One of the best ways to learn about influence is to see how other people do it. Even if you think you know how to influence you can always learn lessons from others.
There are two main tips I would give you:
1- Learn from the best- this means two things. Firstly, learn from the people that you aspire to be like in your industry. I really understood how to grow my influence in the charity sector, for example, once I met some of the most senior people in that sector. It doesn’t matter if they seem to be at a level that you are not sure that you will reach- hopefully the things they do will still teach you some lessons. Secondly, the best means the best in any sector. So for example, I am not a scientist but when I was around university age (studying politics) some of my heroes were actually scientists who had the skills to be able to explain concepts to a non-science audience. From them I picked up lessons about how to teach people new things without being patronising and how to go at the right pace for the intended student. This helped me when I subsequently ended up teaching for two years in Japan and makes a difference even now when I am trying to explain new concepts to people. Learning from the best means that if you want to take lessons from the way Bill Gates acts- go for it! Just try to apply it to your situation, right now.
2- Learn from a wide range of people- in life we tend to gravitate towards people who are like us and who believe in the same things that we do. But, if you want to grow your influence, you need to widen the circle of people that you can learn from. You don’t have to agree with the views of these people, you just have to see what they do to appear convincing. If you can break out of a silo and try to learn from the widest range of people possible it will help you to grow your influence more quickly.
To demonstrate this, I’ll show you some interesting people you can learn from. The photo at the top of this article is Carlos Miranda, a friend of mine and the owner of both I.G. Advisors and Social Misfits Media. I find Carlos a great person to learn from in a number of ways. He has great knowledge in the areas he works in, he is exceptionally passionate about what he does, he is innovative and forward-thinking and on top of these things (and most crucially, in my opinion) he is always happy to share his insights with others over a coffee and to learn from them in turn. That makes him a formidable operator.
On my other website, I run an interview series called Social Good Six. I ask six questions of people who bring social good into the world in some way. There have been more than 30 interviews so far- here is my interview with Carlos.
If you look through the interviews, you will hopefully find people who inspire you. Just as importantly, you will learn from others about how they influence- how they create changes, in their own lives and in the lives of others.
Robert Ashton is a good example. Robert maintains an independence which makes it easier for him to challenge power structures and tired assumptions that it would be hard for him to do if he was embedded in a bureaucracy. I’ve spoken at an event with Robert and it was very clear that he has found a way of engaging with the world that suits his style and brings results.
Ashley Stahl is another. Ashley managed a high-level programme at the Pentagon at the age of 23. Now she has transitioned to be a massive success in an entirely different career. Ashley is a great example of someone who seizes opportunities with both hands and who shapes the world to her will rather than passively waiting for events to happen to her.
Esther Kalenzi is a third. Esther has spearheaded a movement of young Ugandans taking charge of their society’s issues. In the interview, Esther explains who inspires her and why. She shows how even people who have been dealt a terrible hand in life, like some of the people she works with- can nevertheless succeed and support others.
To learn a bit more about the idea behind Social Good Six, you can click here.
You need to find your own examples of people that you can learn from and who show how to grow their influence and use it to increase their impact.