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How to Influence Others

Originally published
Originally published: 8/3/2016

Connecting with people is the key to influencing them. In the last 15 years there has been a lot of research on Emotional Intelligence (EQ). A good friend of mine, Lisa Kappasser, who has written a book on this subject and several articles introduced me to this theory of leading.

Strong influential leaders possess IQ + EQ + Credibility. Your cognitive intelligence and your personality are two traits that theorists believe you are born with. Your emotional intelligence, however, is believed to develop as you experience life and interact with others and your environment. EQ might be the biggest factor in leading and influencing teams.

Build Social Awareness

EQ is separated into Personal Competencies and Social Competencies. Personal is your self-awareness and self-management. Social is separated into social awareness and social skills.

Social awareness is about having empathy, understanding the organization and not being afraid to service others and the team. Social skills are about managing relationships through trust, honesty, solid communications, being collaborative and seeking win-win solutions. All of these things lead to influencing others.

To improve your social skills, start measuring yourself to some of these standards. Every year, we have no problem submitting our accomplishments, especially the qualitative metrics. Measure yourself to how trustworthy you are to others; were you able to connect with other functional divisions, do your fellow workers see you as a collaborator? Be honest.

Be Clear, Firm and Simple

Often times, we as leaders and individual contributors suppress our opinions, expectations and thoughts so as not to upset the group. We try hard to be everything to everyone.

If your team doesn't know what you think or expect from them, how can they follow or even understand the task in front of them? I worked with Jack Welch for many years. He was the grand master at sending a clear and simple message. One that spoke to everyone. We all knew what was expected — no guesswork.

People will listen if you're engaged, do your homework and present your ideas clearly. When your turn comes to speak, be ready, be considerate of others but let them know what you want.

Communicating is critical and important, but make sure you don't talk too much. This will turn people off. Be a good listener and incorporate others' ideas into your message. This will help you connect deeper with the team.

Be a Team Member

Everyone has a place on the team. Few are the stars and many are the support players. Everyone has a unique skill and there are many functions needed to run a successful operation. Know your strengths and how you can contribute to the team mission. Step up when your number is called.

As a team member, don't be afraid to do tasks outside your functional area/expertise, it will show others you're willing to try new things. Make sure you have fun with it and remember to be yourself throughout the experience. This will get you noticed and help you build a stronger connection to others on the team.

You'll also learn how the rest of the organization runs and operates. In this complex world, interfaces between departments can be difficult. The best influencers are the folks that know how each function operates and is able to effectively work with these groups.

Bring positive energy to your workplace. Think of ways things can be accomplished, not how many things can go wrong. Positive people are fun, electrifying and a joy to have around. You will make a difference.


Bob McEwan, who retired as the general manager of GE Aviation's global supply chain, continues to consult with GE Aviation, its partners and other aerospace companies in engineering and supply chain management. He also conducts leadership seminars for executives and corporate staffs. For additional information, visit


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