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Unleashed - How to Thrive as an Independent Professional

Sep 4, 2023

In this episode of Unleashed, Will Bachman and Huijin Kong discuss her new book, Positive Influence, The First and Last Mile of Leadership, co-authored with Tsun-yan Hsieh. They talk about the basics of influence and how to present different influencing techniques. Huijin’s book emphasizes the importance of focusing on both task outcomes and relational outcomes, as well as the impact of one's own heart and soul on others.

Huijin emphasizes that people are influenced more by how they feel about the task and their purpose in influencing others. She explains that traditional consulting can be more powerful if professionals spend more time on mindshare and their own heart, rather than just defining and laying out the task. 


The book lays out three aspects of influencing: personal qualities that are universal, such as courage, care, and compassion. Courage helps us face difficult situations and fears, while care involves caring about people's experiences and challenges, rather than just the task itself. Compassion is crucial in challenging times, as it builds the basis for being more open to what people are resisting and why. Humility and curiosity are also central to creating a powerful common ground for discussing difficult issues. By focusing on these qualities, professionals can create a more powerful and impactful influence on their clients and clients. She also mentions ‘state’ which deals with composure and being present. It is important to align your state to your intent. These two-thirds can mean the difference between being  a good influencer or a great influencer.

Defining Influence Pathways

Huijin talks about the importance of being deliberate in influencing others. Huijin emphasizes placing focus on positive outcomes and the importance of considering the context and pressures in higher stakes situations, in addition to the starting attitude of the people who need to be influenced. 

This intentionality allows for the development of an influence pathway, which involves guiding each person to think, feel, and do differently than their natural current inclination. She qualifies that being deliberate is not like military planning, but rather requires being conscious of how your influence attempt is going and how the person is responding to your actions. This allows you to adjust your strategy and align your being, state, and emotions with the person and desired outcomes. She also states that it is important to be open to changing outcomes and updating your own understanding of desired outcomes.


Changing a Leader’s Influencing Approach

Huijin shares a case example of helping a leader change their influencing approach by coaching them through role plays. The example involves a transformational project where the key leaders’ relationship has become a barrier to constructive participation. To help the leader change their approach, Huijin explores several angles, such as the degree of care one has for the project and the importance of setting ambitious influence outcomes. Huijin gives examples of the choices the executive has to move forward and understand the degrees of freedom in influencing situations, such as defining one's role as defining the technical solution or pointing out where the leader needs more leadership. This can be done in one-on-one or small group situations. The book also discusses the use of the deliberate conscious influencing process in MBA programs, where participants go through real-life situations and role play to learn how they show up in the heat of the moment. By adopting this conscious influencing process, individuals can internalize it and apply it in various situations, both in school and beyond.



Expanding the Toolbox of Influencing

Huijin emphasizes the value of building common ground and shared objectives. Engaging the person about them and not just their thoughts about the task at stake is highly effective. This is important in situations where people's motivation  is in doing the difficult work. To build a strong connection with the client, it is essential to delve into their feelings about themselves, identity, attitudes, and inspiration related to their work and the task at hand. Another underused tactic is confronting, which involves acknowledging that they may not feel the same way about something, they may have different beliefs. Asking them to tell more about their point of view helps build a deeper foundation of shared understanding and feelings, and enables a stronger foundation on which to deal with difficult situations or tasks.


Setting High Ambitions

Huijin talks about Linhart's high challenge, high support model. This model involves setting high ambitions for oneself, which can apply to influence effectiveness, leadership, sports, parents, and business situations. High support often comes in the form of quality feedback, real-time feedback, as it helps improve self-awareness and confidence. She also mentions potential sources where freelancers can get high support. Huijin emphasizes the importance of reflecting on your why, and the positive outcome you want. This involves paying attention to purpose and ethos, and most importantly, individuals. She explains that this will introduce new horizons about what you are doing. High challenge and high support models can help individuals develop their influence skills and achieve greater success in various aspects of their lives.



06:48 The three qualities of an influencer

10:48 Basic tools of influencing

12:41 The importance of intentionality in influencing leaders

15:37 A case example of leadership challenges in influencing

19:13 The power of appealing to shared objectives in influencing

25:07 How others can help you develop influence skills







Unleashed is produced by Umbrex, which has a mission of connecting independent management consultants with one another, creating opportunities for members to meet, build relationships, and share lessons learned. Learn more at