Establishing influence takes effort and practice, and these are skills that can be learned
Being able to influence is vital for leaders to get heard and to get initiatives across the line, according to Michelle Gibbings, founder of Change Meridian and author of the new book, Step Up: How to Build Your Influence at Work.
“An effective leader knows they can’t do it alone,” said Gibbings.
“They need each team member operating optimally so they can collectively make progress and affect change in the organisation. To do that, the team members need to be able to influence.”
Influential people do many things differently, added Gibbings. For one, they take the long view with relationships.
“This means they don’t sacrifice a relationship for short term, self-serving gain,” she said.
“Consequently, they take the time to listen to people and welcome different thoughts, ideas and opinions as they know they don’t have all the answers.”
They are also not afraid to take a stand and speak up against the majority on the things that are important – not just for them, but for other people as well, she said.
Moreover, they are willing to admit when they make a mistake, and see mistakes as an opportunity to learn.
“They acknowledge the efforts of others and don’t take the glory for successes that were not there’s or there’s alone,” said Gibbings.
“This is because they are not afraid to hire people who are smarter than them. They know they need an awesome team around them if they are to make progress.”
Gibbings said there are people who appear naturally influential and easily able to navigate their way through complex environments.
“However, establishing influence takes effort and practice, and these are skills that can be learned,” she said.
Gibbings outlined ten steps to extend your influence:
Examine the mindset you are applying to your work and relationships. Letting assumptions drive your thought processes, and ultimately behaviour, can negatively impact your decision making and interactions with colleagues and stakeholders.
Take the time to understand what intrinsically motivates those around you. Having insight into others better enables you to work with them, and encourage and inspire them to secure common goals.
Understand the system
Know the system in which the organisation operates, and how the players inter-relate, make decisions, and secure outcomes. By understanding how the system works you are better able to navigate the complexity and find your way through the back door.
Maintain your integrity
Integrity once lost is almost impossible to regain. Guard it carefully and push beyond self-interest. Seek to play the better game in discussions and advocate positions that are not self-serving.
Get busy, on purpose
Influential people get things done. Be deliberate about how you use your time. Be decisive in how you make decisions. And lastly, be determined in the face of set-backs.
Play the long game
Seek to secure long term, constructive relationships which are mutually beneficial. One sided relationships – where it’s all about one person – don’t last.
Design your network
Be conscious about how you build your network. Identify relationship gaps and weaknesses, and put a plan in place to address.
Be conscious of your actions and how they are seen by other people. Inconsistencies in what you say and do are easily seen by others. Your leadership is constantly on display, and remember that leadership isn’t defined by hierarchy.
It’s not how much you talk, but what you say that matters. Ground your messages in reality and what people need to know. Keep it simple. Be empathetic, authentic and transparent.
Strive to secure outcomes that leave all involved with their dignity intact. Build the necessary relationships early. Be ready for the negotiation process, and have the resolve to see it through.