Ileana Musa: We need to just have a paradigm shift in the way we define success in terms of the struggle. Embracing the struggle, leaning into the struggle, loving the fact that you get to work with a lot of people and share your big ideas a hundred times to get that movement going, to get that followership ultimately to click.
Stacie Hoffmeis...: That's Ileana Musa, she's Managing Director, Head of International Banking and Lending, Morgan Stanley Private Bank.
Ileana is an influencer, and I'm talking about a real-life following. The fact that people want to support her ideas and help her make things happen. For years, I've wondered what Ileana's secret is. Today I finally get to ask her. Her truth, influence is a long game and it's something she works hard at, meaning the rest of us can too. As Ileana explains, influence is about preparation, relationship building, self-awareness, persistence and passion. Listen in as Ileana breaks down how to build real, lasting influence in your professional sphere and how to use it to advance the projects you care about.
I'm Stacie Hoffmeister. Welcome back to Come In, Let's Talk.
Ileana, [00:01:30] hi.
Ileana Musa: Hello, Stacie.
Stacie Hoffmeis...: Ileana, we are here to talk about influencing. I'd love to just take a moment to level set on what influence means for you. In this series, we've spoken about a lot of big concepts, like vision, voice. Now that we're talking about influence, how do you define it?
Ileana Musa: This is a that I love to explore because we don't pay enough [00:02:00] attention to it. And it's so important. So I would start by saying, look, when I think about influence, I think about instilling followership, which is getting others to see your vision and want to come along for the ride, but by choice. There's different ways to get to that outcome. You can use your power, you can use your title, your position in an organization, but I find that there's different ways to get to that desired outcome and the best way that's most sustainable [00:02:30] is having others see that vision, getting excited about it, and want to jump on the bandwagon in terms of being a player and a supporter of that vision, that strategy, that outlook.
Stacie Hoffmeis...: Can you talk a bit more about how you help inspire people to follow you? How you get them to see your vision and to get on board with it?
Ileana Musa: I actually think it's a privilege. It's a privilege to be able to be in a position [00:03:00] that you can socialize ideas. You can bring innovation to the table to help others get excited about shaping the future. To me, that's what influence is, is thinking about the big ideas that we're not yet anchored on and getting others to see the future, see the possibilities. And that means it takes some times a little bit longer to do, because you need to focus on each individual and you need to understand where they are vis-a-vis your vision, what's important to them. And [00:03:30] you've got that master plan in terms of the collective, but you also have a keen understanding of each person that's key to the success and you're taking the time to listen. You're taking the time to understand, do they get it? Do they not get it? What are the concerns? And so that takes time. There's an investment of time in terms of rallying people around the opportunity.
Stacie Hoffmeis...: There's something about you where people... You really set people on fire and [00:04:00] people get excited about what you're excited about. It's like a Jedi Mind Trick or something that you use. Could you talk a bit more about what tactics you use to set people on fire and to get them to follow you?
Ileana Musa: Yeah. I'm a non-conformist, so I'm always thinking about possibilities, not just in terms of, again, the business that I have the opportunity [00:04:30] to lead and the team that I have the opportunity to collaborate with, but it's also about the personal success. When you really have to lean in and use your influence, it usually means that you are driving change in a way that hasn't been done before. And that requires people seeing the opportunity, not just for the business and certainly not for me, but for themselves. And so I do believe that people get excited and part of it is because they want to connect [00:05:00] and be part of something great. And so being able to focus on not just the business priorities, but the individual personal and professional development, I think gets people excited. And that's part of this opportunity. It's getting folks to understand they have a seat at the table, they get to contribute, and they're part of that solution. And so that's one.
The other one is, when I think about influences, anybody that rallies around it, that wants [00:05:30] to come on board has to understand that we are change agents. And so this vision around being able to see the future, the possibility, sometimes that's intimidating when in the end you have to realize that you're going to a place you haven't been. It means that you may not end up doing things the way you've always done them.
And then understanding the why. Why are we doing this? Why are we doing this for the firm? Why are we doing this for the clients? Why are we doing for one another? Really important to think [00:06:00] through what's not usually spoken about. And sometimes that means explaining and sharing what it means to you personally. So you've got to put yourself out there, be a little bit vulnerable, and get folks to understand why is this so important to you professionally, personally? And sometimes that's enough to bring people along. They may not see the full vision, they may not buy into the entire idea, but they're willing to support you because you care deeply about it.
Stacie Hoffmeis...: [00:06:30] I'm an impatient person. I know my faults. That is one of them. And so often I can give up perhaps prematurely on being able to influence someone because it's just not happening fast enough. What advice would you give me to help develop some patience? Why is it worth the wait?
Ileana Musa: Yes. It's a balancing [00:07:00] act because you want to go back at it, and then you also want to know when it's time to walk away. And I think that's the whole point of the skill, which is you're going to lean in, you're going to go back at it, and you also need to understand when maybe it's not the right time. Sometimes you have to go with this 10 times over before it's going to click for someone. Sometimes you have to go deeper in the second conversation or talk about how what you're aiming to accomplish aligns [00:07:30] brilliantly with somebody else's goals. And sometimes when you hit a wall, you need to take a step back and re-energize yourself. I always say that's when you go back to your reservoir of whatever, re-energizes you and fuels you to go back at it and go back at it as if you're doing it for the first time.
So you need to think about who are the people that do get it, that buy into it, that you can go back at it with them to rebuild the conviction around why this [00:08:00] makes sense.
Number two, talking to those stakeholders that do get it and asking for their support and helping get others along so that you're not in it alone. But sometimes it requires you pause, you pause, you take a step back before you go back at it. So you need to have those strategies that help you stay in the game, understand you're playing for the long game, and then using those resources that help you go back at it in a way that you've got positive [00:08:30] intentionality around it. And that you're not being cynical, because sometimes we get frustrated and we take it personal. I always say this is something that we can not take personal because everybody's in a different stage. Everybody has a different perception and ultimately they're trying to take care of their own needs. So all of these things take time, but rely on the network, rely on the resources and go back at it. Because if you're willing to stay and play for the long game, you will [00:09:00] bring others along.
Stacie Hoffmeis...: When you say sometimes it takes going at it 10 times and treat the 10th time like it's your first time, that's pretty profound. There's so much optimism and there's so much energy in that. I've got to chew on that for a bit.
Ileana Musa: When you work in a matrix organization or in a large organization, or... I mean, you can fill in the blank. There's a set of circumstances that may create the need for you [00:09:30] to have to go back at it. You find different ways to do it. How do you connect with folks before you get into the boardroom? Figuring out who are the folks that in a group, it's more conducive to have the conversation to get folks excited. Understanding who are the other influencers that can help you get there. And so part of going at it again, doesn't mean you go at it the same way. It means you also ask yourself, how do you do it in a way that's going to lead to a different, better outcome in terms [00:10:00] of those individuals that you're trying to bring along.
So you're ultimately trying and testing new strategies and that's where the flexibility and the adaptability comes in, because you need to understand that it's the art of the influence that really matters. And the art of anything means that there's not one way of doing it. And you've got to go at it different ways and think about it through the lens of the individuals you're trying to bring along. And so you may try to do it in the boardroom. You may then try to pull up with three people. [00:10:30] You may then go out to launch. I mean, now we're doing lunch on Zoom, but you know what I mean. You connect with people in different formats, different forums to have the conversation.
Stacie Hoffmeis...: Is there ever a time when one should throw in the towel and when you should walk away?
Ileana Musa: Yeah, that's part of the balance. That's part of the equation in terms of thinking through all of those big ideas. You want to keep them coming because ultimately influence in my mind [00:11:00] is about innovation. And innovation means creativity and that's the fuel in any organization in terms of being a leader and a player in the industry for the long haul. And so you want to give yourself the room to do that.
I once worked for a manager who said that he at any given point has 10 ideas in play, 10 ideas in motion, that he's rallying people around knowing that only one's going to stick. And I thought that was very insightful because [00:11:30] for many of us, we think that walking away from an idea means we fail. I think sometimes for women, the way we define success is in very narrow terms. And so getting very comfortable with this model where you're bringing big ideas to the table, you're vetting them, you're socializing them, they're aligned to your strategy, but not all of them are going to stick, is a best practice in my mind.
So understanding when it may not be the right time, [00:12:00] doesn't mean it's never going to be, but you do need to understand when it's time to hit the pause button and I think your stakeholders, your network, those people you trust can help guide you there. And that's a really important part of it because you don't want to come across as someone who isn't self-aware. I think self-awareness is a very big element here to be thinking about as you're navigating the big ideas, because you need to make sure that people understand, you know when to walk away because it's [00:12:30] not the right time.
And then finally, it's getting very comfortable with resistance, which is... Again, I think we all assume that success means potentially things are going to get done easily, that we're going to be able to take things across the finish line, and that means success. But we need to just have a paradigm shift in the way we define success in terms of the struggle, embracing the struggle, leaning into the struggle, loving [00:13:00] the fact that you get to work with a lot of people and share your big ideas a hundred times to get that movement going, to get that followership ultimately to click.
Stacie Hoffmeis...: Do you ever get concerned about losing credibility because you're championing or not letting go of something, or you've got a vision that just others aren't seeing yet?
Ileana Musa: Loki, [00:13:30] we all have those moments where we scratch our heads and say, "How can they not get it?" You're seeing this bigger picture. You're seeing this big idea. You're out into the future and you get frustrated that others aren't there with you or at the pace that you'd like them to be. And so I think that's very natural. I think there's a lot of emotion when you care about something. I think it's very natural. It's very natural when you're a disruptor, because ultimately that's what you are. When you're trying to bring [00:14:00] a new way of doing things, a new way of thinking about something, you're disrupting, you're creating an environment to pave the way for change for a new way of thinking about something. And that's real work. That's hard work. And so, of course, it's your reputation, it's your credibility, and you want to make sure that you're bringing others along to have that big win, but when you're having resistance and there's frustration, you pause and you think, "Goodness, is this going to hurt me in terms of [00:14:30] the outcome?"
And that's where again, Stacie, you need to tap your network. Asking those stakeholders, "Is it time? On the receiving end, how does it feel? Do you think it's the right time to keep pushing?" And so it comes back to the people. This is a process that includes a lot of people and using the people as an asset to help you navigate is so important.
Stacie Hoffmeis...: I want to dive into the relationship piece of this a bit more because you've spoken quite a bit [00:15:00] about people. How much is your ability to influence Ileana based on the relationships you already have with people? Does it mean that you are able to influence people where you've already built trust over years? Do you have that same degree of influence over people who may not be in that same proximity to you in terms of that circle of trust?
Ileana Musa: Sure. And human capital, as we refer to it, is so [00:15:30] important. And whether it's a new role, a new job, a new assignment, or a new idea, you have to think about the people and have a plan. And so I don't think you need to have relationships for many, many years. I think about it in terms of purpose and making sure that the folks you're connecting with to build those relationships with understand you as a human being first and foremost, [00:16:00] and then the work that you're leading, and then the big idea. And so understanding and connecting with people first and foremost, before you connect on the idea, I think is really important because too often, we go in focused on the agenda, on the topic at hand.
This past year, I think it was a learning for all of us. Certainly it's been a point of reflection for me in terms of the importance of taking the time upfront, to check in with folks and [00:16:30] understand how they're doing, how their families are doing, what's important to them, what are they thinking about before you jump into business. Understanding their goals, their objectives, and terms of your business or their business is also really important. So it's almost you're thinking about it. You're making an upfront investment and understanding everything about this individual and what they care about to try to find an alignment with what you're about to present [00:17:00] or discuss or talk about.
Earlier in my career, I would focus a lot more on the idea, on the outcome, on the results and less on people. And now it's the complete opposite. It's really taking the time to hone in on the individuals and understand what's really important to them. And then that helps me figure out how the work I'm doing may align to what's important to them.
Stacie Hoffmeis...: [00:17:30] I am marveling right now at what you just said. To be honest, I'm chewing on it. There's three words that come to mind and they all start with Cs. So Ileana, we're going to call this our three Cs. One is connection. Such a clear part of your strategy is a deeply connecting with the other person. The second is care, showing that you truly care. And then courage is what I hear. And so much [00:18:00] of what you say, and I don't know if you see this, but to go into these conversations, it's setting your own agenda aside to really focus on the other person, what's important to them. To show them care and to be vulnerable yourself takes a lot of courage. Does that resonate at all or?
Ileana Musa: Yes, I love the three Cs framework. I would say there's a fourth one I would add because when you're able to do that successfully, [00:18:30] it builds confidence. That confidence is important in terms of the follow-on engagement and the follow-on meetings you're going to have and the outreach. Having the confidence to go back at it with conviction, it's so important. And so we talk about big ideas in terms of the technical work that we all do in our industry, but a lot of this is EQ, it's emotional. It's how do people connect with you? [00:19:00] And so being aware of that emotional connectivity is really important. And the sooner you do it in your career, the more effective and successful you are.
Stacie Hoffmeis...: Let's talk about these influencing conversations themselves. Let's get really, really practical. What do these conversations look like? Let's say you've built some level of trust with the person, you've connected with them, you've shown that you care. That's established. [00:19:30] Walk me through how you approach that first meeting, where you're trying to get them behind your vision?
Ileana Musa: Sure. That first meeting is strategic in nature in terms of just I'm trying to gauge how much they know about the business, where we've been and where we're going. Because again, I think too often, we assume that the folks we are collaborating with or engaging for support in terms of an idea or strategy, [00:20:00] more often than not, we assume they know more about our business and they actually do. And so creating a baseline around the business, where have you been, and also talking about their business is part one. So articulating...
I usually talk about my time and role, how long I've been with the firm, what have we been focused on? What do I feel more proud of? What am I focused on now as I head into the future? And so the very macro [00:20:30] topics around the business that I'm part of. And then I want to hear from them in terms of their priorities as well. So we have a conversation about, at a high level, what's most important as we're navigating.
And then from there, part two is the introduction of the topic at hand that you want to delve into in terms of getting the buy-in. And that always is going to align to part one, which is you want to understand the bigger picture of how this [00:21:00] idea fits in. So again, you don't want to go straight into the idea, because then the question is why? Why are we doing this and how does it fit in? So you're trying to paint a picture of here's a starting point. Here's the ecosystem that I'm part of. And then here's how this idea fits in and why I believe it's important we take it on or look into it.
And then there's an ask. I always say, in every meeting, there's an ask like, "What is it that I need from this individual? [00:21:30] Do I need them to give me feedback? Do I need their support in the boardroom? Something I didn't ask for before, but now I do. Do I have your support in terms of this next meeting, this next forum in terms of this idea, or are there other individuals on your team that I should spend time with in terms of this proposal, this idea." And so just understanding the way they think about what I'm bringing forward in terms of greatest success. But [00:22:00] painting that bigger picture is so important, Stacie, because sometimes we get too much into the details too soon. We get too tactical too soon, we get into execution mode.
And so I think it's really important to start with the strategic and the macro and the impact it's going to have. And then I want to know, how do I navigate this idea through this organization and looking for your support, whether it's your support individually, you and your team, roadblocks that you anticipate, but using [00:22:30] them as an advisor to give me feedback and advice.
Stacie Hoffmeis...: We've talked about self-awareness, being able to read a room as well. And so that self-awareness enabling you to be able to read others better. Is this a natural skill? Were you born this way? Did you cultivate it?
Ileana Musa: I believe that you absolutely [00:23:00] can. If you're not self-aware, you can't ever read other people. You need to be able to be aware and read yourself before you can do that with others. And it does take time and it's a skill you need to develop. As you engage with folks, you're looking for signs, the body language. Certainly if you get to do it in person, it's better, but even over the phone, the tone, the pauses. So thinking through how is what I'm sharing on [00:23:30] the receiving end and how is this person taking it in? And then checking in with them and asking, "How does it sound? Is this resonating with you?" This whole notion of becoming self-aware, it's something I've worked on over many, many years. When you first start off, sometimes you get it right, other times you don't. But once you have those relationships, you can ultimately ask people, you have the rapport and the trust to ask, to make sure the way you're [00:24:00] perceiving and you're validating with them is exactly what they're experiencing.
Stacie Hoffmeis...: When someone doesn't have this piece, how do you help them see that this is an area that they need to work on?
Ileana Musa: It's so important to have the opportunity to receive that feedback like I have throughout my career from my managers, my mentors, my sponsors. And as managers, [00:24:30] we owe it to others in terms of their development, because this is so subtle and yet so impactful. And you do need to talk about it because technically you could have all the experience and the expertise, but you need to have the interpersonal skills to bring others along because otherwise you can't ultimately execute. And so I do have the conversation. It requires [00:25:00] a safe environment where you can allow an employee to give you the permission to go there. So again, you need to have the trust and the rapport. Using practical examples around the interaction, that spotlight where that worked really well, or where there was a miss, that there's an opportunity to do better next time. I think is really a great way to have the conversation after the meeting, after the conference, after whatever the setting is.
Stacie Hoffmeis...: We've already [00:25:30] established that being self-aware, having EQ, understanding of the other person, connecting with them, showing that we care, they're all important. Is there anything else that's important for me as the influencer to keep in mind or to portray so that I'm not giving up my credibility or my power or undermining my ability to attract followership?
Ileana Musa: So important we do all this work [00:26:00] in terms of the ideas and bringing others along. And in a matter of minutes, you can allow others to see you in a very different light, because you have put yourself in a situation where you're not giving yourself full credit, or you're too apologetic, or you're using weak language. I think that's [00:26:30] where confidence comes in, which is number one, we may not have all the confidence when we're walking in the door, but we need to portray that we do. And so finding ways to prepare mentally so that when you're walking in the door, or you're jumping on the phone, or you're doing your presentation, you're bringing your A game is really important. And so your presence matters because you need to have conviction to bring others along. If you're wavering, you're doubting, you're [00:27:00] apologetic, you're not going to get the outcome that you want. And so confidence is a core element. And sometimes that means you need to mentally prepare and convince yourself.
I always laugh because before I never said this, but I do affirmations. I think the idea, and then I say the idea on what I want to believe for myself, and I will do it over and over again in preparation for [00:27:30] how I want to think when I'm in that setting. And so there's many other strategies, but the point is you've got to walk in having full conviction that what you're bringing to the table matters, that you care about it a great deal, and that you're passionate about it. Because if you're not passionate about it and you really don't care, that's going to come through. So you can't take on things that you don't care about. Part of the reason I have fuel in the belly every single morning is because I love [00:28:00] what I do. And some of it, although it's incredibly difficult work, I care a great deal.
Stacie Hoffmeis...: Ileana, thank you so much for spending this time with me today and know that you have a dedicated follower in me, for sure. Ileana, for life.
Ileana Musa: Such a pleasure, Stacie. I'm a huge fan. Your vision, I mean, talk about big ideas. This is it.
Stacie Hoffmeis...: [00:28:30] That was Ileana Musa, Morgan Stanley's co-head of International Wealth Management and head of International Banking and Lending. Thanks so much for joining us on this episode. Come back next time for a bonus episode, where we recap key takeaways from the series and talk about how you can find your own professional superpower and use it to take your career to the next level. Kara Underwood, Morgan [00:29:00] Stanley Wealth Management's Head of Diversity, Inclusion and Talent, and my boss, will be my guest. Come In, Let's Talk is produced by Sarah Hartung, executive director at Morgan Stanley, along with the team at FreeTime Media. Music is by John Palmer. I'm your host, Stacie Hoffmeister.