Recently, I conducted a survey asking people a variety of questions ranging from the resources that they used to develop professionally to their views on coaching. Over 120 respondents gave their feedback from industries ranging from digital media to banking, financial services and education.*
There were some fairly self evident responses, such as the fact that people regularly use courses and websites to “skill up”. However, the response to the question – “what are the primary tools that you use to develop professionally and/or personally?” — was very revealing. Over 50% of people answering the survey stated that they look to friends and colleagues as one of their first choices.
It was equalled only by the percentage who said that they refer to courses with professional speakers or trainers and was a significantly more popular response than other options including books, podcasts, events, mentors or coaches.
When dealing with people around you, how are you influencing them?
Given the number of daily interactions that people have with friends and colleagues, these results show that what you say and do gives you the potential — and responsibility — of being an influencer. Here are some suggestions to make you more effective in helping those around you.
Be a coach…
When friends or colleagues look to you for advice, are you helping them to reach their own conclusions or telling them what to do? What you consider right for you may not be right from another’s perspective. Asking open-ended or incisive questions, encouraging people to think in different ways and questioning assumptions are examples by which you can help others find the ideas, answers or inspiration they are looking for.
Know what you’re talking about…
When someone asks you a question, do you actually know the answer? If you don’t, admit that that’s the case and support colleagues in finding alternative ways to obtain the information they require. You may find it uncomfortable to say “I don’t know” initially but over time, they are more likely to see you as a trusted contact if you are honest and set them on the right path first time round.
Identify how you’re an expert and tell people…
Are you an expert in a particular field? Tell your friends and colleagues. Given the emphasis that people place on personal relationships for learning, it’s a relatively safe environment to confidently establish your subject matter expertise. In turn, you’ll create a network that looks to you as a trusted resource and refers you to others.
Are you surrounding yourself with the right influencers?
At the same time, it’s important that you apply the same guidelines to yourself.
Who do you choose to learn from? Are they qualified to provide the insights that you require? Or do you rely on the same people for advice, regardless of the issue you’re looking to address.
Do your friends and colleagues question you and make you think about things differently or do you rely on them to tell you what to do?
If you’re not happy with your answers to the questions above, I’m not suggesting that you change your friends or colleagues set. Instead, encourage them to challenge and be honest with you. At the same time, seek advice from people outside your circle who have experienced the issues that you’re facing or have access to the information that you require.
I suspect that as you consider the way that you interact with others when they look to you for guidance, your approach in how you ask people to influence and develop you will also change.
*n=128, January 2014