Keith Mercurio was finishing his presentation at Pantheon 2022, ServiceTitan’s annual conference for the trades, when said he wanted to bring the discussion to his father.
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The elder Mercurio spent 35 years teaching public school in Arlington, Mass., near Boston. The man never complained, Mercurio said, and always found the best in his students.
“To this day, I have people calling me and telling me stories,” Mercurio said of the lifetime English teacher. “Now, he has Alzheimer’s.”
Given the circumstances, Mercurio admits that anger and frustration lurk around every corner, “to remember who he was and want him to be that again.”
But he refuses to do that. With intentionality, Mercurio approaches his father’s situation with a different process.
“Every day, we get to show up, see the best in him, and let him be exactly who he is,” Mercurio said. “He’s still brilliant. He’s still funny. And he’s still an inspiration.”
In one moving and touching real-life story, Mercurio brought together the key tenets of his presentation, “Ethical Influence: The Art of Science and Inspiring Change.” Mercurio is ServiceTitan’s Director of Executive Success and the CEO of his company, Ethical Influence Global, which teaches leaders to influence in a way that honors and serves, and works to unlock a new level of influence in already exceptional leaders.
“The question I’ve become obsessed with asking and answering is, ‘How do we learn to influence people in a way that honors and serves them?’" Mercurio said during his 50-minute presentation. “It's those questions that I ask you to ask, from this point forward.”
Mercurio’s Ethical Influence Model consists of four quadrants: Awareness of self, the ability to influence self, the awareness of others, and the influence of others.
Here’s a too-brief summary of each:
Awareness of self
This starts with your state—state of mind and state of being. Often these are influenced by circumstances. Frustration follows being caught in traffic. Anger follows when people are late.
“Think about how powerless that way of being is,” Mercurio said.
Instead, he said, we can choose our state. All of us understand how when we buy a new car we suddenly see that car on the road. That’s because we have told our subconscious that the car is important to us, so it makes it available to the conscious.
If we focus on what is wrong in our life, we will see that in our life. We have told our subconscious that is what is important. The same with people, and employees. If we see an employee as broken, they will become that broken version of themselves that we see, Mercurio said.
“This is why you’re always right, by the way,” Mercurio said.
If we think “I am tired” or “I am worthless” or “I am unhappy,” we are creating more energy around those feelings and bringing them into our focus. He added that the mind’s physiology follows.
“How we hold ourselves tells our brain what hormones and chemicals should be moving around,” Mercurio said.
Shifting the “I am” is a key emphasis for a leader’s mindset.
Influence of self
The example used by Mercurio: When any of us were young and tried sports or art or theater and it didn’t go well, the words our parents or role models used mattered. Typically, those words were “chin up.” Two small but important words.
“You can’t be sad with your chin up,” he said. “It doesn’t work. We’re inextricably bound and wired, mind and body. This is about learning to harness that.”
The key, he said, is to look at yourself and see what you want to be. “I am a failure” brings different mental energy than “I am working to succeed.” Instead of saying ‘I suck at yoga,’ say ‘I will work to improve at yoga.”
As an exercise, Mercurio had all in attendance write three adjectives describing the best version of themselves, the leadership state that would make them the proudest and most effective. All preceded by the words “I am,” which he called two of the most powerful words in language.
“Look at your ‘I am’ statement,” Mercurio said. “Summon the best version of yourself for the job.”
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Awareness of others
This means paying attention to others. It means asking questions. And most important it means being an active listener when others speak.
Mercurio was once advised in a conversation to listen carefully to the last three words the other person says.
“When will I know those come?” he said. “That’s the point.”
We often ask others “how are you?” but sometimes don’t really care how they are. If we wait and listen to the last three words, it means we are paying attention to how they are. We are listening.
“If you're interested in someone's opinion, then really ask them,” Mercurio said. “Don't ask them to lead them to your idea. That's manipulation. Leaders ask because they're curious, because they genuinely want to know what their people think. And then they listen. They listen with curiosity.
“You want to end the toxic culture in your business? Stop operating from the premise of, what's in it for me? This is about a higher calling.
“This is about becoming contributors to the world around us, contributors to the people we have the opportunity to lead. This is about becoming generous, becoming kind. This is about becoming the adult version of you.”
Influence of others
“If you want to influence your people into being extraordinary, you need to, first, choose to see them as such,” Mercurio said.
He then made a statement that seemed central to his entire talk: “Folks, all people get to be is as you choose to see them.”
If we see an employee as a malingerer, our mind will lead us to that belief. Same with seeing someone as exceptional. That is why Mercurio suggests including the word worthy in our thinking. This becomes the “they are” portion of our thought process.
"These men and women are worthy of my time, my love, inspiration, support, a fulfilling career, whatever you want,” Mercurio said. “You put worthy in there, you believe it, and it becomes true.”
That leads right back to Mercurio’s point about honoring and serving.
“When you put a label on someone, when you think about them, when you speak to them, when you speak about them, ask yourself these two questions: ‘Does it honor? And does it serve?’” he said.
“I would encourage you to have the same conversation with yourself when you put a label on yourself. When you get into that negative self-thought, I want you to just have a moment and say to yourself, ‘Now hang on a second. Does that honor me? And does that serve me?’
“There is not one circumstance I've encountered in my coaching in which this rule can't be applied. There's not one single interaction, no matter how difficult, no matter how challenging, in which you cannot continue to honor and serve people.
“But you have to have the courage to be willing to rewrite the label and to step into it yourself.”
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