If there’s one competency you want to develop to succeed as a leader, it’s the ability to influence others. Influence is a key emotional intelligence competency. It is the ability to have a positive impact on others, to persuade or convince them in order to gain their support.
Influence skills are important to hone as leaders are required to work across multi-stakeholder groups, numerous departments, build a collaborative partnership with peers, and most recently to pivot to manage virtually.
By cultivating your influence capabilities you are growing your ability to be persuasive and engaging, and to increase the level of buy-in. The ability to influence can result in a “seat at the table,” the ability to contribute in a meaningful way, or to help shape a path forward.
START BY TAKING A LOOK AT YOURSELF
Assess your strengths and weaknesses
What are your strengths? How can they help you influence others? Which strengths are you overly reliant to the point that it is undermining you? What are your blind spots? If you don’t know, find out. What are you afraid of letting go of? For some it’s being able to control the outcome. For other’s it’s a fear of being seen as indecisive or weak. Developing your ability to influence and be influenced is a leadership capability that will 10X your success.
Take a couple minutes and consider: Who have you effectively influenced in the past. What did you do that enabled you to influence the other person? Did you listen to understand their point of view? Did you modify your proposal as a result? Was there give and take that resulted in common understanding or an even better outcome or solution? How did you make the other person feel?
I bet they didn’t feel run over by a Mack truck. Knowing yourself and how to meaningfully engage others is part of how you build your influence capabilities.
To be a strong leader in any role you need to develop the ability to bring people along with you. That is not accomplished by telling. While there may be situations where you have to tell people to do something, like get out of the burning building now, in most situations that isn’t the case. The days of command and control are over. Hierarchal leadership won’t get you what you want. it’s time to flex your style and get to know your stakeholders or the people you want to influence in a new way.
Start by building stronger relationships based on mutual trust and respect. What makes them tick? What are their aspirations, their worries, their goals, their strengths? How is their personality different than yours? If you could spend a day in their shoes and look at the world from their perspective:
- What are they most interested in?
- What do they need to make an informed decision? To trust you?
- What do they need support with to deliver on their department or company goals?
- What do they need from you?
Based on this, how might you flex your style to be more influential with this person?
Identify a role model
Who do you know or have you seen that is influential? Consider what you’ve seen them do that is different from what you do. How they show up in conversations or meetings differently. What do you see them doing that creates a level of receptivity for others to be influenced? What underlies their ability? How open are they to other’s opinions? How and what do they communicate, not only verbally but also at the feeling or sensing level? Are they interested in you and your point of view? How do you know?
Reach out and ask this person to be a thought partner, a mentor or to provide feedback to help you hone your influence capabilities.
Now that you have awareness, it’s time to take your insights and put them into action. The path to learning and growth starts with you.