How to Become a Person of Genuine Influence

genuine influence

Lessons from The Go-Giver Influencer

Part of my daily gratitude practice reminds me of the wonderful people in my life, who encourage and influence me to greater heights each year. One of the most extraordinarily positive and influential people is my friend Bob Burg.

Long before my book, The Book of Mistakes, was published this year, Bob not only read it and endorsed it, but was the very first to interview me about it for his popular Go-Giver podcast. After the recording of that podcast was turned off, Bob was still giving me praise for the book and a double-dose of encouragement. That’s the way he is.

In my life, he’s a person of genuine influence.

You may know him from one of his many books. If you’re super-fortunate, you may have seen him speak live. And, if you don’t know him, well, today is a great day for you!

When Bob sent me the early draft of The Go-Giver Influencer: A Little Story About A Most Persuasive Idea, a new installment in the Go-Giver series, I read it that evening. It tells a powerful story and left me with several pages of notes to ponder. And I was honored that he asked me for an endorsement.

Since that book is out this week, I reached out to Bob with some questions about his new book and his perspective on the topic of influence.



Be a Person of Genuine Influence

In Bob Burg terms, what does it mean to be a person of genuine influence?

Skip, influence itself – on a very basic level – can be defined simply as the ability to move a person(s) to a desired action, usually within the context of a specific goal. That’s its definition but not its essence. The essence of influence is “pull.” This as opposed to “push” (i.e., how far can you push a rope?). People with genuine influence don’t have a lot of push with people but rather a lot of pull. That’s because influence is really an attraction.

Great influencers, genuine influencers, attract people first to themselves and only then to their ideas. And they do this through discovering what that other person wants, needs, desires, and values. And they ask themselves questions to ensure that that is their focus.

They don’t do this as a form of manipulation, in order to self-centeredly get people to do their will, but rather as a way to build and serve everyone in the process.

Genuine influence itself is really then the ability to attain the results you want when working with or dealing with others but in such a way that everyone comes away from the situation far better off than they were before—and just as importantly, that all parties feel good about the results, about each other, and about themselves.




The story is one that starts with adversarial negotiations between two characters. Was this negotiation based on a real one?

While not based on one specific event, it was indeed based on the many, many similar scenarios that occur every day. The interesting thing in this case is that both characters had exactly what the other wanted and needed. So, it should have been a marriage made in heaven, right? Yet, it was anything but that. Instead, each conversation resulted in their being even further apart. And…neither one understood what the other person was thinking, never mind what would most likely result in their being agreeable to a solution. This leads into your next question.



Understand Their Being

How do two sides identify each other’s interests?

Fortunately, their individual mentors – each in their own way –  provided our heroes with some very sound advice. Step into the other person’s shoes (not always so easy to do that as most of us have different-sized feet – we come from different experiences, belief systems, and ways of seeing the world). To the best of your ability, try and understand as much as you can about their needs, their motivations, their interests, their…being.

One way to do this is by asking questions and – most importantly – listening. But, as Coach George advises his protégé, Gillian, “Listen. Not just with your ears. Listen with your eyes. Listen with your posture. Listen with the back of your neck.” In other words, with your entire being.



If we’re going to understand another person, we need to know what’s going on in their head. But how often are we so “I-focused” or “me-focused” that we forget that only by being “other-focused” can we understand what they need in order to take the appropriate action that will benefit all concerned?

As the other mentor in the story, retired judge Cecelia Henshaw told her protégé, Jackson, “I can’t tell you how many cases I heard over the years – thousands – where neither party had given the first thought to why the other person was there in court. I mean, their reasons why.”

She continued by saying, “Get out of your own thoughts, your own concerns, your own issues, and step into the other person’s perspective. Make a concerted effort to appreciate where they’re coming from, what’s at stake for them. To see the world the way they’re seeing it – which is guaranteed to be different from the way you’re seeing it.”

Skip, to the degree we are willing to do this, that’s the degree to which we can achieve mutual understanding and a mutual win—a growing pie, where one plus one equals three.



Find a Mentor

Mentoring plays a big role in your books. How does one go about identifying potential mentors and seeking appropriate counsel?

Indeed, Skip, mentoring is so important as the right mentor can provide invaluable wisdom and guidance—and cut one’s learning curve by years. He or she can also set an example that their protégé can then utilize in order to continue the teaching/learning process when he or she eventually takes on a protégé of their own.

Identifying the right mentor is probably even easier than being able to successfully connect with one. A desirable mentor is one who has had success in whatever general or specific area you’d like to succeed in as well. Just as importantly, they have methodologies and – even more importantly – values that are congruent with yours. When that’s the case, well, that’s a mentor you’d probably like to have.

The biggest challenge is that they are probably very busy and are often sought out as mentors by others. So, what would be the most effective way to approach your prospective, desired mentor? And in this case let’s assume that you do not currently have any type of significant relationship (a mutual “know, like, and trust”) with them.

If I may lead with a “thou shalt not,” my suggestion would be to not simply ask them, “Will you be my mentor?” Why? Because a mentor-protégé relationship is – just that – a relationship. And simply asking them for a very large commitment such as that is similar to asking, “Hey, would you please share 30 years of your hard-earned wisdom with me even though you don’t know me from Adam?” Not that this approach would never work, but the odds are very, very low.

Instead, respectfully ask (and this can be in-person, via phone, email, etc. – the medium for the ask doesn’t matter) along the lines of, “I realize you are extremely busy, and if this is not appropriate or for any reason you’d rather not, I totally understand. May I ask your one or two very specific questions?”

Doing it this way demonstrates that you respect the process, that you don’t feel “entitled” to their wisdom, and that you don’t intend to waste their time but are eager to learn.

Most people in his or her position (not all, but most) will happily agree to a request presented that way. Be sure your one or two questions are relevant (it goes without saying to do your research on this person and don’t ask a question, the answer to which you could easily have discovered on your own).  Upon the completion of the session, thank them for their time and counsel, let them know you look forward to putting it to use right away and that you’ll let them know how things have progressed. And, thank them again.

Suggestion: follow up with a personalized, handwritten thank-you note. This should be short and sweet, thanking them for taking time out of their busy schedule to share their wisdom and answer your questions. And, once again, that you will immediately put their advice into action.

Bonus Suggestion: make a small donation – in their name – to their favorite charity or cause (easy to discover via your online research). You’re not doing this to “kiss up” but rather to once again communicate that you don’t take their kindness for granted and that you want to find ways to provide value to them, as well. You might discover that they are collectors of original editions of books by a certain author or of a certain genre. Then do your best of locate one and send it. Again, you’re wanting to demonstrate your gratitude. And, of course, anything you can ever do for them that would truly provide exceptional value, do your best to find a way to do.

A few weeks later you might circle back around, report in, ask another specific question, “rinse and repeat.” Eventually a long-term mentor-protégé relationship might develop. Or it might not. Don’t be attached to either outcome. But if you will follow this process, you will dramatically increase your odds of finding the right mentor.



5 Secrets of Genuine Influence

There are five secrets of genuine influence revealed in the book. Though we won’t share all of them, let’s share a little about the ideas. The very first secret is “Master Your Emotions.” Would you share an example of what this looks like if you flub it up?

Skip, this is really where it all begins. The Sages of the Talmud asked, “Who is mighty?” and they answered, “That person who can control their own emotions and make, of an enemy (or potential enemy) a friend.” It’s only when we can do that that we are even in the position to take a potentially negative person or situation and turn it into a win for everyone involved.

On the other hand, when we allow someone to push our emotional hot buttons and cause us to become upset, anxious, confused, or ANGRY, not only are we not able to be part of the solution, we are now as much a part of the problem – if not more so – than they are.

Yes, because we’re human and creatures of emotion, this happens on an ongoing basis. That’s why we begin with “Master Your Emotions” as the first secret. Without that, nothing else will matter. Actually, without that, you’ll never get to the other ones.

Please understand, when we say, “Master your emotions,” we don’t mean to deny them or to forgo them. That would not be productive (actually, trying to forgo your emotions would be highly illogical) ;-). No, emotions are a wonderful part of life; they bring us joy, they make life worthwhile.

No, we simply mean to be sure that you are the master of your emotions rather than they the master of you. Or, as one of my great friends and mentors, the internationally-known leadership authority, Dondi Scumaci says, “By all means take your emotions along for the ride, but don’t let them drive the car.”

In the story, Judge Henshaw goes so far as to tell Jackson, “If you let your emotions drive the car, then you are at the mercy of a drunk driver.” (Thank you Dondi for the inspiration.)

Think of yourself as a gigantic company. You have a board of directors (your emotions) and the CEO (your logic). The CEO should certainly ask for and consider the advice given by their board of directors (emotions). But, eventually, it’s the CEO (logic) that must make the decisions. When this is not the case, well…we’ve seen the results.

Similar for us as individuals, the more we can master our emotions, taking them into consideration but in the end speaking and acting from a logic base, the more consistently we (and those whose lives we touch) will experience positive results.



Out of curiosity, tell me a little about how you and co-author John David Mann work together. Give inquiring minds a view into your creative process.

John is without question the lead writer and storyteller. He’s a brilliant guy, fantastic to work with, humble, and, over the years we’ve become more like brothers than simply friends and colleagues.

We generally come up with a basic story idea and really discuss what we want it to represent both in its entirety as well as its subtleties. He’ll then write a scene. I don’t want to underestimate the importance of that. His creativity and ability in this area are simply astounding. We then review it, make any necessary changes, review some more, make more changes, review some more, make tiny changes, and repeat the process. Again, I simply cannot express how deeply grateful I am for the honor of working with him and learning from him.


Where to Dive Deeper

One of the major themes of the book is how to solve conflict or negotiate even when it seems impossible. That idea reminded me of another one of your books, not in the series, but to me an incredibly important work: Adversaries into Allies. To me, that book is the one to read after this story if you want to dive deeply into the material. Is that a correct assessment?

Skip, I so appreciate you saying that. And, yes, I totally agree. To me Adversaries into Allies is the complete “how-to” of The Go-Giver Influencer. It represents the message that I feel God brought me into the world to share. And while I’ve read tons of books and done a deep study on this topic (the topic itself really being people skills), the true essence of everything I know about this topic is what I observed by watching my dad. Never have I known someone who had such a way with people, who could make people genuinely feel good about themselves and help them to operate at a higher level than they previously were operating.

My favorite saying is one that I base on having observed him for just over 60 years now and that is, “The single greatest people skill is a highly-developed and authentic interest in the other person.” He never said that, but it’s what I watched him do constantly. It’s who he is.

This also reminds me of something else and is a major reason why John and I wrote this book. The “conversations of the world” have more and more become characterized by insults, blame, and vitriol. It’s as though if you don’t agree with someone, not only are you wrong but you are evil, as well. Wow! So unnecessary!

John and I want to hopefully help take this in a different, more positive direction, one in which people can engage in dialogue and begin to understand one another.

Which doesn’t mean we must agree with one another. That’s not the point.

We often say:

“Do not confuse tact with compromise. We can always speak tactfully and respectfully to others without compromising our values.”

The paradox is that when you learn how to do this correctly, you actually become much more persuasive, much more influential.


Will you do another in the Go-Giver series or another book like Adversaries into Allies?

Difficult to say regarding the Go-Giver series. Never know what Pindar and his protégés come up with that they feel the need to share. 😉 Regarding another book like Adversaries into Allies, I think I’d first like to see that one really take hold in the marketplace as have the books in The Go-Giver series, though I realize a how-to book isn’t quite as sexy as a parable.



One last question. You do a ton of charitable work and donations to a very worthy cause: animal protection. When did you develop such a passion?

Not only were animals always a part of the Burg family growing up, I just love and adore them. I also admire them, their loyalty and the love they give their humans. On the other hand, it’s simply amazing (and horrifying) to me that any human being would ever abuse any animal. There is simply no reason for it. And animals cannot effectively defend themselves from the humans who would cause them harm. I believe we are charged by God to help those who cannot help themselves. In my opinion, abused animals fit this category.


For more information, see The Go-Giver Influencer: A Little Story About A Most Persuasive Idea.

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