Why do we want to have influence?
The official definition of ‘influence’ is: the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behaviour of someone or something, or the effect itself.
Let’s innovate this definition for aspiring leaders to: influence is the ability to earn support from others by being trustworthy.
“Leadership is about influence, not control” — Michael Hyatt, Business Coach and Mentor
Influence is not just an ability, it’s a skill, and it doesn’t require power, intimidation, boozing and schmoozing, or butt kissing — it requires tact and strategy.
Influence is not only top-down, it’s also lateral. It’s an holistic approach to build your reputation and become a more effective leader in your life and career.
7 strategies to grow your influence
1. Define everyone’s roles
If you’re a manager, you should make very clear all the tasks and responsibilities for your team and organisation, then specify who is responsible for what. Write it down on a white board so everyone can see it when they walk into the office in the morning. If you’re not a manager, you can take action (and impress your boss) by asking your manager for clarity on who’s responsible for what, and ask if you can make a document which you and your colleagues can reference.
2. Be a solution finder
Business and corporate culture is complex. But, at the end of the day, everyone is human and there are real people in the head offices with families, feelings and personal stresses. The sad truth is that no one likes you when you only bring them news of problems, even though you didn’t cause any of it — you just become associated with problems and headaches in their minds.
When you report to someone, don’t just bring them the problem, bring them the solution as well. This will allow your manager and colleagues to see you as a “doctor” — someone who diagnoses the problem and prescribes the solution. This will set you up as a welcomed thought leader in your organisation.
Business guru, Jim Rohn says: “To solve any problem, there are three questions to ask yourself: First, what could I do? Second, what could I read? And third, who could I ask?”
3. Build confidence in yourself
People are wired to look up to great leaders, and if there is no leader present, people tend to follow the crowd. Build up confidence in yourself and your ability; stand up straight, walk tall and learn to speak up on issues you have expertise in — do this and you’ll see a change in how your manager and colleagues treat you.
4. Discover the interests of the people around you
We’re all self interested and self-preserving creatures. When #$*! hits the fan, people will tend look out for their own interests. It’s really useful to find out what the interests of your manager and colleagues are, so that when you make decisions and propose a change, you already have an idea of how they’ll respond and how they’ll be effected.
5. Be a clear and effective speaker
Being a great speaker requires confidence. But if you learn to speak well, the confidence will show up. When it comes to speaking, making a verbal proposal, formulating a response to a query or a just giving your expert opinion, remember the 3 C’s — effective speech means that you need to be:
Formulate your words logically, don’t speak more than you need to, and what you said yesterday should align with what you’re saying today.
6. Show that you care
Do something to help your colleagues and manager once in a while. This may be inconvenient and annoying at the time, but it creates a ripple effect of trust and allows people look up to you. You may take on an extra project, coach a colleague or simply ask your manager if there’s anything you can take off their plate. Do this every so often and your influence will grow in your team and organisation.
7. Be open and real with people
Ask for help when you need it. It’s always better to get uncomfortable and request help than have to face a crisis in the future. A good practice is to verbally ask your colleagues or manager for help and if they say yes, send them a short email with dot points of what you need help with and any other important details — this makes it easier for people to help you when they know exactly what you need. It also shows that you’re a growth-minded person who is progressive and success driven — and that’s a big plus!