As an employer, my interest is in creating long term changes that hopefully lead to better moral and ethical decisions from both me and my employees. With this in mind, I’ve generally found that there are two ways to go about influencing people. The first is to affect them through fear and manipulation tactics or by offering them some kind of positive reward. While this type of influence can often bring about changes in the short term, in my experience, it rarely leads to longterm behavioral change.
The second way I believe people can be influenced is to be the kind of person, through direct action and personal example, that other people want to emulate. For me, this is an open ended and ever evolving process that is based around creating conditions in the workplace that foster a safe environment for people to drop their fear-based behaviors and begin to show up more authentically.
In essence, the kind of influence I’m talking about is a top-down leadership approach where the employer comes to be seen as somebody who operates from a place of integrity and level emotional disposition. And by integrity, I mean someone who is coming from a place of high moral and ethical standards in his or her own life and who behaves in a way that he or she can then justifiably expect their employees to strive towards emulating as well.
My financial services company is based on four core principles, or pillars, which I hope trickle down to my employees in some way. The first pillar is to have some daily practice of silence/meditation. Find a technique that works best for you, and take some time each day to quiet your mind and senses so that you can develop more control over your thoughts and interactions. You will be able to think more clearly and function more effectively. Stress is contagious, but so is stillness.
The second pillar is to understand how important it is to find your true purpose in life. The people who are truly happy are those who are so focused on what they’re doing that they don’t have time to think about whether they’re happy or not. Every morning when they wake up, they feel like they have something to contribute to the world— and if they don’t do it, they’re simply going to burst. Most of us spend our entire lives waiting for someone else to tell us what our unique expression is, or perhaps kind of intuitively knowing what it is, but waiting for someone to come and reinforce it. Trust your intuition. It knows. Your intuition is the compass that will lead you towards the life that you are meant to live.
The third pillar is to have a forward vision, three to five years out, of what your unique creative expression looks like in the world. I believe that our thoughts are the foundation for the results in our lives, and therefore we must learn to focus our thoughts in the direction we would like to see our lives and careers go. We need to give our energy a direction to move in. Otherwise, we flounder. It’s like getting in our car without a navigation system and driving around with no idea where we’re going. Some people might think this sounds silly or too New-Agey, but I’m not asking you to take my word for it. The only way to see if this is true is to put it into practice with sincerity and for an extended period of time, and then see for yourself if it is actually so.
The fourth pillar is to find a way to give to others (rather than looking for what you can get) in as many of your dealings and interactions as you can. The world shows up and reflects what we are. If we have lack in our life, it’s because we’re holding on to lack within ourselves. If we’re seeing things we don’t like, it’s because we’re seeing things within ourselves that we don’t like. It might seem like a cliché, but it does seem to be true that the more we give the more we will receive. If we’re solely focused on what we want to get, chances are we’ll get nothing. It’s a weird paradox, but it seems that when we let go of wanting anything, we can then have everything.
When a leader operates from this place and can generate tangible success from this foundation, then his or her influence becomes an organic process that in many ways is the antithesis of the fear and manipulation or short-term reward approach. My feeling is that learning how to cultivate this more authentic type of influence is an important part of creating the improved world that many of us long for.