Alan was a department manager several years ago at a software engineering firm in southern California. His company was growing, and he had high hopes for his career. He boasted impeccable technical skills, felt like he had invested part of himself in his company, and was confident in his authority.
Nevertheless, Alan felt trapped. He harbored ambitions of climbing the corporate ladder but didn’t know where to begin. Eventually, he enlisted the help of an executive coach and realized that he needed to learn how to communicate more effectively at work. His problem was that team members followed his directions, but few people actually listened to him, and he rarely listened to them.
With the help of his coach, Alan put together a plan to increase his influence by focusing on building positive relationships at work. Here’s a summary of what he did:
- Started asking questions. By expressing an interest in the people around him, Alan forced them take notice of him. He also communicated his interest in them and their work.
- Shared his expertise freely with others. Alan looked for opportunities to help people who could benefit from his technical experience. Colleagues welcomed his assistance on difficult projects, and Alan’s efforts established him as a highly competent, go-to guy.
- Focused on staying optimistic in all of his interactions. People appreciate being around positive thinkers, and optimism is contagious. By staying positive, Alan was able to increase his likeability and improve the mood of his immediate work environment.
- Talked to everyone, regardless of their position. Alan did what I call influencing up, down, and laterally. He spent time engaging with his subordinates, colleagues, and superiors.
- Made promises and kept them. Rather than playing it safe and quietly fulfilling his duties, Alan went out of his way to make commitments and then delivered on them in a big way. Developing that level of trust dramatically increases influence.
Alan eventually went on to start his own IT services company—but not before landing a promotion at his company.
Alan’s metamorphosis is notable in how closely it reflects the five traits that all influential leaders possess that I identified in a previous article. He already possessed technical and professional competence, but by working on his goal of building positive relationships in the workplace, he was able to develop his interpersonal skills, professional reputation, executive presence, and persuasiveness.
For more ideas on how to get a promotion or become a master influencer, contact me—or read my new book, Getting Ahead: Three Steps to Take Your Career to the Next Level.