Three Ways You May Know You Want To Increase Your Influence
Influence is something we often think about in connection with leaders, not necessarily Jill from accounting or Bobby in IT. Everyone, though, has influence at work, with their colleagues, leaders, customers, vendors, etc. When you offer up a new idea at a meeting, what happens? How do you work with that coworker that just keeps getting under your skin? Have you been promoted or given new tasks lately? All of these things are connected to our influence at work.
Here are three ways you may know you want to increase your influence at work.
1. You feel like your ideas at work aren’t heard.Picture a scenario when you suggest to a colleague or a team that a certain approach might be the way to go. How do they respond? Are you comfortable with how you would approach that situation? Do you have a variety of tools in your toolkit depending on the specific situation? Some of the options include
- Softly making a suggestion to one person and letting them run with it
- Making a series of enthusiastic presentations to the group
- Bringing up the idea in multiple small groups with different participants to see if you can start a grass-roots movement
- Creating a recommendation tool that shows a couple of options that address a given situation, including the one you’d like to offer, and facilitating a collaborative discussion to help find the right path
- Reaching out to a higher-level influencer to solicit their help
- Launching a “trial” or “pilot” with your idea and showcasing the results
- ...and countless others…
Each of these ideas require a couple of soft skills and likely some technical skills. In each case, you’ll need to know your audience - who they are, how they are persuaded, what’s important to them, what upsets them, what delights them, how they communicate, what else is top of mind for them, etc. In each case, you’ll need to apply the right level of self-management to adjust your tone, your pace, your enthusiasm, your urgency, your message, your communication approach, etc. to meet the needs of the situation at hand. In each case you’ll also want to make sure that you’re putting the needs of the company first, and that you can clearly demonstrate that. From a technical skills standpoint, you’ll also need to use the tools correctly. To increase your influence, brushing up on the technical and the soft skills may be necessary, and you may want to bounce your ideas off of someone else.
2. You feel like some people are just hard to work with.
Picture a scenario where that one person that seems to keep getting under your skin gets assigned to a working group with you. What do you do? What happens to your attitude? How does your desire to work on that working group change? What do you do to gain mastery over your own stories to help you be more effective in that situation? What do you do to help that other person if there’s something about their interaction that may be off-putting to others? Some approaches you might be tempted to consider are
- Asking to be reassigned to a different group
- Letting your frustration be clearly evident on your face and in your tone
- Holding your breath and gritting your teeth until it’s over
- Politely smiling and pretending everything is okay
- Reaching out to others in the working group and excluding that challenging person.
Sadly each of these ideas can put you further behind in your organizational influence. Adding a little more emotional self-awareness and self-management could help you manage your emotions. When we’re demonstrating effective influence others will look at you and think, “Wow, that’s amazing! You can literally work with anyone!” (rather than “shoot, I know better than to try to put the two of you in the same group”). When we’re demonstrating effective influence, others desire our presence more than our absence...so frustrated or grouchy-faced responses are probably not ideal. When we’re positively influencing others, we’re finding ways to be authentic and genuine, so lying through our gritted teeth is definitely not the way to go! And effective influence leaves others knowing that you don’t go behind others’ backs, so we’d want to include that challenging person, not exclude them. In all cases, if we adjust the way we think of that person (applying a little more unconditional positive regard) and the way we interact with that person (adding a little more candor and constructive feedback where needed and perhaps even coaching as the situation warrants), we can influence more effectively.
3. You feel like you’re in a rut and not achieving the goals you’d set out to achieve.
Picture a situation in which you’re passed over for a promotion, or you get offered a new role, but it’s essentially the same one you’ve been doing for a while. What’s going on there? Questions running through your mind might include
- How do I keep getting stuck with these same sets of tasks?
- Why did they pick that other person over me?
- How did I land in yet another role doing the same thing?
- Don’t they know I can do more than this?
- Why do I feel like I’m on a treadmill?
Some of this set of questions is useful, but some less so. Questions that cause us to stop and reflect on what we’re learning, how we’re growing, what accountability we’re taking for our own development are very productive. Questions that frame us in an us vs. them or a woe-is-me kind of light are less useful for increasing your influence. The most influential people I know find themselves in a situation like that, and ask questions like, “how can I grow from this?” “how can I be a role model for others in this situation?” and even “how can I build better relationships with the decision-makers to give them a chance to see me shine?” Asking how we can improve and how we can move from where we are now to a clearly-defined next step is a great way to improve our influence.
Maybe in that third situation, it’s not the “role” so much as we keep having the same conversations. The same concepts about learning so we can grow forward apply!
What other situations can you think of that would inspire you to think you need to improve your influence?
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