on these days that's really

important to you and what can I do to

help you with that really important


connection means deepening trust with

those you can help succeed so how do the

best leaders learn to form these deep

connections they cultivated empathy they

went out of their way to find other

people they could help succeed not

because they wanted something in return

but because they genuinely enjoyed

watching others soar they asked for

feedback on how they can improve in

those relationships did the people you

want to influence feel your deep

commitment to their success to be

influential with connection start by

finding great joy in helping those

around you thrive so after seeing how

the best influencers succeeded with

these four capabilities I realized I'd

actually seen these before this is Toby

and she's been my mentor and my friend

for almost 30 years she showed them to

me long before I had names for them when

we met I was in my 20s fairly uncertain

and fairly clueless about how to be

influential in a consulting career

predicated on being influential with

leaders facing hard challenges I was

making all of the mistakes we found in

our research decades later I was headed

for being one of the failed 50% but she

taught me context by asking me hard

questions about my clients teaching me

to focus on what was important to them

instead of on how to get them to like me

or how to get them get them to want to

use my expertise I wanted to learn how

to write so she took on the task of car

writing my first book with me showing me

breaths by helping me see the bigger

story in which my ideas would live she

taught me about choice by teaching me

about life's hard trade-offs between

things like being a dad and being a

traveling consultant she helped me say

no so that my yes was a commitment I

could keep and for almost 30 years

she's made a deep

personal investment in my success with

every new thing I learned to this day

she lights up with delight as my biggest

advocate I've been on the receiving end

of her amazing influence and I've seen

firsthand the power of these four

capabilities in action today my greatest

joy is helping other people discover

them so they can have the impact on the

world daydream of having my journey to

discover these began with a promising

young leaders stumble from a visit from

a position he could have been more

successful in had he been better

prepared but that doesn't have to be you

if you want to have more influence or

your organization expects you to have

more influence seize the opportunity

there's a hungry world out there

desperate for the impact only you can

make so next time you pick up that

hairbrush or imagine that big award

remember you too can learn to do these

four things exceptionally well and when

you do watch watch your influence grow

and leave an indelible mark on the world

around you thank you