“Leadership is intentional influence.” ~Michael McKinney~
Client Brianna asks:
People often talk about the importance of influencing internal and external stakeholders. What makes a successful influencer, in your eyes?
Coach Joel answers:
Successful influencers do these five things better than anyone else. These five strategies foster strong relationships that make others see those influencers as people they can rely on. If you succeed in putting these five things into practice in your daily work, you’re just about guaranteed to build influence in your workplace.
- Build strong partnerships. A strong influencer is able to create partnerships across all business units, thereby developing a wider base of support and cooperation. When you develop these strong relationships, you’ll help the whole organization to function more effectively—and you’ll be seen as someone who guides others in developing relationships that benefit the whole group.
- Leverage allies. Your allies will help support your ideas and accomplish the tasks that have been deemed important. Successful influencers cultivate alliances with people across the company who are in positions of leadership or who have strong social capital. Influencers stay in close communication with these allies and have the confidence to ask for what they want. They know how to clearly articulate their needs for support to these allies, spelling out how their request will benefit the whole organization.
- Cause others to rely on them. Because successful influencers shape group decisions and change outcomes for the better, people appreciate their conﬁdence and know they can depend on them. Higher-ups as well as people they supervise come to them for advice and ideas. To get higher-ups to rely on them, successful influencers might become experts in areas that most people aren’t knowledgeable in, filling in important gaps. They might also demonstrate their ability to creatively solve problems that everyone else avoids. The people they supervise feel empowered by talking with them, because influencers give them guidance in developing and implementing their own ideas.
- Lead up. When building your influence within your workplace, don’t just work to lead those who are below you on the hierarchy. Leadership isn’t about having a title. Influencers establish mutual respect with people above them, who seek out and listen to their opinions, ideas, and insights as a result. Voice your input to these key players with confidence, using your existing relationships with key players to reach new ones. For instance, if you have a suggestion for improving a product development strategy, present it to an advocate and ask for help in connecting with decision-makers. Carefully craft your rationale for your ideas and suggestions before speaking with those further up the hierarchy, and voice your input to these key players with confidence.
- Gain results from others. Strong influencers know how to keep others motivated, lighting a fire under them to succeed. That means making them believe they can achieve their goals. They also work to create a positive environment that makes employees happy to come to work. As you become a person who gets results from others, you’ll inspire them to keep taking on more ambitious tasks that positively impact the company’s bottom line.
When you master these five qualities, you’ll have become a successful leader in your organization. You don’t need to be in a formal leadership position to hone and utilize these qualities. As you naturally assume more of an informal leadership role, a work promotion is likely to follow. Don’t wait until someone else gives you the green light—begin stepping into a leadership position now, by developing these key skills. Your influence in the workplace will keep building as you grow more practiced in all of these areas.
Try focusing on one of these five qualities each week. Email Joel to discuss your progress and how you can continue improving.
Have you tried any of these strategies? What were your results?
“Leadership is not about a title or a designation. It’s about impact, influence and inspiration. Impact involves getting results, influence is about spreading the passion you have for your work, and you have to inspire team-mates and customers.” ~Robin S. Sharma~
Client Lorenzo asks:
I’ve worked hard to improve my perception and increase my visibility in my company, and I feel I’ve succeeded. How can I leverage my visibility to become more of a key player in my organization?
Coach Joel answers:
Lorenzo, congrats on strengthening others’ perception of you and achieving greater visibility. Those are important steps toward becoming a key player in your company. To really have an impact on things like its vision and direction, you now need to increase your influence. Having influence over others will allow you to truly have an impact on your organization. Here are three strategies that will help you increase your influence at work.
- Get things done. Let people know they can count on you to accomplish even the toughest assignments. You’ve undoubtedly worked to brand yourself in this way while improving your perception. Keep it up, and work to take on more ambitious and high-profile assignments, particularly those that involve leadership. Your adeptness at managing a team will garner respect from team members as well as higher-ups.
- Become a go-to person. Become someone whom others seek out for advice when striving to accomplish essential tasks and make important decisions. Give honest feedback, instead of sugarcoating things so that others will like you. Rather, gain their respect by becoming known for your candor, being tactful yet truthful. If you start doing this in meetings, others will seek out your input. Make others feel comfortable coming to you for advice or to exchange ideas by being supportive and encouraging in all of your daily interactions.
Additionally, hone particular types of knowledge or skill that will make others see you as the authority in those areas. Take note of any gaps in knowledge in your organization, work to fill them, and then promote yourself as knowledgeable in those areas. As you work to increase the influence you hold by becoming a go-to person, your whole organization will benefit from your efforts.
- Gain buy-in for your ideas. Your established credibility and respect will prompt people to embrace your ideas and want to be a part of what you’re doing. Before pitching an innovative idea, ask yourself whom you need on your side. Leverage the relationships you’ve built with key players in your company to get strong support on your side from the beginning. Sell your ideas to them by having data to back you up and preparing to respond to criticism. Most importantly, present your ideas with confidence, even if you don’t have seniority or a high-level leadership role. Having power or formal authority isn’t necessary to influence others. Belief in yourself is—and it will take you further than you might think.
As you grow your influence at work, you’ll increase your ability to sway opinions and will find people embracing your ideas. People will be loyal to you and your perspectives, and motivated to carry them out. You’ll soon become that person whom all your colleagues want on their team when introducing a new idea, because your opinion matters to everyone.
Do you have a plan for building your influence at work? Email Joel to make sure you’re on the right track.
Have you tried any of these strategies for building your influence? How did it work out?
“When you learn how much you’re worth, you’ll stop giving people discounts.”
~ Anonymous ~
Client Nathan Asks: I am completely frustrated. As the client development manager for my firm, I am expected to be the “idea person” when it comes to new business development and client relations. And I think I have a ton of good ideas at work. But whenever I get into a staff meeting, my ideas–even my participation in discussions–are almost totally ignored. I’m not a “rah rah” sort of person and maybe that’s what people are expecting. I’m pretty low key and I feel I’m presenting good ideas—it’s just that nobody’s hearing me.
Coach Joel Answers: It’s not unusual for people in almost any role to sometimes have difficulty getting attention, let alone get their ideas accepted and implemented. Here are three things I think you should do right now to improve your acceptance ratio:
- Build a support network
- Support the ideas of your colleagues
- Improve your presentation skills
1. Build a support network. The key to your success is to consult others and build support for big initiatives before you launch them. When you want to introduce a new strategy, schedule a series of one-on-ones with different people within the company—or even outside the company if that’s appropriate. Present your idea and ask for their thoughts, a critique of your plan, and listen. Incorporate what input you can, and you’ll stand a good chance of gaining their buy-in. Be selective about who you choose to hear your ideas. Pick thought leaders, people who have had success implementing their own ideas and whom you can trust to keep it confidential until you’re ready to go public.
2. Support the ideas of your colleagues. There are plenty of ways to increase your visibility in meetings, and one of the easiest ways is to say positive things about the work others are doing. While you’re planning your next big thing, begin to lay the groundwork for support by supporting others. If someone floats a new idea in staff meeting, find something to like about it and say so. You may even add a new piece to it, if that’s appropriate. It’s just simple psychology: people are more likely to support someone who they feel will support them. Pay a compliment after the fact as well: “That was a super idea for revamping the web page, Marcia. Let me know if I can help.”
3. Improve your personal presentation skills. It’s all about having executive presence. To do this, you’re going to have to move beyond your comfort zone. You’ve fallen into the trap of not speaking up because you’ve convinced yourself that nobody’s listening, or worse—that you don’t have any good ideas. Drop those thoughts and begin to practice communicating clearly and decisively. Do this before you bring anything to the table in a meeting. Use Power Point or other visuals to add some spark to your presentation. This will make you feel more confident because you’ll have the information you need right in front of you. And practice, practice, practice.
Right now you and your ideas are being seen in black and white. If you’ll start implementing these three strategies, it won’t be long before you’ll be showing off every idea in HD color.
Do you feel like the Invisible Man (or Woman?) Joel has helped hundreds of clients develop and implement plans for getting heard and getting their ideas accepted. Why not email him today?
Talkback: How do you gain acceptance for your ideas? Share your best strategies here.
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“You can have results or you can have excuses. However, you cannot have both. What’s it gonna be?”
~ Stephen Luke ~
Client Jill Asks: “I just don’t get it. I put in longer hours than anyone in my department. I come to every team meeting and propose at least one creative, new initiative. But I’m just not getting through to anyone. No one notices how hard I work, and no one seems particularly interested in my ideas. And I’m sure not getting any face time with C-level managers. I know I’m missing something here. What is it?”
Coach Joel Answers: You’re focusing on the wrong thing. You’re a creative person, so it’s natural that you would focus on the creative part of your business—coming up with new ideas in your workplace, developing unique strategies for your company and your clients. But how are you presenting those? You keep trying to impress people with how creative you are. What you need to do is speak about your ideas in terms of results. Impress them with your outcomes, not your talents or your work ethic.
An article in the Harvard Business Review indicates that 69% of US employers judge their employees’ performance by what they accomplish rather than the hours on their time log. Many companies are removing the barriers of work time and place in order to retain top talent. Employees have the freedom to work when and how they want, as long as they are achieving their productivity goals. (Galinsky, November, 2012.) So let’s shift your focus from ideas to results. Here’s a four-point plan I recommend.
- Be results-driven. When you present a new idea to your boss or your team, state the idea in just a sentence or two. Then go immediately to results. How much revenue will your strategy generate? How will it reduce expenses or improve client services? Give them specific numbers.
- Give them a by-when. Tell them who’s going to do what and when it will be completed. Nothing can tarnish your shining reputation more than not finishing the job, even if you have to be satisfied with less-than-fabulous results. A runner would always rather finish the race, even if she comes in last, rather than drop out halfway through.
- Consistently exceed expectations. If you present an idea and you get the green light from your boss or upper management, go the second (and third) mile to do even better than you said you would. For example, if your boss would be happy with an 8% or 9% increase in client satisfaction numbers, but you know you can bring it in at 10%, promise 8% and then go for 10%. Under-promise and over-deliver.
- Act like a winner. Believe in your ideas and be confident when you present them. Don’t apologize. Act as if it’s already a done deal. Use confident language. Say “when,” not “if.” Avoid words like “maybe,” “possibly,” or “perhaps.” When you believe in yourself, your confidence will expand and you’ll find that others will begin to believe as well.
If you change your emphasis from ideas to results, I promise you’ll get a dramatically different result for yourself as well.
Talkback: Have you been successful at getting a new idea off the ground? How did you do it? Share your experience here.
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“If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door ”
~ Milton Berle ~
You’re good at your job – you have great reviews, get excellent results, and you’re well-liked. Maybe you’re fairly new to your career, or maybe you’ve spent years at the same job without a promotion. Either way, if you if you keep performing, your success will be rewarded…right?
Unfortunately, no. Talent and results alone will not see you succeed. That may seem like a harsh statement after all the hard work you’ve done, but time and again, studies have shown it to be true – good work alone is not enough. You will need to take control and guide your own career in order to attain the success you have worked so hard for.
So what are you going to do? You’ve already done everything in your job description to meet and exceed expectations, so what’s next? In the new art of getting ahead, you’ll need to expand your efforts, and manage the following.
First, take stock of your own true strengths and weaknesses, and then compare them to the perception of your skill level in your organization. Ask yourself:
- Would I consider someone with my perceived skill to be ready to take on the next level challenges at work?
- What are the gaps in my skills?
- Am I missing out on opportunities to showcase my talents?
- Considering my next desired move, what traits would I most like to highlight?
2. Increase your visibility
To get ahead, you have to get noticed. If your upbringing, culture or general personality means you’re someone who is uncomfortable with “tooting your own horn,” don’t despair. While you will have to graciously take credit for the work you’ve done, self-promotion is hardly the only tactic. Consider some of the following to help you make yourself more visible:
- Identify an advocate who can speak on your behalf – with a senior partner, manager or trusted advisor working to raise your profile, you won’t have to be so aggressive in self-promotion.
- Take on high-profile assignments – working on projects with a higher visibility will translate to higher visibility for you. Taking on those things your boss or executive deems important will help make sure that your added value is noticed.
- Leverage opportunities to interact with leaders – seize those chances to rub elbows at meetings, on projects or at volunteer functions with the influential people at your meetings. Engage them in conversation, ask questions and talk to them about your successes.
3. Exert your influence
Finally, leadership requires influence to be successful. People follow leaders they believe in. Influential leaders can build connections across business units, within their teams, and with management above. People – above and below – need to see that you can inspire action and positive change. This is critical and far more potent than any attempt to lead through authority, title or power. Consider your strengths and weaknesses in the areas of:
- Reputation – Consider your work history and where you’ll need to build more value to create a solid foundation.
- Skill set – Examine your areas of expertise. Consider the tools you’ll need to succeed.
- Executive presence – No matter what level you currently lead, when you have executive presence, people are attracted to you as a leader. There are always opportunities to practice that assured sense of self that draws people in.
- Likeability – Does your leadership motivate others? Practice positive, mindful direction – success comes when others inspired by your presence and want to do their best work on your team.
- Persuasion – It is a powerful tool to be able to sway others. Persuasive leaders know how to build consensus and see their point of view.
There’s no doubt that it takes a lot to get ahead. Beyond just hard work and solid results, you need the tools at hand to get noticed and attract others to your cause. Practicing these skills will put you in good stead to land that big project or promotion you’ve been seeking.
Talkback: What techniques have you used to change your perception or increase your visibility? Comment below and share your successes in getting ahead.
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