You May Not Be As Influential As You Think You Are

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

This may be a bold title, especially because you don’t know me. But what if I was right? Have you ever given thought as to how your communication may be sabotaging your influence without you even knowing it?

Most leaders I have worked with haven’t given thought to this question, much less taken the steps to increase their awareness of how their listeners hear and see them rather than what they believe to be true. That is why self-awareness is the first step to greater influence..

I should warn you that this critical first step of gaining greater self-awareness requires you to be open-minded, vulnerable, and committed. Influential communicators acknowledge that they don’t know everything, and they are open to self-discovery.

It is natural human tendency to base our opinion of ourselves on how we feel when we communicate rather than the facts of how we actually look and sound. Our thinking is, “I feel good; therefore, I am good.” More often than not, what we feel inside doesn’t translate to what listeners are seeing and hearing. We may believe that we are better communicators than others think we are. Or, the opposite may be true. Others may see us as better communicators than we think we are, like the woman who thought her face turned red and her hair shook when she spoke in front of a group.

To enhance your influence, you need to evaluate your communication based on facts, not feelings. You need to get to the heart of what is really going on by experiencing your communication through the eyes and ears of your listeners and readers.

There are two primary ways to get the facts about your communication and grow your self-awareness. One is to proactively seek meaningful feedback. Getting feedback from others is an essential part of improving your communication and enhancing your influence.

The other way to get factual data about your communication is to watch yourself on video or listen to yourself on audio. Video, in particular, is the ultimate form of factual feedback. Video acts like a mirror, enabling you to see exactly what others see and hear exactly what others hear when you communicate. What you see and hear is who you truly are when you communicate.

When was the last time you recorded yourself speaking on video or audio? If it wasn’t within the last six months, there is a strong probability that you don’t know the facts about your communication.

Video recording yourself is the only way I know to reveal the truth of what your listeners see and hear. As painful as it might be to watch and hear yourself, is it any worse than spending the rest of your career clueless as to what others are thinking about you or saying about you behind your back? As much as you might not want to do it, videoing yourself is one of the greatest investments you can make in your life, both professionally and personally.

Today, make a commitment to increase your self-awareness by recording yourself and watching/listening to the playback. Only you can make it happen. You have to be all in! Here’s how: 



This week, audio or video record yourself at least five times: during a meeting, phone call, presentation, or during face-to-face or virtual conversations. It is quick and easy to record yourself with either video or audio on your smartphone, tablet or computer.

If videoing yourself during a presentation or meeting, increase your credibility by explaining to your audience, “I’m recording my presentation today because I am constantly working to develop my communication skills.” If audio recording yourself during a phone call, only record your side of the conversation unless you specifically ask permission to record the person on the other end. 


Immediately after the event or interaction, watch the video or listen to the audio playback. Immediacy is crucial so that you can more easily compare how you felt as opposed to what your listeners actually saw and heard. Watch and listen from your listeners’ viewpoint. Trust what you see and hear. Believe what the video shows. Give yourself feedback: 

  • Is there a difference between how you felt during the recording and how you look? 
  • What perception would you have of yourself based on what you see and hear? 
  • Would you be influenced by your communication? 
  • What do you want to change?

Use the Self-Awareness Checklist (free download at to help you evaluate your message and body language, such as movement, eye contact, gestures, and facial expressions.  


Document the specific actions you will take in order to improve your communication and grow your influence using the Self-Awareness Checklist. Hold yourself accountable to practice the behaviors and skills that need improvement in your daily interactions. 

For more advice on how to become a more self-aware manager, join me at ATD 2017 International Conference & Exposition for the session: Influence Redefined: Be the Leader You Were Meant to Be.

About the Author
Stacey Hanke is the founder and communication expert of Stacey Hanke Inc. She is the author of Influence Redefine ... Be the Leader You Were Meant to Be, Monday to Monday and Yes You Can! Everything You Need From A to Z to Influence Others to Take Action. Stacey and her team have delivered thousands of presentations and workshops for leaders of Fortune 500 companies, including Coca-Cola, Nationwide, FedEx, Kohl’s and AbbVie. Learn more about her team and company at
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