Improve your Influence – Read the Room

Improve your Influence – Read the Room (1)!

by Lynn Scott, Featured Contributor

[su_dropcap style=”flat”]L[/su_dropcap]AST WEEK,  I asked you to think about what would be possible if you had more influence – and also suggested you get some feedback on your influence strengths and development areas from colleagues whom you trust to give you honest, constructive advice. I’m running two in-house Lead with Impact programmes over the next month and I’ve asked all delegates attending to get some feedback on their leadership impact and influence.  This simple exercise is pure gold.  Like the personal example I shared last week, some of the things that would help us to have more influence are quite simple to change once we know about them – and in EVERY CASE the changes identified in the feedback are  not about having more skill or more intelligence or even  more experience.

Without exception, all the changes identified require a change in BEHAVIOUR!  (And fortunately for us, we can make a choice to change our behaviour immediately – although of course it takes time and experimentation to change a default behaviour in the long term).

Marshall Goldsmith in his great book ‘What Got You Here Won’t Get you There’  identifies ‘twenty habits that hold you back from the top’ and many of them are linked to a complete lack of self- awareness about how we come across to others.  So we waffle on, we fill the silence, we finish people’s sentences, we feel the need to tell everyone how smart we are (in a round-about way, of course…)…. Or we stay silent, play ‘victim’ and blame others for everything….and so on and so forth!

If there’s a hint of self recognition there, here’s an experiment and it’s all about OBSERVATION

This experiment is best done in a small meeting that you are not chairing.  Ideally it would be a meeting that you attend fairly regularly.

Your role in this meeting is to watch and observe.  The purpose is simply to get you ‘tuned in and focused’ and to practise reading the room – so that you start to notice things that would normally pass you by.

The 80/20 rule applies here.

You need to listen for 80% of the time and speak only for 20%.

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  • Imagine you are looking down at the meeting in your helicopter.  What do you notice? Is everyone there on time?  Are people prepared? Does everybody sit in the same place as they sat last time and the time before?
  • Look at each person in turn.  Notice their body language (but don’t assume that you can interpret what it means – try to do so at your peril!).
  • Notice everyone’s contribution, or not, to the meeting.
  • Tune into your own feelings and emotions.  Do you feel bored?  Energised? Excited? Impatient?
  • Notice connections or conflict, spoken or unspoken, between others.
  • Notice how people listen to others and respond to others (interrupting, sighing, rolling eyes, nodding head….)
  • Do people speak for the sake of it, repeat what others have said without adding value or make assumptions about what they are hearing?
  • Do people commit to things but as they commit you know, in your heart, that they are not really committed?
  • If you could describe the meeting metaphorically, how would you describe it (one leader who carried out this experiment described the meeting as a ‘game of two halves with only one half on the pitch’).
  • What else do you notice that you have not tuned in to before?


This is your first experiment in ‘reading a room’ and focusing on others rather than yourself.

~ What new insights have you got?
~ What data is in the room that might be important – but you’ve never noticed it before?
~ What have you learned about what you might need to pay attention to in your own interactions?
~ How might observing all of this help you to improve your own influence and impact?


Lynn Scott
Lynn Scott
LYNN Scott writes pragmatic, actionable, no BS tips for busy leaders. Leadership doesn’t have to be difficult. It’s not about fads, theories, models and ‘inspirational quotes.’ It’s about knowing yourself and others at a deeper level; focusing on the right things; taking one step at a time and having a really clear purpose that ignites the fire in others. Plus, of course having the best possible team in place. (Ditch those energy vampires now). Lynn is an Executive Coach working with high achieving, committed men and women and their teams who are ready for their next level of success. She particularly loves seeing technical experts become focused, confident, pro-active leaders. She previously built and led global teams for a UK PLC and learned as much from her leadership mistakes as her successes. She’s a Brit based in the South of France with husband Brian and Border Collie Poppy.

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