Making Magic…Engaging People in Six Easy Steps.

Giving Permission for Others to Find Their Voice...Staff at Street Girl's Aid in Gnana, Accra
Influencing without authority vs…influencing with authority… the game of Simon Says is a great example of influencing others…but I wonder…is this the kind of influence we want to have over others? Imagine walking into work on Monday morning barking out “I said stand up, I said sit down…stand up…and you shouldn’t have stood up because I didn’t say so…”

This post is about influencing without authority, so…to get ready I looked up the meaning of the word “authority”…just take a second and think about what comes to your mind when you hear the word authority – quickly write one or two words that you think of that describes authority to you. The word authority is loaded and has so many definitions, that we need to be clear about the definition that we are using so that we all have a common understanding of what we are talking about. A visit to Webster’s Dictionary indicated that there are not just three or four definitions of the word authority but fourteen.

The child’s game of Simon Says is one of those times when we learn early about authority being exerted; a very directive and authoritarian kind of influence – but for purposes of this discussion I am going to use only three of those fourteen definitions so that we all have a common language: 1. Persuasive force; 2. Mastery in execution, 3) The right to respect or acceptance of one’s words. After coming to that understanding of authority, I have decided to change my post topic to influencing with authority, influencing with persuasive force, with mastery in execution with other’s accepting your word. Confidence, expertise, and delivery of messaging… influencing with authority. But wait – that word influencing is also highly charged so it is important to get clear about that definition; there are nine definitions of influence.

As I was writing this post I was faced with the dilemma of putting together a piece and not being clear about the message…so what I am really trying to do here? What is the hope, what do I hope to accomplish? To share with you some elements of engaging people…to get people excited about what you are doing…to help you get people involved…that’s it! So in this post I am going to talk about the elements of a six step process for engaging others.

For the sake of a common definition, I am using the words vision, idea, concept – interchangeably – I will use each of the three within the context of this post and they all mean the same thing. Being on the same page is important when developing a common understanding.

Six steps for getting people engaged:

1. Have a clear vision or idea about what you want to accomplish. Before you can share with people your idea, concept or project, you need to be clear in your mind– exactly what it is you want to accomplish, Just the “what”, the rest will come later. Simple concise and clear.

2. Communicate your idea or concept with clarity. Test your idea on others who may not have your same frame of reference to confirm clarity; is the concept easily understood by all/many? If not, work with it until you can articulate your idea clearly. Take your idea to 3-4 people and ask them to comment on the clarity of the vision – I often find myself asking people – does this make sense??? If people don’t know what you mean, they will be confused and not get involved, or get involved for the wrong reasons.

Your vision must be easily communicated, logical, simple and concise. This is not the place where you describe the why or the how. What do you want to accomplish? Having a clear vision or idea that is simple to understand will provide others with the sense that you have authority; you have a persuasive mastery over a subject, passion and the ability to excite people to join you. Leaving the why and how open – gives others the opportunity to find a place for themselves within your vision/idea.

3. Invite people to be involved. If you wait for people to flock to you when you talk about your idea, you will be very disappointed, you have to invite/ask people to be part of your plan – we like to be asked to participate, so invite someone to be part of something, to make a difference, to be part of something important.

4. Develop a common goal and stay focused. Work with the people you have assembled and come to agreement about the direction. Ask for clarity and be willing to be open and flexible to input. Coming to agreement on a common goal is a very time consuming element of the process, but the time is well spent and decreases the likelihood of more costly missteps in the future.

5. Give permission for others to be engaged. Although this began as your vision or idea – it is vital to involve others. That is the point of this exercise, engaging others…and it is critical to engage others wherever their gifts and talent lay. Give people the opportunity to find themselves within your need/project/idea. This step is the point during which magic is made. When others gain confidence in their own competence long term occurs. If you set the stage giving permission for others to be engaged – the sky is the limit.

To give this kind of permission, you must be detached from outcome – not direction or vision, but outcome, because when the engagement process happens and magic occurs – there is no way any one person could have expected the outcome – the collective process, the engaged empowered group creates something where they know they have made a difference, they have had an impact, they did something important.

6. Give thanks and express gratitude. The final step in the process of engaging others is to give thanks and express gratitude – there are many, many articles and books written about influencing people and this step – show gratitude is one of the most cited common denominators amongst the articles – show your gratitude by telling people what kind of impact they have had – how did they make a difference – how is the world better because of them.

In summary, here are the six steps to engaging others:

1. Have a clear vision or idea about what you want to accomplish.
2. Communicate your idea or concept with clarity.
3. Invite people to be involved.
4. Develop a common goal and stay focused.
5. Give permission for others to be engaged.
6. Give thanks and express gratitude.

Now go out make some magic, engage others and make a difference.

Kathy Stutzman is a facilitator, trainer and evaluator working with groups and organizations to move ideas, visions and concepts forward. If you would like to contact her to make magic with your group, contact her at [email protected], call at (507) 219-0912, on Twitter at @KathyStutzman or

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