How to be influential without losing yourself


Hi! Alicia here. 

We are fresh off receiving feedback from a large program we ran in house for an organization. The experience of receiving feedback from people who attend our programs is gold. The two of us have over 10 years of facilitation experience but we still have to gut check our effectiveness. We are clear about our INTENT. We anchor our design on that intent. Determining if we had that IMPACT is impossible without feedback. Feedback clues us into whether the impact we have is a sibling to the intent we hold for our programs or a distant cousin. 

The thing that gives me bubbles inside is when we hear something like:

“The two of you are great models for what it can mean to really work together.”

And we hear it in almost every program we run.

We love working with one another. We end nearly every call between the two of us with one of us saying “I love us.” Yesterday Gina ended our call giving me a smooch up close to the camera on her computer.

Don’t get me wrong. It can be hard. It requires constant tending to the partnership. In fact, we re-designed a working agreement last night. It was necessary to mitigate a conflict that emerged between the two of us. But the joy of our partnership cannot exist without the difficulty.

This is shocking compared to my prior working experience. I had an impossibly hard time working with others in my career. It only got harder when I stepped into roles that required cross-functional engagements. [ahem... every senior position]. It would be easy for me to blame it on the environment of working in tech or not having support. The truth is that it was me.

For so long, I defined my success as:

  • Having the right answer

  • Being so thorough that I had no patience to hear possibilities I hadn’t considered

  • Proposing ideas so data driven that they were irrefutable

  • Doing it all alone without raising my hand for resources

It felt powerful. But that power was 1) draining 2) isolating and 3) false.

This is not how Gina and I work.

A woman in our first program commented on Gina's use and exaggeration of the word AND.  She peppered it into dialog with participants and me. It became a joke in our small group of 12 women. We’d all chuckle with the use of AND.

The word choice of AND was intentional. And still is.

Gina reminded me to use the short, effective AND word last week. It was in response to my sharply delivered suggestion for something.

My suggestion transformed from

“I don’t think we should say all that” to “I like highlighting the breadth of our work AND it is too long.”

AND takes an original idea and amplifies it by including the brilliance of more than one person. It allows ideas to evolve with influence from others. It brings two ideas together into co-existence. One is not bigger or better than the other.

Our two ideas, merged together, is WAY more powerful than any of our individual ideas. When we invite other's magic to our suggestions, our impact is amplified. We have seen that proven over and over again in our two years of working with one another. And from working with women on their ability to collaborate with others without losing themselves.

So how do you do it?

1) Nip binary thinking by dropping the word “BUT” from your vocabulary. Every time you try to use it, use the word “AND” instead.  Notice what happens. 

2) When giving feedback on an idea that you sense could be better, use this structure

“What I love about your idea is [insert an element of their approach that you appreciate] AND how about we [insert your additive idea]”

We created a handy one pager to give you a few more suggestions for increasing your influence without losing yourself. Grab it here

Shine On, 
Alicia & Gina

Alicia Jabbar