In our coaching work with executives and managers, we often run into individuals who are uncomfortable with the idea of learning to be more influential because they equate influence with manipulation.

Influencing others requires building a shared vision for the future (that future may be three years out, or it may be how to handle a personnel crisis today). When you build a shared vision, each person shares in the excitement about the future because they each stand to benefit from the vision. Manipulation, on the other hand, is about building false hopes and making false promises. When you manipulate someone, you deceive him or her into believing a vision that you alone know is not in their best interest. We all know the effects of manipulation—whether we have been on the receiving end or whether we have led others to believe a promise that we know we cannot keep—and the act of manipulation is rarely justified.

To be successful in business and in life, we need to be able to effectively influence one another; otherwise we cannot collaborate and create the successful future we’ve envisioned. One of the key skills required to effectively influence is the act of listening deeply to what works and to what doesn’t work for the other person while being willing to share openly what works and what doesn’t work for you. It is the mutual act of influence that builds trust for and investment in the shared vision.

We define influence as a willingness to be changed by others and the willingness to step in and encourage change in others. That change may be openness to a new idea, a broadening of perspective, or a literal change in thinking or behaving.

This week, we encourage you to practice your ability to influence others and to be influenced by others, which at Carpenter Smith Consulting is our definition of a truly engaged leader.