An interesting conversation with a new client yesterday threw up a very interesting outcome. The question and scenario that we were addressing was one of how best to establish Authority – and Authority in respect to the way we position ourselves in our respective field of expertise.
If you’ve read Dr Robert Cialdini’s work on Influence you’ll know that he describes ‘Authority’ as one of the key principles of influence. If you’ve not read Cialdini, you seriously must; it’s one of, if not THE most important books on human psychology and how we relate to it in terms of marketing and sales communication. [Here’s a link – go and buy your copy now; if you don’t agree with me, send me the book and your receipt and I’ll personally give you a refund!]
The vital part to remember about Authority is that firstly you really do need to know what you’re talking about – if you think you can wing-it, forget it, you’ll get caught out sooner or later. Authenticity is one of the key elements that builds trust and forges strong bonds in every human relationship, and vital in a professional context. Through my experiences in business networking I often come across people who are desperately seeking acceptance but instead of simply being themselves, they believe that they require a mask of personality that ‘fits’ with what they believe everyone else expects of them. This couldn’t be further from the truth. I don’t want to know who you think you should be, I want to know the real you – what makes you tick, what gets you up in the morning, what excites you, what provokes you!
Trying to create a personality that ‘fits’ with the accepted norm is a myth anyway. Reflecting on this the other day I realised that many of the people I value most in my life are actually a bit odd, strange and some are clearly quite barking… I’m not sure what that says about me! However, they are all completely comfortable in their own skin; they’re not trying to be something or someone else. I see the real person and connect with them. We all possess a most basic human ability to pick up on the subtle signs that others are faking it. Sure, there are some great actors out there and it could even be argued that we’re all actors in one form or another.
The main reason that people struggle to build Authority is actually not because they have a lack of knowledge, experience or skill in their chosen field but because they have a lack of personal awareness of what that knowledge is worth to others and how to value it. We all know so much and world serves up to us, on a minute-by-minute basis, more information, knowledge and learning than we could ever hope absorb in one lifetime. What’s more, we probably only use a fraction of our knowledge and experience in our daily lives. So it’s not a lack of knowing that holds us back, it’s a lack of knowing how to harness it, for our benefit and for the benefit of others.
Stop for a moment and consider the life experiences that have brought you to where you are today. Remember that you’re at the very leading edge of human evolution; although sometimes it may not feel like it the morning after the night before! These experiences have been successful, enough to keep you alive until today and that is no small feat. Now stop and consider how those experiences and the learning you have can benefit so many other people around you. It might not be in a professional context, it could be to the benefit of those close to you, a friend who needs a caring ear and soothing words of kindness, or it could be that child who looks to you for guidance as they go forward in the world. Above all share who you really are and in this way you’ll build the trust and ‘authority’ that sets you apart from the crowd – Be, Do, Have…