Episode: 531 |
Huijin Kong:
Huijin Kong, Author of Positive Influence, The First and Last Mile of Leadership:


Huijin Kong

Huijin Kong, Author of Positive Influence, The First and Last Mile of Leadership

Show Notes

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



Website: www.positiveinfluence.life

Book: https://www.amazon.com/Positive-Influence-First-Last-Leadership/dp/1944660569/

Company:  https://www.linhartgrp.com/




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Huijin Kong


Will Bachman, Huijin Kong


Will Bachman  00:03

Hello, and welcome to Unleashed. I’m your host will Bachman. If you visit umbrex.com/unleashed You can find the transcript for this episode and all 529 episodes that we have published so far. I am so pleased to welcome today Weejun Kong, who entered McKinsey with me as a business analyst back in 2001. We’ve known each other for over two decades, we Jan is the co author along with Sony on sea of positive influence, the first and last mile of leadership, and Weejun works at a consulting firm Linhart, which is a leadership firm based in well, in Asia, but they’re global Weejun Welcome to the show.


Huijin Kong  00:53

Thank you so much. Well, it’s amazing to have this opportunity for us to reconnect. And also for me to have a chance to connect with all the amazing professionals and leaders in the Umbrex network.


Will Bachman  01:08

So I am so excited to dig into this book about influence that you’ve written. I want to maybe just jump right into chapter seven, where you talk about the basics of influence. Now, when you and I were, I think associates at the firm, and went to the initial leadership workshop, we got issued this little handbook, interpersonal and interactive skills, which I have in my hands today, I’ve continued to refer to this book that we got when we were back in McKinsey. And I found it so powerful, the training that we got on influence, and they took an approach that was more about influence tactics, right. So it will surely expand in my world like explaining, asKong, stating, inspiring, and exchanging alliances building. So like specific different forms, you take a slightly different, like way of cutting air thinKong about it. Talk to me, you have in the basics of influence chapter seven, you have eight points, if you could walk us through those points, the basics of influence and how you think about your presenting different insulin influencing techniques, which is, you know, a slightly different cut at it. And then we had an McKinsey.


Huijin Kong  02:27

Absolutely, wow. Well, I’m I’m so impressed that you still kept that template, that that pamphlet, which I confess I had not even remembered that we had but I think we got amazing training on and professional development and mentoring from our McKinsey days, and is certainly one of the inspirations for me to give back to others by creating the book, as well as all of our leadership programs that inform the book, maybe I could, you know, bridge to our McKinsey experience by maKong a statement, which hopefully does justice to the foreign, but also is still points out some of the less touched territories, you know, in the traditional consulting work of which McKinsey epitomizes and we did, the overwhelming focus is really on the content, right? The insights, the process. And we spent a lot of time creating PowerPoints and, you know, defining what is the task. Whereas in influencing more senior clients, senior leaders, and to really get the impact from out of the content, in terms of implementation in terms of people’s confidence, in what is needs to be done. That’s really in the relationship realm. And that’s one of the big premises of positive influence in our book is that, how do you be really intentional about having both task outcomes? As well as relational outcomes and relationship we define as? How do people think of feel about the task, not just think, feel about the task? How do they feel about themselves in relation to the task? Are they motivated? Are they ambivalence? are they passionate? Are they inspired? And also how do they relate to others who need to be really motivated and inspired about the task? And traditional consulting can be so much more powerful, we believe if the professionals spend just a little bit more of mindshare and of their own heart, right, influencing how people feel about the work that needs to be done and not just stop at defining and laying out are tremendously detail what, why it needs to be done, what needs to be done, how it needs to be done, which I think people do a supreme job of, I think the second most basic thing that you’re right, so we start to bring out in chapter seven and eight, but then we take really expand on in chapter 910. All words is really, people are influenced far more about how we ourselves feel about something, and the heart and the purpose that we have for what we’re trying to influence to others. And that comes from our being, and that is really deep into into the whole heart and soul territory. And, yeah, so if we just focus our influencing efforts on what we think are words, that is only touching about a third of what it actually affects and influences people. So the book lays out, you know, how you can be very intentional about mobilizing your own being, to better connect with your own personal qualities of courage, care and compassion, and channel that to the task. That in fact, the client, or even yourself as a consultant, need to do an influence better on so let me pause here and see where you’d like to steer us to dive deeper in. All right,


Will Bachman  06:33

well, let’s talk about that two thirds of influencing that is not the words that you say, help expand on that idea of, you know, bringing your whole being to the influencing task.


Huijin Kong  06:48

Absolutely. So maybe I’ll just touch on three, you know, as a, as a McKinsey person, we always think of everything in threes. So first, really is the personal qualities. So as human beings, we all have set of personal qualities that are really universal, but each one of us may have different level of access to these qualities. So I talked about three courage. So the courage is what helps us do what is difficult, what we fear. Second is care, like do we care about the people, and not just the task and the business outcome right at the people’s experience of doing something difficult for the business that they didn’t do before, which is typically what consultants get involved in. And, and compassion, I think, is really important. Because in these disruptive disequilibrium times, a lot of people are going through a tough time be in the business or be it in their personal lives. And so showing compassion for where people are struggling, maybe they they’re resisting a change, right and, and showing compassion for why they’re doing that can oftentimes build the basis for them being more open to what they’re resisting. So and there are also other qualities such as humility and curiosity, which we found to be very central in creating more of a powerful common ground, a neutral ground for people to talk about and air and discuss difficult issues, to other aspects of the two thirds that is so powerful in how we impact and influence people is. The second one is emotion, you might remember me from my BA days is probably a very emotionless creature. And so different people have different access to their emotions. But in the more higher stakes situations, emotions typically are high, whether people show it or not. And they have very important information or content. Because sometimes if you don’t dress the underlying emotions, the hidden intentions, you know, what’s really blocKong people, it’s very hard to get two people to actually talk about the task at the really the task level. So how do you keep developing your own emotional intelligence and encourage others to express their emotions in more constructive ways, we find is a very big hidden lever of influencing more effectively. Last one is state now state is related to emotion but a bit different, you know, a stay is are you composed? Are you anxious, you know, are you very mobilized? So it’s really in the moment how your whole being is present. And all the different aspects of your being is present. And we find that it’s very important to align your state to your influence attempt. For example, if you really want people to pay attention to the real be difficult issues, probably having a life’s atmosphere and a very light joKong state, or even casual states would be very inappropriate. So this and other aspects of the two thirds we find are really, you know, where somebody can go from being a good influencer to a great influencer.


Will Bachman  10:28

Let’s talk a bit about some just some of the basics. So you have a list of eight items, in chapter seven, starts with be deliberate talk through some of the, you know, those eight items on the list that chapter seven is all about, about just just these basic, basic tools.


Huijin Kong  10:48

So I think starting with being deliberate, you know, we, any one of us will probably have 1020, even 30 influence attempts in any given day, just in work, and not even counting, you know, the probably a similar number, in a personal in the personal realm, right? Being deliberate means at least picKong for some of the higher stakes situations, whereby you actually consciously ask yourself, what is the positive influence outcomes that I should really set, given the context and the pressures that that, you know, the situation faces, the impinges are on the others? And then think about, okay, relative to those positive outcomes? Where are people coming from the, you know, the people that who need to be influenced, we need to move in that certain direction, right? What’s their starting attitude? They’re starting in motion and what they’re inclined to do or not do? And why right? Is it because of how they feel logically about the matter? Or is it actually they they’re stuck emotionally because of something that they’ve experienced in the past or now, for example, interpersonal dynamics. So with that knowledge of, okay, here’s how I want to move people, then the knowledge of here’s where x, y, z, each individually, you have to think about each person individually, where they are their starting point, then you can devise what we call the influence pathway, which is how do I want each person to think feel and do differently than their natural current inclination? Right? So by having this intentionality of how do you want the other person to think, feel and do then you can go into that interaction being guided by that intentionality? Right. So obviously, this is not like military planning. Actually, even in the military, the planning, you know, the plan probably just survives the first cannon shot. But the idea is that the intentionality forces you to think about what outcomes you’re trying to get, where the person starting point is, and how what does the person need to experience logically emotionally in any action tendency, in order to move towards a positive outcome. So the last part being deliberate is really after the influence attempt, or frankly, even better during the influence attempt, you know, being really conscious of how your influence attempt is actually going, you know, is the person kind of responding to what you what you’re doing in the way that you intended or, in fact, the person has just gone completely in a different direction or, or new information and new problems or new opportunities have have emerged? The more real time you can be conscious about the impact that you’re having on the person or how the person showing up regardless of your influence, the more quickly then you can adjust your influence strategy. And sometimes you find that you need to adjust the outcomes you’ve set, maybe outcomes you set before were too ambitious. And you can only reach that through several discussions where maybe you weren’t ambitious enough and the person is challenging you actually to be more to be more ambitious. But understanding the impact that you’re having, understanding how the other person is actually showing up and updating your own understanding of therefore the right outcomes that you should collectively aim for, and how to move towards that is really the last mile of being deliberate and then that allows you to to adjust your strategy and better align your being and your state and your own emotions to that.


Will Bachman  14:57

Walk us through a case example of Have a leader that you have worked with, on their influencing skills. And maybe you have a specific scenario where you help prepare them for it, and they were going to use, you know, influencing approach x, but you helped coach them, you know, do some role plays, and they ended up using, using why, like, just, you know, sanitize it, but to the extent you can share a specific, so how would you help someone change their influencing approach?


Huijin Kong  15:37

Great, great. inquiry will, I’m just thinKong to myself, which of the recent such situations is best to to, to share? Maybe I’ll share the example that, that I was discussing with, also another McKinsey colleague of ours long time ago, which is that, you know, the person is trying to do a transformational project, like many in a company that’s well run, and, and then she, you know, has mastered all the technical aspects of the project. But there’s a problem really, with some of the key leaders that are involved in the project, their relationship has actually become a barrier to the, you know, really the constructive participation of all these leaders who really need to buy in and fully execute to the technical solution that they’re developing. So we talked about what are her degrees of freedom in influencing this situation? So you know, I explore several angles with her, Well, number one, how much you really care about this, because if you define your role as defining the technical solution, then she’s already doing incredibly well. But if she really cares about the longer term implementation success, and the business impact of this technical solution on the entire company, then she needs to set more ambitious influence outcomes as it relates to influencing the leaders of, of who the business leaders who are involved in this, and then we discuss, okay, then what could she do if she wanted to, with the leaders, you know, does, she tried to persuade them using logic that, you know, showing them all the stats of transformational efforts, it into invitations that have gone bad, or, you know, she, she, she persuades them much more. By pointing out where the lead they each of them need to exert more leadership. And thus, you do that in one on one or in a small group situation. So that is a life example of, you know, how we help more senior executive Some think about the positive influence challenges and opportunities, they have a we also do this with MBA some. So we’ve been running a course, for 250 MBAs in the last 12 years out of the National University of Singapore MBA program, which is a top 25 program in the world, whereby, you know, literally in a boot camp, people will go through 1520 real life situations, they get to roleplay through and see how they really show up in the heat in the heat of the moment. And we encourage people to adopt the deliberate conscious influencing process, so that they can really internalize it for themselves and use it in every situation that they face, both in school, but really far, far beyond.


Will Bachman  19:13

So I’d love to hear your thoughts on influencing approaches to influencing that are maybe underused, right, that are effective, but that people tend not to have is their default approach. So like for me, and for a lot of people who go into management consulting, their default approach may be sort of rational, explaining, right. So maKong kind of appealing to facts and figures and logical argument. Where as that training that I referred to earlier really opened my eyes to expand my toolbox and one of my favorites was a P Hearing appealing to shared objectives. That was where I actually ended up I remember specifically like learning that and then deploying that intentionally where I was on one project and a client was not wanting to share the data or arguing about something. And I just kind of said, well, just let’s just pause, both of us simply have some different ideas on how to purchase but I think we both have the same objective here is we’re trying to like, whatever it was, I don’t remember, like drive and drive sales or reduce churn or something. And that was so helpful to kind of get on the same side of the table, looKong at the problem together, okay, we’re both trying to solve the same thing. So that to me that appealing to shared objectives was valuable, learning about the consultative approach where you try to ask the other person well, what do you see is the right path forward rather than telling them? Here’s the here’s the path you should take? What are some approaches that you see that are highly effective, but you know, executives, tend not to be using them as much as they ought to.


Huijin Kong  21:08

Thanks for for that great question. We’ll so first of all, I have a tremendous amount of respect for, for example, as a whole, the Hughes is a huge amount of great body of work around how to build common ground in negotiation situations. So finding that the shared objectives appealing to people’s building that connection to shared objectives. Common Ground is, I think, very, very powerful. I think the consultative approach is very powerful, because it really establishes mutuality, it gets the listing going, etc. So, but I think the limit, and really where to go beyond those set is really engaging the person about them. And not just how they think about the particular task that may be at stake. And why is that important? Like it is important in situations where, you know, people’s level of motivation or Gung Hone is in doing the difficult work in, you know, why are they resistant, if you need people to go way above and beyond their normal to, you know, really face up to disruption and to do the difficult change work, then it won’t be enough to just touch on how they feel and think about the approaches to the work. But you need to delve into how they really feel about themselves, and their own identity and their own, you know, attitudes and inspiration or lack thereof, related to their own sort of where they are in their work and in in relation to what the work is asKong them to, to do. So I think some of the tactics that can actually help is often I thought, we find that consultants tend to relate to their clients as to their clients roles or their clients seniority. So we find that the under leverage tactic is really how do you build that strong connection to the client, the person inside because it’s the person inside that has all the human emotions versus the persona of the client or the the, the seniority is, you know, somebody who is composed somebody who can give you five reasons why they should or shouldn’t do this? But you know, is that really how they think and feel right? So how do you establish that? I would say the second underused tactic, which is on opposite of structure is actually confronting oftentimes if we believe in something so much rational persuasion is our go to but what if somebody is just really resistant, don’t believe you or they have a completely set of different beliefs. And then confronting that and I don’t mean confronting as in like, really intense and, and, you know, conflictual, but confronting just acknowledging, hey, you seem to be really don’t feel the same way about this, like many others, are, you really don’t seem to believe this. And you doubt this, tell me more, you know, because unless we have a shared belief about this, it’s very difficult to move forward. So we those are examples of tactics really, that have to do with the relationship between two different people and then how to use that to build a deeper foundation of shared understanding and shared feelings really, and shared belief. On, on the task to do the more difficult bits.


Will Bachman  25:07

In chapter 13 of the book, you talk about a term that Linhart coined high challenge, high support. The chapter is how others can help you develop. Talk to me, about someone who, you know, who wants to develop their influence skills? How can you get help from other people and tell us a bit about this high challenge high support model?


Huijin Kong  25:39

My favorite topic, oh, one of my favorite topics. So I first learned the guy inspired by high challenge I support in two ways. One is from Sonia and himself who definitely high challenge high support me every day, I really like to have that but also from a book called Teach Like a Champion, where they studied. What did the most powerful teachers in the most difficult schools, inner cities in the United States? How were they able to get the high performance from their students, and we’re talKong about elementary, high school students, you know, this is not college or beyond. And I realized that the two really had something in common, which is that high challenge is all about setting high ambitions. But really having people set high ambitions for themselves. This could apply to influence effectiveness could apply to themselves as leaders or done in sports or really anything as parents, of course, in business situations. And that often requires really instilling a sense of belief and confidence. A lot of times people don’t aspire for more not because they don’t theoretically understand that it’s possible, but they lacked that confidence and belief in themselves. And that could come from personality predisposition, it could come from trauma, it come from, you know, just never had that experience. Before. Now with high challenge, you need high support in order for the person to achieve it. Now, put in the influence, context, high support often needs to come in the form of really quality feedback, real time. Because if you don’t get that feedback on what’s worKong in your influence, and leadership efforts, and what’s not, it’s very difficult to improve, because our own self awareness of how we’re doing is limited even for the best of us. Many of us tend to overestimate our effectiveness. By definition, it’s hard to really know what people think of us or feel about us and our influence attempts, just by ourselves. So I think here’s where you know, the best of what we experienced in the firm will where teams would get together and debrief. Hey, how did that go? What went well, what didn’t go well. But if you apply that using the deliberate conscious influencing process, and really zeroing in on the influence aspects, which we find is really under, under paid attention to review will is, is really where you can get the high the highest support going. And I think for independent professionals, it will take a little bit more conscious effort to ask yourself, you know, where could my high challenge high support come from? So it might be another collaborator, or maybe even someone at your client, who you build that personal relationship with, and they start to really care about your development? And not just what you do for them?


Will Bachman  28:53

What is one thing that you like listeners to take away? Who want to improve their influence skills? Like what’s the one or one or two or three things that we should keep top of mind that we should remember on Monday morning, if we’re trying to improve or influence skills?


Huijin Kong  29:15

It just starts with the why I mean, if I remember my, my peers, and my my fellow friends, from McKinsey days and beyond, you know, we’re all in some ways, have high aspirations and idealism, right. But we’re also probably 1520 30 years into our careers and and so I would say, you know, reflect on your why, what is the positive outcome that you really want to have? Beyond the projects that you’re doing, right? What what is that the ethos of what you’re doing and the purpose because I think positive outcome, it all depends on how much positive outcome we want to have and why right so that I think is the The first part, the second part of a consultant, I would say just less time on the PowerPoint and on process, more paying attention to the individuals and really seeing them as individuals and human beings and connect with them at at that level, be it emotions and state and just really pay attention to that. Because they that I think will yield a whole new horizons of, of why they they love what you do or maybe they actually have some some questions about what you do and what you’re trying to do for their company. So with that, and you know, find a learning, learning buddy, somebody who can give you that feedback on your influence, what’s worKong, what’s not, why maybe even kick you under under the table if they think you need to adjust in a meeting, because that will make all the difference.


Will Bachman  30:56

So the book is positive influence, the first and last mile of leadership, Legion. For listeners who wanted to follow up and learn more about your firm or about the book, where would you point them online.


Huijin Kong  31:12

Just go to W W, W dot positive influence dot life, you’ll definitely find more information about the book. You can do the plus influence assessment where you can do a little fun but serious, real quick take on your own influence skills and actually get others people’s feedback in a very user friendly fashion and get all the resources on how you can deepen your own influence.


Will Bachman  31:42

Amazing. We should thank you so much for joining today. And congratulations on the new book.


Huijin Kong  31:48

Thank you so much. We see it as the long haul. We hope to really contribute this as the next classic and influence after Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence. So if you liked the book, please buy more copies for your friends family, mentees clients and leave us a review on Amazon. Thank you

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