Empower Your Workplace: Exploring Positive Influence with Brian Smith (Ep. #81)

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August 1, 2023
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Empower Your Workplace: Exploring Positive Influence with Brian Smith (Ep. #81)

Welcome to "Building Better Managers," the ultimate podcast for ambitious leaders and managers. Hosted by Wendy Hanson, co-founder of BetterManager, this podcast is thrilled to welcome a special guest, Brian Smith, founder of IA Business Advisors, a renowned management consulting firm. 

In this episode, Wendy and Brian explore the power of positive influence and effective communication, highlighting the importance of understanding one's individual area of influence. You will gain valuable insights into how harnessing this understanding can lead to powerful transformations in both personal and professional life. But that's not all! This podcast also addresses the unique challenges faced by HR and learning and development professionals, offering valuable insights to foster open and transparent communication within organizations.

Whether a CEO, a delivery person, or an office worker, "Building Better Managers" is the go-to resource for becoming a mindful and powerful influencer, leaving a lasting impact on teams and business success. Subscribe now to embark on this transformative journey with Wendy and Brian. Let's build better managers together!

Meet Brian Smith:

  • Brian Smith is a highly experienced and knowledgeable business consultant and coach.
  • With a track record of success, Brian has helped numerous clients achieve significant growth and overcome business challenges.
  • Specializing in strategic planning, marketing, and sales, Brian is dedicated to empowering businesses and driving their success.

View the episode transcript

Intro  0:02  

Welcome to building better managers, the better manager podcast with Wendy Hanson, where we talk with top leadership professionals about strategies you can use today to create a happier, highly engaged and more productive workplace. Now, here's your host better manage your co founder Wendy Hanson.

Wendy  0:23  

Welcome, everyone. I'm so excited that we have a podcast on communication today. And even better communication and influence. What could be more important than that? My guest today says my greatest responsibility is how I affect others with all I do or say, what could be more true than that. We need to understand how to influence people in a positive way. Sometimes we hear about influencers and social media, there's influence at car dealerships, we want to talk about how do we use influence in a good way, we will discuss how to influence our teams, and how to influence each other in business going forward for positive results. So I'm excited to introduce my guest today, Brian Smith. Let me share a little bit about Brian so we can get going. Brian Smith, PhD, is founder and senior managing partner of AI a Business Advisors, a management consulting firm, worked with more than 19,000, CEOs, entrepreneurs, managers and employees worldwide. Together with his daughter, Mary Griffin, He has authored his latest book in the eye in Team Series, positive influence BVI. The letter I in team, which allow which shares how to become our best selves with everyone that we influence. So welcome, Brian, I'm so excited to have you here today.

Brian Smith  1:56  

Thank you, Wendy. I'm just glad to be here.

Wendy  1:59  

Yeah, we have important work to do here today, Brian? Yeah, well,

Brian Smith  2:03  

we have important work every day, we do

Wendy  2:06  

we do. And what I love about the guests that we have on the show is that we always make sure that there are things that they can do right away. And that's what I want people to listen for, when you're hearing Brian explain some things, things that are actionable, and how you can influence make sure you jot those down and try them out right away. You know, don't just listen to this podcast, take action from this podcast, because of your manager or leader influence is extremely important. So let's start off Brian, can you describe what it means to embrace our own positive influence? You talk about slowing down being more mindful? You know, tell us about that.

Brian Smith  2:51  

Yeah, we do. But you know, it all starts with really understanding our own specific area of influence. Each of us has a very different area of influence, as many people know, that have listened to us in the past, we believe influence begins before birth, when, when were our parents found out, we were going to be born, we started influencing their lives. And we never stop influencing throughout our lives and even past our life, many people still consider or continue to influence. For us. That is the foundation of responsibility for all we do. And understanding our influence what it means in our specific area of influence, whatever it means to you individually, is really important, because we all have, we all matter. And we all have an impact on our areas of influence every single moment every single day.

Wendy  3:56  

Well, I am so curious, I would have never thought about we start influencing before birth. But you're right. It is you know, it influences people's behavior, how you act when you're in the womb, you know, the impact. You have the wishes, say a little bit more about that, because that to me is a new concept.

Brian Smith  4:14  

Yeah. So you know, I had young parents. In our first book, we talked about what that meant for them, and how learning that I was going to be born changed. I mean, they got married. These two people came together, they had to get jobs. My mother had to drop out of high school. I mean, I influenced their life just by my conception. And after I was born, obviously, those of us that have children know what that means. I mean, our children influence us every day. They we have to get up earlier we have this new bow area of responsibility, this area of influence that we have to raise these young children and they change us at As adults, they make us more responsible or sometimes less responsible, they make us make different decisions. So and those those influences begin before we were born, for example, you might have somebody who partied a lot and was very free and just did a whole lot. But because they now have this child on the way, they become more conservative and more thoughtful about what they're doing. And by the way, that pivot or that change from that influence, can go in any direction for any particular individual person or persons to, you know, it's not just the mother, it's also the father and their families that are involved, think of the grandparents, and aunts and uncles that now have this new person coming. So the the the knowledge of the birth of a child into any family is influential. And it never it just ripples out from there.

Wendy  6:02  

It begins our lifelong journey of influence, correct?

Brian Smith  6:05  

That's correct.

Wendy  6:06  

How does this play into your idea that the word individual and influence are really synonymous?

Brian Smith  6:16  

Yeah, so our belief is that individualism is not about one single person? Yes, it's true that when we stand alone, we are individual. And we highlight that in our work by using the little i, if we're speaking about one person, or a single entity, we go, we represent that with a little light. However, right now, at this moment, when do you and I are together, sharing influence, and we are together individually, influencing many people, and together we are individual were a team, but we are in an individual team. And the level of influence can expand and contract it can multiply or divide based on the number of people involved, the number of teams involve the number of decisions we make. And that is our correlation between individual and influence, and how they work together to understand how influence affects us as humans, and how we have to be very mindful about how responsible we need to be for what happens within our area of influence.

Wendy  7:31  

Yeah, I'm curious to Brian, if in your research, what comes up in terms of the neuroscience behind this, like, what's happening with the brain when we're talking about the AI?

Brian Smith  7:45  

Well, I mean, first of all, one thing that's unique to humans is ego. And oftentimes, when people think of individualism, their ego kicks in, well, he's only thinking about himself, or I'm only thinking about myself. In fact, I'm known for not liking to use the word AI, because internally, I start to think I'm being selfish. And I use the word we even when I'm, I'm talking about myself alone. And it's, it's because of those human psychological tendencies, to have ego overtake our thought processes, or to get in the way of some of our thought processes, to cloud, our judgment, our cloud our decision making. And so there's a lot that goes into that with new technologies. My dissertation was on technology induced attention deficit disorder, and how technology is interfering with the human ability to slow down and to be mindful for self and for others, how we're constantly having to be one too many steps ahead of ourselves. And we make mistakes, we're forced to make quicker decisions, and it creates the spirit or actually this foundation of Attention Deficit that's really induced by the technologies and influences of this new world we live in.

Wendy  9:17  

I recently heard something on the news about, you know, they're really looking at social media and the challenges that it's caused in the brains of children, you know, and we've got to really look at that there's so many things that we need to a better manager, we use the term we got to slow down to move fast. And the slow down piece is hard for some people, but that's kind of the mindful piece. I think that's really important.

Brian Smith  9:44  

That's great advice. Actually, it's our biggest chapter and our first book is called Slow down. And and when I hear that people give that advice, it actually it just warms my spirit because I believe that humans get more done When I slow down,

Wendy  10:01  

yes, and sometimes we just think if I just keep moving faster, I can get everything done. But if we stand back, you know, there's so much good advice out there about, keep getting up every 25 minutes, move around, then come back slow down, rather than just sitting there in front of the technology and draining your brain all day. So we all have to take that into consideration. So everybody listening, that's the takeaway right? Now you can slow down to move fast and take some time. After you listen to this, maybe you're out walking now listening to this podcast, but take a little take care of yourself and slow down. So write what qualities most lend themselves to channeling our positive influence if we want to be in that positive state. And I love that we're talking about our positive influence.

Brian Smith  10:50  

You know, I think understanding your area of influence is the foundation of that, and knowing what influence you have in that specific area of influence. I mean, it doesn't matter if you're, I like the term ditch digger or CEO. If you're a warehouse person, a delivery person, an office person, understanding what your area of influence is, gives you the best opportunity to begin to have a positive influence. And using that area of influence to be the your best self, within that area of influence will almost always yield positive influence in your area of influence.

Wendy  11:43  

And I do love, it doesn't matter. You know, I use the expression, whatever seat you are on in the bus, it does not matter, you can still influence if you are driving a big tractor trailer, and you have influence when you have to go make deliveries, you know, you have a positive influence when you can calm people down. It's it's just so important to understand that piece. And I know, you know, I really get the struggles that human resource HR people and learning and development leaders have a lot to do with influencing trying to get budget to take care of their people, provide them the development that they need. What could they keep in mind to get the most out of this and to have their positive influence?

Brian Smith  12:29  

Yeah, I think when HR people approach problems within the organization, one of the things that they struggle with is context, context and understanding the area of influence, that the person they're dealing with lives in. An HR person doesn't know what it's like to be in a ditch, digging a hole, and around the dangers that are there. And the teamwork that's required to make that happen from maybe machinery and everything else. They're looking at things from more of a structured process and procedure perspective. And sometimes they forget that there's this whole human world that they live in, that has these unique interactions that are influenced themselves by the environment that these workers live in. And I think if HR could take a more mindful approach towards understanding the challenges that those individuals have within their area of influence, they would serve those people in their organizations better, and a common or open or transparent communication between the operations groups, or the the different areas of influence within companies and HR, but open that up, it would break through this, this, this floor or these confinements that HR has in that area of understanding, and make them more positively influential out in the field and more supportive of those people in the operational world.

Wendy  14:06  

Yeah, I, I would agree. But I also have seen so many, you know, HR business partners, who are so sensitive to the people they work with. But I love what you said about context. Because sometimes we don't always explain the context of the situation. And the people that we're trying to influence don't get that side. So things cannot move forward, because they don't understand the why. You know, in coaching, we talk a lot about the what questions to try to draw people out, but we have to explain the why in this case, why is this important? Ah, now I get it, you know, so I have a lot of empathy for HR and l&d folks these days because their job is very big when you know budgets are being cut down or they're really limiting spend, and they're they're trying to develop people you know, the the Learn thing and development people are really into that. So I think you know that as we talk more about influence, like many call themselves influencers today, but that word has gotten, I don't know, I have a different when I hear influencers, I think of something different. And they may not embody the idea of positive influencers, can you share how they're different?

Brian Smith  15:22  

I can, like you I'm, I'm, I tend to be very frustrated with the fact that there's now a job, or not a job description, but a job job title that is influencer. The question I always ask is, you know, what does that even mean? And it requires context, context, is really what, what brings clarity between humans, and what brings the ability for positive influence between humans, when there's context, there's understanding, and when we hit when we understand that context, we're now in the same lane together. And we can differ, we can have differences within our within the context, but we can move forward because we understand the context wholly influencers kind of have a shotgun approach, you know, they're gonna say something that they hope sticks to a percentage of their audience. And if they get the percentage of their audience, they seem to be happy with their progress. And you notice that they usually hang their hat on that low percentage, that they, in their own world of influence, positively influence because to them, that small percentage of people is their positivity. And it's what makes them an influencer. And that's all it takes, by the way is pivoting one person towards you makes you an influencer, pivoting one person away from you also makes you an influencer. So, perspective, context, all matters.

Wendy  17:00  

And many companies, you know, especially in the retail industry, hire influencers to try to move things forward. And you really need to make sure how are those things really going to work? And are they going to, you know, there's been many campaigns that have backfired lately. So we've got to be careful of influencers out there, make sure they're moving in the right direction,

Brian Smith  17:20  

when to your soul, right? Do they align with your company values? Do they align with your customer values, oftentimes, there's now this gap between what a company's value system is and what their customers value system is. And it creates these catechisms between you in the market or you and your workforce, or it gets in the way of being able to get your business done, whatever that business is. Yeah.

Wendy  17:52  

And I want to go to teams now, Brian, because you know, the, the audience for this podcasts are managers out there that are really trying to make a difference? And how do you influence your team to be able to be more cohesive, because we're struggling these days, you know, with so many with hybrid workplaces are more people still remote. It's not an easy time for people to get their footing. And so how can you use influence to help a team feel more cohesive?

Brian Smith  18:24  

Yeah. So Mary, my daughter, who was also my co author implemented a gratitude group for us, that helped to bring back together our remote teams and put them in a place that they could share. Not just gratitude, but they could just share their personal influences over the past the time between the last gratitude group meeting, and do that in an open forum. It has done wonders for our team here. We have team members all over the world. They log into zoom, they participate together and early on it, we had trouble getting traction with it as people adjusted to you know, having zoom meetings in general. And this whole new world that we live in, but consistency matters. Positive consistency is like throwing gas on a good fire. And more and more people have jumped on and I think we have about 80% participation through our organization in the gratitude group sessions now. And it's a very transparent and very open and inclusive environment and people feel safe there. And when you give your team a place where they feel safe, they flourish.

Wendy  19:50  

That is so true. And I love I am a huge fan of gratitude being the chief of Culture and Communication a better manager, gratitude was one of my favorite words and favorite actions, we actually, another action that we did similar to the gratitude is we have a kudos channel where people can not only recognize people for what they have done, but appreciate people for who they are, and give gratitude for that. That it really is it has it has sparked up everybody. And we're just about to, by the time we have this podcast, we will have formed our culture committee. So we have representatives from every area of the organization to talk about that positive culture piece. What can we do? How can we keep people active and, and I love your gratitude group, because people learn about each other. And the more we know about each other, the more we feel connected, and I'm willing to help you in a time of need than us all being distant.

Brian Smith  20:53  

Yeah, engagement is key. If you have people, we have a team member who has been with us 17 years, who now unfortunately kind of lives in a silo or on an island, he's, he's in Southern Oregon all by himself, he's an important part of our organization has been, it's, it's the ability for us to provide engagement opportunities with the rest of the team that keeps him motivated and connected to us. And you have to do that consistently. It can't be just for him, you have to do it for everybody, because you never know, we have team members in this office where there's a lot of us who can still feel like they're on that same island in that same silo. And when we provide them engagement opportunities, it blows the doors off the confinement, and it gives them the ability to be with their teammates, and feel part of the bigger organization that surrounds them. Yeah.

Wendy  21:51  

Oh, that Yeah. Well, there are some of us that are addicted to connectedness. Well, I'm one of them. Yes. So that's very important. You know, some people are more loners. And introverts can kind of be by themselves, but we have to draw them out to in a comfortable way. So I love I love any practice that brings teams together to talk about anything positive, and gratitude is one of the best things. And, you know, when we talk about people working together, we often have to think about how do we keep ourselves accountable, while keeping interactions positive, you know, because accountability sometimes sounds like accountability, you know, I'm going to make you accountable. But we want to put that more connected with positive influence. Tell me a little bit about your take on that.

Brian Smith  22:44  

So for us, the way that we prepare our team for accountability is actually through smart and most people understand smart as being a goal, setting, practice Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. For us, smart is a verb, it's a way that we communicate, it's a way that we set expectation. And it's a way that we expect our team to conduct themselves throughout their area of influence. So we ask our team and we teach our team, to be specific in their communication, be specific in their actions, when when measurement is needed, be specific about that measurement, and be transparent about it and be thoughtful about attainability in realism, and timeliness and make sure that you communicate with your teammates and yourself about is this task or is this expectation? Something I can really get done? Is this the time to get it done? And Is it attainable for us or for me, and be transparent about those things? And when we do that, and an organization, accountability as much easier when there is a miss? It's easy to go to that person and look at them and say, you know, we're all on the same smart play on what part of smart Did you miss that made you miss your mark. And usually our team can go right to you know, what, I really didn't take attainability into mind, as I should have. I missed the mark there. And they learn a lesson and they become more thoughtful about the next sequence, the resolution, the pivot, whatever that might be. Yeah,

Wendy  24:34  

it sounds like there's some good coaching connected to the smart plan, so that people don't feel like I missed this and I'm in trouble. But what what did we learn, and how could we move forward? Is there a way that you have, you know, because some people um, you know, I think every I well, I should not assume anything that everybody knows about smart goals, but is there a way that you use that in a specific way as a plan that you could share that might be helpful to folks.

Brian Smith  25:03  

Yeah, we do. I mean, our, our system within our company here is called the smart management system. So part of teaching smart to our teams and to our clients. We like busy visualization. So we make placards for our clients that actually hang up on the wall in their offices, we give them stickers, we take them through a smart management or repetitive smart management coaching program that addresses each level of smart not just from goal setting, we take it from a noun to a verb, because SMART goals create a place you want to be smart tactics take you there. And we try to marry up and reconcile our tactical approach towards towards our goals, and make sure that we're taking smart steps all along the way to reach those smart goals. And we're consistent. Our team when there is a failure goes to the word smart. And that's the question we asked what wasn't smart about this issue? Okay. And they asked how can we be smart about this task or this goal, we actually use the word over and over again, sometimes, you know, it gets repetitive, like a broken record. But I will tell you from a person who sits around a large team, and we manage, we have 1400 clients, that it works very, very well. And the consistency of smart and the simplicity of smart, provide for individuals to be in the same lane on the st going in the same direction and understanding any off ramp that comes up.

Wendy  27:00  

Oh, I love that. Yeah, I think that's a great takeaway for people to, to look at that and look at using smart as a verb, yes. And moving forward, and then being able to discuss it when things aren't working. And especially with a large organization like yours. Yeah, you have to be grounded. Yes, yes. So last question. You know, how do we, how do we need? What do we need to do to be a positive influence on those that have a different generational point of view? And I think, you know, when I was thinking about the podcast, I thought about you and your daughter writing this book, which I think, you know, there's so many times that we need to make sure that we all have different perspectives. And they're also important, and how do we meld them together. So tell me a little bit about that. And, and, and I really just love that, you know, a father and daughter have gotten together who might be very, very different, but couldn't write a book together, some families may not be able to pull that off.

Brian Smith  28:04  

Yeah, it's been an amazing journey, I think, for both of us. And the number one piece of advice I have for different generations is listen to learn. And we, as mature people, those of us, like I'm in my 50s can learn a lot from younger generations, if we just listen. And if those generations would do the same, and we have smart conversations with each other, we will overcome those generational barriers we'll be able to take from each the positive aspects that we're bringing, and also the improvement that comes for each of us the different viewpoints, that different thoughts, the different technologies, the different approaches that come with the younger generations, and the foundational things that come from those of us that have been in the trenches for 1020 30 years. And when you marry that together, and you listen to learn, wonderful things happen. I am amazed, you wouldn't think that a book written primarily from stories that are from my career not marries what resonate so well with the younger generations yet. Our books resonate really well in the 18 to 35 age groups, because Mary has helped create messages that when listened to about my experience, speak to them at the same time, and it's through her eyes and through the way that she's helped write our work and speak to that generation that has helped them actually want to listen Two stories about things that I did before some of them were even born.

Wendy  30:06  

Yeah. You have a good interpreter and whisper, generational whisper Yes. Who can break things down of why is this important in a language that people can understand? And I think that's why we certainly know from all the research that diversity of all different kinds, gender, ethnic age, is so important on teams, because we all bring our own take to things. But then we also need sometimes others to say, what does that mean to them at this point, so I love that perspective.

Brian Smith  30:40  

Yeah, and you know, you bring up Dei, which is such a hot topic for us as a as for humans, in general right now. And without diversity and inclusion, you'll never have equity. And unless you allow people to be included, they will never give anything of themselves, to create equity for them and for you for that matter. And equity only happens when, when, when investment happens. And when you include that and have a diverse organization, and you include everybody, and they begin to give a little bit of themselves and you begin begin to give a little bit of yourself and your company back to them. That's when real equity happens.

Wendy  31:26  

Yeah. And people need to feel like they belong. And that's a big challenge that we have, you know, we can think we're, we're doing good with, you know, inclusion. But the belonging piece is really important. And we can't judge that ourselves. When we're bringing people into organizations, we have to be open, we have to discuss it just like generational, you know, we have to say, how can how can we serve better so that we all belong? How do we all put our take on things? Because it's so very important to get all these different perspectives as we go on?

Brian Smith  32:03  

Yeah. Well, I mean, it's a simple question, how can we make you feel more included? What can we do to make you understand that we want you to be here and we want you included? And what are we doing? That is getting in that way? Then that listen, we have to listen, as leaders and as owners, and as managers, we have to listen to those people. What is their barrier to feeling included? And what are we doing that's creating that barrier?

Wendy  32:32  

Yeah, we may not even know it. If we don't ask, you know, and we need to listen, I love you cannot influence people, unless you listen to them.

Brian Smith  32:44  

That's correct. I agree with you. 100%. You know, we say God gave us two ears, two eyes, to two nose holes and one mouth for a reason. You've got six things to take in information and only one to give it back. You know, so how about that ratio is six to one six times the listening to what you're giving back?

Wendy  33:09  

Well, that's a new take on that for me. I haven't heard the two nose holes yet. Yeah. I've only heard the two eyes, two ears and one mouth. So you gotta keep adding to that. Yes, no,

Brian Smith  33:21  

I think six to one sounds better than four to one. Yeah,

Wendy  33:24  

it does. It does. And certainly these days, you know, we take in information all different ways. And we have sensitivities to smell. So yeah, I like your take on that. Brian. Yeah. And is there anything that I should have asked you, we have just like another minute, and then I want to to be able to share with people the best way to reach out to you.

Brian Smith  33:47  

You know, I always enjoy when people ask why we even started writing these books. And it was really for one reason. Everybody matters. And it's true. I am Lee. And what I mean by that is that up to this moment, I am a person who has been influenced by many, and I am an accumulation of every influence up to this very moment. I started this podcast with you when the one way and I'm ending different I am influenced differently just by this, this 30 minute interaction, you matter, whoever you are out there, you are important you matter, your influence matters. Understand what that means in your area of influence. And it will it will make things better for you and and open up opportunities for you that you never thought about.

Wendy  34:40  

Yeah, that's great. That's great. Well, I hope everybody listening has taken away some actionable ideas that they can make sure they they put on the table so that they are positive influencers. And what's the best way we're going to put information in our show notes, Brian, but what's the best Is your easiest way for people to learn more about you, the organization, your books,

Brian Smith  35:05  

I think, well, our website, I a business advisors.com. There's a Publications page that talks about our work. And there's pages about about our written work our books, we have three or 400 articles, things like that. And then, on the social, you know, the I Am Team Series is on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter. And if you follow any one of those or all of those, you'll be we push out information about influence and our work with influence, and how we think humans can understand and be a more positive influence in whatever area of influence they may have.

Wendy  35:54  

Great, great. Well, everyone, thank you so much for tuning in today. It's it's so important that we begin to really think about influence in that really good way of how do we become positive influencers, because there's a lot to do in this world these days, that really needs some positive influencing. So if we use our talents, that will be very important. If anybody has any ideas wants to reach out to me you can write to me at Wendy at better manager.us Or just go onto our website batter manager.co and reach out to anybody in the company there. And I thank you Brian for being a great guest today and sharing your wisdom. Everybody go out and make it a good day and go influence positively.

Brian Smith  36:43  

Thank you, Wendy.

Intro  36:48  

For more information, show notes and any downloads for today's podcast. Please visit us at better manager.us/podcast Be sure to join us again and help us continue to build better managers with another insightful interview.

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