10 tips to be an influential leader

Being an influential leader is critical to navigating the increasingly complex workplace environment. Here are 10 tips to get it right.

In today’s increasingly complex work environment it can be difficult for HR professionals to make progress, according to Michelle Gibbings, founder of Change Meridian and author of the new book, Step Up: How to Build Your Influence at Work.

She told HRM that people are asked to do more with less, while expectations are increasing from all quarters – the boss, community, stakeholders and colleagues.
“When you can’t influence, it’s even harder to get traction. You become excised from the decision making in the organisation and ultimately, find yourself out of the loop and uninvolved,” Gibbings said.  
"This isn’t a good outcome for your career.

"The solution to this dilemma is to master the skills and techniques needed to step up and build your influence at work."
Gibbings offered ten tips to take your influencing skills to a new level:
  1. Understand yourself
Examine the mindset you are applying to your work and relationships. Letting assumptions drive your thought processes, and ultimately your behaviour, can negatively impact your decision making and interactions with colleagues and stakeholders. It’s impossible to understand others if you don’t first understand yourself and what drives your behaviour.
  1. Understand others
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. 
  1. Understand the environment
Know the system in which the organisation operates, and how the players interrelate, make decisions, and secure outcomes. This includes understanding what drives change in the environment, as well as the organisation’s strategy, business model and challenges.
Having insight into the system helps you to navigate the complexity, discover opportunities and get your ideas and projects supported.
  1. Get productive
Influential people get things done. Be deliberate about how you use your time. It’s easy to get distracted, so be clear on your purpose and what you need to get done to deliver on it.
Be decisive in how you make decisions. Know when to rely on ‘gut instinct’, or deeper analysis, which involves consulting with relevant stakeholders.
And lastly, be determined in the face of set-backs. Persistence pays off. 
  1. Maintain your integrity
Integrity once lost is almost impossible to regain. Guard it carefully and push beyond self-interest. When you do this you seek to play the better game in discussions and advocate positions that are not self-serving, but serve the greater good. This helps to build trust and relationships.
  1. 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, are not sustainable. Seek to give, before you ever ask for something from the other person. 
Be generous with the support you provide. While helping people secure their goals makes you feel good, it also builds relationships. Humans feel innately obligated to ‘return the favour’, so helping someone else will ultimately help you in the long run.
  1. Build your network
Be conscious about how you build your network. Identify relationship gaps and weaknesses, and put a plan in place to address. Do this in a way which is authentic and shows a genuine interest in people you meet.  Networks are so much more fun when they are filled with people who will challenge, inspire and support you. 
  1. Lead consciously
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.   
Be clear on your personal brand and what you want to be known for. Ask yourself whether you are living up to it.  If not, work out what needs to change.
  1. Craft your communication
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 and believe your own message. It will show when you don’t.
  1.  Negotiate wisely
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.
People often equate the desire to influence with being Machiavellian. It’s not. It’s good business practice; providing it’s done with the intent of securing good outcomes for all involved – not just yourself. If you want to accelerate progress, you need to be able to influence those around you.
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