The 5 Smartest Strategies to Build Influence in the Workplace

“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.

Talkback:
Have you tried any of these strategies? What were your results?

Three Immediate Strategies to Increase Your Influence at Work

“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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

  3. 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.

Talkback:
Have you tried any of these strategies for building your influence? How did it work out?

Why Strong Leaders Have the Courage to Show Vulnerability

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“A great leader needs to love and respect people, and he needs to be comfortable with himself and with the world. He also needs to be able to forgive himself and others. In other words, a leader needs grace.”

~ Leo Hindery, Jr. ~

Bill did his best to model fearlessness, capability, and decisiveness for the people he supervised—all the qualities associated with strong leadership. In all his interactions with them, though, they seemed anxious and afraid. In meetings, he could never seem to spark a robust discussion—they would just give lip service to his questions. He couldn’t understand why they acted just the opposite of the example he tried to set.

Bill didn’t realize that his attitude of invincibility was not actually setting a good example. Rather, playing the part of the fearless leader was stifling discussion and creativity. He was forgetting that success requires risks, and when taking risks, a leader is by nature in a place of vulnerability. His attitude that failure is not an option masked the reality that we all risk failure when we reach toward high goals. Pretending he was invincible showed his deep fear of failure, which is a weakness, not a strength. Like Bill, if you want to become a strong leader in your company, have the confidence to believe that even if you do fail on any one project, you’ll bounce back and succeed in the future. When strong leaders show vulnerability, it projects this confidence to the world.

That doesn’t mean you should walk around griping about your insecurities all day. Rather, just be comfortable enough in yourself to show you know you’re far from perfect, and learn to view mistakes and weakness as learning opportunities.

1. Being authentic

When you show your vulnerabilities, you are being authentic, and that helps others to see you as trustworthy. In other words, let people see your whole self rather than picking and choosing the aspects you want them to see. People can tell whether you’re being authentic or not, particularly when you work with them every day. When you’re authentic with them, they’ll learn to trust you more rather than feeling that on some level you’re deceiving them.

2. Creating a culture of openness

Talking about your own mistakes will help the people you manage and work with to feel comfortable talking about theirs too. This will help create a culture of learning from mistakes by examining, with honesty and transparency, what went wrong. The whole group will then learn from each individual’s experiences, rather than everyone keeping things bottled up inside.

Further, this culture of openness will help your team understand the full history of a project, rather than just knowing it succeeded or it failed. The team will understand how each decision played a part in reaching the final outcome.

Likewise, be transparent about what’s happening with the company, and if you don’t know something, say so. When employees know you’re doing your best to keep them informed, they’ll trust you more.

3. Making team members feel needed

A leader who’s afraid to be vulnerable might fear that if an employee is more intelligent or capable than him in certain ways, that employee might upstage him. A vulnerable leader has let go of the need to be the mastermind behind every decision. Remember that you don’t have to know how to solve every problem to be a good leader. You need to know how to find and nurture the people who do. Don’t feel threatened by their abilities—recruit them actively, and provide them with the mentorship and incentives that will help them succeed. Give team members meaningful responsibilities with opportunities to use their own creativity, and let them know you appreciate that they can do things that you can’t.

4. Being easier to work with

If you’re hard to approach at work, imagine how much energy it takes for people to confront you about their concerns. That energy would be much better spent on team projects than on this unnecessary stress. Being the first to admit your shortcomings makes you more approachable, and it shows insight and self-awareness. It also makes problems easier to correct, allowing work to flow more smoothly. Sharpening your communication skills by learning to listen actively, use open body language, and stay fully engaged will help you make the most of these conversations.

5. Learning to grow

Strong leaders proactively ask for feedback, which puts them in an inherently vulnerable position. They might sometimes feel dismayed by the feedback they receive, but they realize this feedback provides a valuable opportunity to grow. By going outside of your comfort zone to ask for this feedback, you’ll move beyond the limitations that a false sense of invulnerability can impose.

As you become a stronger leader by showing vulnerability in these ways, your team members’ trust and respect for you will grow. Relax, take a deep breath, and let your ability to work with your own imperfection shine.

Make a list of five ways you can show your vulnerability with people you supervise. Try doing one every day over the course of a week. Do you notice a difference in how team members relate to you? Email Joel to discuss your results.

Talkback: Have you ever had a boss who was good at showing vulnerability? Did it help you to grow as an employee? Share your experiences here.

Image courtesy of Pixabay/ pixabay.com

To Improve Your Team’s Output, Look at it Differently

“To Improve Your Team’s Output, Look at it Differently”

Today’s guest post is by Mike Figliuolo, co-author of Lead Inside the Box: How Smart Leaders Guide Their Teams to Exceptional Results (you can get your copy by clicking here). You can learn more about Mike and the book at the end of the post. Here’s Mike:

Why do you pay your team members? If you asked them, they might answer “You pay us to work.” If you ask an office-based worker what “work” means to them, you’ll get a list of typical workday activities. They read and write emails. They write reports. They go to meetings and attend conference calls. Those activities that sound appropriate enough, but they don’t give a complete picture of what “work” means to you.

There are two different definitions of “work” in the dictionary. Your team members likely subscribe to the one that defines “work” as “mental or physical activity as a means of earning income; employment.” Given you’re responsible for your team achieving its goals, you probably lean toward the other one which defines “work” as “activity involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a purpose or result.”

The two definitions are similar in that they revolve around physical or mental activity but they differ significantly on the purpose of the work. The implication here is you must hold your team members accountable for the results they achieve – not the activities they perform. That accountability contributes to the collective results your team delivers. Activities your team members think of as “work” are the inputs that go into getting the real outcome you desire – results that lead you to achieve your goals. Those are the outcomes to assess when placing team members on the Leadership Matrix.

Assessing the Output of Your Team Members

The output question leaders need to focus on is “are my team members producing the results I need given all the investments – pay, equipment, supplies, my time and energy – I’m making in them?” Assess each team member’s output – results that contribute to your team goals. To conduct this assessment, you’ll evaluate five elements of team member output:

Quantity:
What is the quantity of results compared to what is expected or asked of them?

Quality:
How is the quality of their final work versus what is expected?

Timeliness:
How timely is the work they deliver versus expected deadlines or durations?

Intangibles:
To what degree do they improve morale in their immediate team?
To what extent do they improve relationships with stakeholders and colleagues outside their immediate team?

By understanding the results someone delivers at a level deeper than the easily measured numbers, you’ll have a sense not only for what they’re delivering but also how they’re delivering it. That new look at the “how” of their results will help you coach and develop them more effectively.

If you’d like to assess your team members and see where they plot on the Leadership Matrix, take our simple assessment. It will give you a sense for not only the results you get from them but what your investment of time and energy is as their leader. That combined picture will give you a much clearer approach to getting the best out of the members of your team.

Mike Figliuolo is the co-author of Lead Inside the Box: How Smart Leaders Guide Their Teams to Exceptional Results and the author of One Piece of Paper: The Simple Approach to Powerful, Personal Leadership. He’s the managing director of thoughtLEADERS, LLC – a leadership development training firm. He regularly writes about leadership on the thoughtLEADERS Blog.

 

How to Keep Personal Biases
from Making You a Bad Boss

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“Good managers have a bias for action.”

~Tom Peters~

No one ever said it was easy being the boss.  In addition to being the point person you are also the fall guy (or gal).  People expect a lot from you and whether you are dealing with employees, clients or higher-ups’ they all tend to come from a place of take-take-take.  Overall it can be an exhausting position to handle…but are certain factors wearing you out more than others?

While you may be a manager, you need to keep in mind that you are human too.  Even if you are not consciously aware of them, hidden biases can affect your decision-making and leadership ability.  This is why it is important to be aware of situations where your personal (sometimes even hidden) biases try to take over.  Read on to learn how to discover your professional biases and more important, how to overcome them.

Lay Your Biases On The Table

Chances are you hired people onto you team because they shared similar ideals and fostered an attitude that matched your work place.  This is common, people tend to gravitate toward people they can relate to; the tendency to act this way actually reinforces your natural biases.  The same thing might happen when dealing with clients or higher-ups’, you want those people to get along with you and might not even realize that your compliance is causing you to adopt their own preferences.

The first step in uncovering your biases is to discover the emotion(s) behind them.  Say for example, that you hate pitching new clients; your bias requires you to avoid the pitch process at all costs.  Now, try to think back to when that “hate” first started.  Perhaps in the past you were publicly embarrassed and ridiculed by a client who did not like your pitch.

If you can come to terms with those emotions (embarrassment, shame) that are connected to your prejudice, then you have a better chance of overcoming it.  Just because you had a bad pitch experience in the past, does not mean that history is going to repeat itself.  Strive to actively work on the professional biases that are holding you and business back.

Refresh Your Leadership Perspective

While you may be able to pinpoint how your biases are holding you back, it may be a little bit more difficult to see how they are holding your team members back too.  Say for example, your distaste for gossip causes you to glaze over the office chatterbox.  Just because you do not like the talkative attribute, does not mean that that employee does not have great qualities to offer.  For example, your office’s social butterfly could be the perfect person to head up your social media accounts.

Flip the example; say as a talkative person, you never really connected with the shy person on your team.  Without really noticing, you might pass pet projects onto people you know better because your shy co-worker never seems to come to mind.  You can see here how personal biases can make you a bad boss.  Just because you don’t like a quality about someone or you don’t necessarily connect to it, does not mean you should pass those people the short end of the stick.

Ask yourself, what are my natural leadership tendencies?  What motivations drive those tendencies?  What emotions are attached to them?  With some introspective thought and exploration, your biases can come to light, and from there you can work on changing them.

Get Input

It’s only natural to foster some personal biases, however you have the power to eliminate them for the better.  Throughout this process, don’t undervalue the power of your team.  Because of the distance, they might be able to spot those tendencies with greater ease than you can.

Share with your team that you’re trying to freshen up your leadership style.  Ask them if they would be willing to share their thoughts on policies and procedures they think would benefit from being changed.

Understand that not everyone will be comfortable critiquing their boss so do your best to provide anonymity with blind feedback. By asking them what things they might like to see a change in, you could open yourself up to other biases and new opportunities for fair improvement.

About the author:Kelly Gregorio writes about leadership trends and tips while working at Advantage Capital Funds, a merchant cash advance provider. You can read her daily business blog here.

Talkback: What career and leadership biases have you uncovered? Share your ideas below.

Image courtesy of cartoon11 / Fotolia.com