Pam Cain, Cayla Keys, Dee PedersenThis year’s Illinois Women in Leadership Fifth Annual Women’s Symposium centered on the theme of influence: both how we are influenced and how we can influence others. Here were some take-a-ways on how we can influence and be influenced. Pictured from left to right: Pam Cain (Peoria branch manager NMLS #662881, Cayla Keyes (South Sixth Street branch manager NMLS #662877 and Dee Anderson.

Influence through Speech

The keynote speaker, Stacey Hanke, encouraged us to evaluate how we speak because our speech can directly impact our ability to gain trust. Trusted individuals, she says, more easily influence others.

As an exercise, Hanke paired us up to use our smart phones to record our speech. We were told beforehand to focus on NOT using filler words. Even telling a simple story about our morning routines was tough without filling in pauses with words such as “So,” or noises like, “Um.”

Hanke’s key take away is we should respect the people we’re talking to by pausing – allowing for silence – as we speak. This silence gives listeners the time to think about what we said. And it gives us, the speaker, time think about what we’re about to say.

A key to being able to do this is looking your listeners in the eye. Engage them by looking at them as you complete a thought. Only look away when that thought is finished. Hanke said, “I only speak when I see eyes. It helps you relax if you talk to eyes.”

Hanke insists we can all learn to speak to gain trust, but it takes a commitment. We have to pay attention to how we speak and get feedback from the people we trust will be honest with us. And we need to do audio and video recordings of ourselves and listen and watch to the recordings.

Is this a comfortable thought? Hanke said we need to “get comfortable being uncomfortable.” That’s a step towards earning the ability to influence others.

Influencing Your Own Change

Jamie Stout started her presentation with some simple sentences. Among them:

“I’m an overeater. I’m a work in process. I’m just a girl with a story.”

The words she used to explain were aimed at helping us realize we have the ability to change our lifestyle and impact our own growth.

Stout says she’s always been achievement driven, and her weight never held her back. But on July 13, 2015 she decided to start a weight loss program to be healthier and stronger. “I cleaned out my pantry. I looked at all the labels and if there was a word I couldn’t pronounce, the food was gone.”

At age 35, Stout had never eaten broccoli. Now she eats virtually any vegetable. She was able to make the switch from junk food to fruits, vegetables and lean protein by looking at food as fuel . . . not for pleasure. Along the way, she found 56 ways food manufacturers say “sugar” in product labels and that “fat free” on a label often means added sugar.

She measured, tracked and learned to be prepared to assure she made the right food choices. Most importantly, she told people what she was doing. She assured everyone – even her mom – that she could still go out to eat and go to a bar. “I drank water in the bar. I was that girl. I was different.”

But, as Stout says, every social interaction seems to include food. She had to decide in advance what she could and couldn’t put in her mouth. “All of my choices were very intentional,” she says. She points out the 92 percent of all dieters fail. “I am different,” she said of her success. “And that’s a good thing.”

Today, 80 pounds lighter than she was in July 2015, she says she is a stronger, healthier version of herself. But she’s still the same girl. Only now she listens to podcasts about healthy lifestyles and she’s worked with a personal trainer. Yet she’s still on her journey . . . a journey she never sees ending.

She said that no matter what change we want to make in our lives, it’s important to have a vision, skill, incentives, resources and an action plan.

Using Influence to ‘Have it All’

Sarah Petty has created a successful business and found time for a family life. She offered tips on how we can do the same.

  • Look at your life differently. Focus on the time you have and make memories. Spend more quality time with your family and do activities together. Play!
  • Continue to thrill; think outside the box.
  • When you get stuck – find help.
  • Start paying attention to your life. Don’t go on autopilot. Take action; build the life you absolutely love.

Lindsay Van Zele, a colleague of mine with two small daughters, had a great take-away from the small group discussions Petty fostered. Lindsay said, “We broke in small groups and brainstormed ideas for each other. My take-away is to create a jar/box of ideas for play dates and outings/experiences. The girls will have the chance to choose one and then that’s what our plan is – go to the farm, play with bubbles, bike ride and have much more fun than we normally do.”

Influence Beyond Life

The title of Diane Newell’s presentation was intriguing: “Let’s Talk about Death – It Won’t Kill You.” She presented a myriad of tools we all need to know about to help our loved ones when we’re dying and dead. From Living Wills to Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) orders, Newell provided details.

If we had grown up before the 1930s, Newell said we would likely have witnessed death because we would have been raised in a multi-generational household. We would have seen our parents cope with the death of their own parents. It was a very personal process. “Funerals were held in the home,” she said. “Someone stayed with the body through the night.”

In the 1930s and 40s, death moved to a hospital setting. In the 1970s, the hospice concept evolved, providing families with a more comfortable and homelike setting.

To assure our loved ones aren’t left to deal with our illness or death with no input from us, Newell says we need to make our wishes known. In doing so, we will make things easier for the people we care about . . . and we can influence their lives beyond our own.

Clean Eating Can Influence You More than Exercise

If you think exercise can take care of all your bad eating habits, think again. Hy-Vee Nutritionist Charlyn Fargo Ware says 80 percent of a healthy life is good eating. The other 20 percent is from exercise. She suggests we forget diets and focus on healthy eating. But how?

  • Avoid eating processed and refined foods; find foods with one or two ingredients. The longer the list of ingredients, the more processed food.
  • Base your diet on whole foods, using local and organic foods when possible.
  • Pay attention to the food labels. Pay close attention to serving size and sodium content.
  • Care about the calories you put into your body.
  • Shop with a conscience. For example, choose sustainable seafood.
  • Take little steps – make something from scratch.
  • Prepare home cooked meals – get that crockpot out.
  • Plan your meals. Sunday’s are good day to prep for your upcoming busy week. Cut veggies and cook. Have meals in the fridge for re-heating on busy nights.
  • Drink more water.

Ware also says we need to “make dinner the main event.” Always include family talk. Ask your kids: What is the best thing about your day? What was hard about today?

One great tip for busy days: Make smoothie making easy! Go shopping and bring home fresh fruits. Wash, cut and bag up fruit in freezer bags. Then when you want a quick drink or breakfast, combine fruit and Greek yogurt in a blender or bullet machine.

Get Your Influence Back to On

Steve Thomas said it’s normal to “get stuck.” We just need to identify when we’re stuck and move back to “on.”

Thomas identified six stages from “on” to “off.”

Stage 1: A wonderful feeling. He equated this phase to getting a new toy as a kid or a new boyfriend later in life.

Stage 2: The “Rev Stage.” Everything just feels right. You love the new guy. You love the new job.

Stage 3: Peak! You never prepare for this stage and only see it in hindsight.

Stage 4: Cool off. The job is okay. If it weren’t illegal, you’d set your kids outside.

Stage 5: Here’s where your stop. You have no influence. You freak out. But you shouldn’t. Everyone gets stuck.

Stage 6: Back to “on.”

Thomas told his audience it’s important to work back to “on,” especially at work, because if we aren’t satisfied in the workplace, we’ll bring that dissatisfaction home.

To get back to the good place, ask yourself, “Why do you do what you do?”

He tells the story of three bricklayers being asked, “What are you doing?” as they were laying bricks for a new school. Bricklayer one was laying bricks. Bricklayer two was building a school. Bricklayer 3 was building a place where kids could learn. Can you guess who was most satisfied laying bricks for a living? Bricklayer #3 who knew why he was doing what he did.

“If what you’re doing doesn’t fill your tank, you aren’t happy.”

To get back to happy, you need to look at the things in your life that you can control. If you can’t control something, Let It Go. (Yes, we were told we could sing.)

With this mindset and understanding of the stages of going from “on” to “off,” we can get our influence back.