Over the years I’ve had the privilege of working with a number of high capacity leaders, authors and change agents. We’ll just call them “influencers,” since that’s ultimately what they do. Each being very unique in their respective gifts and skills but all sharing common qualities that help them rise to the top.
Qualities that you can learn and apply to expand your impact as well.
One that I reflect on often isn’t really talked about a lot but I believe it’s a secret weapon for strategic thinking and maximizing influence.
It’s the ability to Anticipate, to predict or expect.
Each of these “influencers” is able to foresee what’s ahead and to predict an outcome. They understand the relationship between cause and effect and know how to leverage their understanding and experience to think things through. They anticipate outcomes based on each situation so that they can respond strategically to get the results they wish to achieve.
Take the game of Chess as an example. If you want to win the game you must be able to anticipate your opponent’s next move. Thinking through the options and working through scenarios in your mind will give you the competitive edge and potential winning move to make. Note: The more you know the game of Chess, the better you’ll be at anticipating the moves.
Or let’s take how we lead, interact with, and influence others as another example. If we want to lead someone somewhere then we must learn how to anticipate what they will respond to (in order to get them to take action). It’s understanding who an individual or group is and predicting how they might react that gives us the ability to communicate in a way that best aligns with what moves them. Note: The more you know your people, the better you will be at anticipating how they might respond.
Anticipation is like a muscle. The more we exercise it, the stronger it becomes. At first it requires being practiced more intentionally, since it involves looking at things through a different lens. Over time though, it becomes more natural and common place as you train your mind to quickly size up the options and possible responses that might lead you to your desired outcome.
How can you increase your ability to Anticipate? Here are 4 simple ways:
- Start with the KNOW. Know the game, Know the people. The more you Know, the better you can predict and respond. Spend the time educating yourself and getting to know more about who and what is around you. The ability to anticipate is birthed out of knowledge and the skill of leveraging that knowledge towards a desired result.
- Think in “What If’s.” Train yourself and others to consider the relationship of cause and effect in every decision you make. Think through scenarios with a “What if we did ___” or “What if we responded like ____” and then consider the effect each might bring. Think of how each choice impacts the next choice. Doing so gives a great perspective that enables future anticipation to become more automatic as similar scenarios unfold.
- Think it Through. Far too often we get caught in a hurry. We’re busy and trying to move fast. In doing so we often miss the ability to capitalize on a strategic choice. If you’re too busy to think it through then you won’t anticipate the next best move to make. Slow down. Consider all options. Think it through.
- Be Aware. One of the best ways to anticipate is simply to observe, be aware of what’s around you, evaluate your choices and act. If you were sitting at a 4-way intersection and saw someone else approaching at a rapid speed, you would likely anticipate that the other driver isn’t about to stop. You could only see that if you were aware and paying attention. If you’re eyes were closed or if you were distracted, you might just roll through the intersection and get t-boned.