'Influence starts with listening': High-powered business coach on inspiring results

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NEW YORK (WCBS 880) -- The most successful business leaders inspire and motivate their employees to do their best work.

"The number one reason people will do things for you is because they like you," said Alisa Cohn - a former startup CFO who blossomed into a startup and CEO coach, advising the leaders of major corporations such as Pfizer, Microsoft, Google and IBM.

Cohn writes, "Influence is the way you get others on board and sell your ideas." On the WCBS Small Business Spotlight, sponsored by Dime Community Bank, she elaborated by telling Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso that "influence starts with listening" to employees' perspectives and aspirations.

"When you listen to people and hear back what they say, that is the way people begin to start liking you, appreciating you, and that relatedness is going to help you sell ideas even if they're a little bit controversial to the person that you're talking to," she explained.

This effort to understand diverse views will put workers in the best position to succeed and achieve corporate goals.

"You can't just tell people what to do even if you're the boss," Cohn said, adding, "They don't do what you want them to do just because you want them to do it, and if they did, they're not really the best workers because you want people who are innovative, and creative, and resourceful. You don't just want compliant order takers."

The highly regarded business coach and guest lecturer at Harvard University and Cornell University allows it's hard work to cultivate a team of entrepreneurial-minded employees, but that will foster sustainable growth.

"If you invented and are now building a startup around a new way of doing COVID testing that's quick and easy, that's fantastic but that may not be the market need over time," Cohn said of sustainability in an unprecedented business climate. "You got to expand that to think overall about doing testing of other kinds of things so that people can get the information they need, because they don't necessarily need to know forever if they have COVID, but they do need to understand important health information about themselves over time."

Cohn told Connolly and Carousso the best way to grow a brand is to build a strong reputation and find opportunities to disseminate your ideas with potential customers and the business community.

"It's very helpful to share your ideas on a blog, get published, and over time get published on more and more prestigious and high-end publications so your ideas have merit," she said.

Links to publications where you and your business were quoted or featured on your website are effective marketing tools along with client testimonials. Cohn calls this "social proof" whereby those with whom you've done quality business are implicitly or explicitly endorsing your services.

Learn how to grow a sustainable business and empower your workers to deliver results on the Small Business Spotlight video above.