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0 Developing Influence

Brainstorming about what it takes to move to the next level might   invoke important leadership themes- giving and receiving feedback, leveraging your networks, positive non-verbal communication, and so on.  One critical attribute of an effective leader is having the ability to influence or persuade. In fact, influencing is an efficient way to lead- even if you are not yet in a position of authority.

Influence, to be clear, is NOT the same thing as exerting power over someone.  In fact, to effectively influence requires leaning into behaviors that are quite the opposite of being pushy. Yes, the best influencers are confident, but they also demonstrate a genuine sense of humility, openness to different perspectives, and an emphasis on what truly matters- even when things are going off the rails. The trouble is, influence can be hard to define because it encompasses all of the many leadership competencies. At its core, influence is a multi-disciplinary collaboration tool.

What’s the Use of Being Influential?

Being influential makes it a lot easier to get things done. People look to the influencers to define the bottom line and keep things on track. And know this: when the things you say are convincing to others, it’s also a testament to the way your peers think of you and, even more broadly, a good indicator of your ability to lead. Those who are in positions of power are more likely to consider influencers as candidates for leadership.

Developing influence takes some effort across a variety of categories, so let us help you get started:

Step One: Build Your Credibility

Remember that thing about not being pushy? It would be impossible for anyone to develop a true breadth of influence without first assuring that they have built credibility and trustworthiness with their peers and colleagues. Without sound relational skills such as being an active listener and thoughtfully considering outside perspectives, attempting to solve a problem or nudge a team toward a conclusion might come off as too aggressive or even defensive.

Showing humility is one way to assure others of your integrity. Here’s how to do that:

  • Show respect for other perspectives. Let people who think differently have the floor too and demonstrate deep listening by saying things like “that’s a good point” or “can you explain that one part again?”  And, for goodness sake’s, don’t interrupt!!
  • Give credit where credit it is due. If someone else has done something positive for the cause, make sure to let others know. Don’t steal their thunder.
  • Admit your mistakes: Be accountable. When you take responsibility for your mistakes, people can often be pretty understanding. Digging in on something tends to have the opposite effect.


Step Two: Show Your Competence

When working in a group, especially in cases where different viewpoints might be slowing down the process, don’t simply rely on your words to convince teammates you know what you’re talking about. Find opportunities to go the extra mile by gathering relevant knowledge or finding pertinent examples. If you are involved in a formal mentoring relationship, you might even share strategies you’ve learned from your mentor. For especially tough issues, try contacting a situational mentor for guidance on an issue in your team’s workload.

Step Three: Be Captivating
Work on your storytelling skills. While it’s true that using direct language is most effective, providing imagery when addressing a problem can be a way to show your calm, strategic thinking. Stay away from any squabbles and keep bringing the group back to the task of finding the solution. It sounds strange, but it also helps to be likable by smiling and making eye contact. Search for commonalities and use that as your launch pad instead of getting stuck where people don’t agree. Some tips for being a good storyteller:

  • Practice ahead of time- don’t wing it.
  • Plan a good opener- maybe it’s a good example, or a quote, or a joke.
  • Be clear and concise- you don’t have to slam the point over their heads but get to the end quickly.
  • Use interesting body language- gestures and well-timed pauses show your warmth and sincerity.


Step Four: Find Your Allies

Your biggest supporters might automatically come from the groups you work with on a daily basis. But it’s also important to make sure you have a supervisor, a peer or even a mentor who is in your corner to help you think through problems or come to your aid if needed. Sometimes those relationships take more effort because it might be up to you to set up those meetings to assure you are engaging with those people regularly and maintaining those relationships.

Step Five: Help Others Find Their Voice

Be generous. You might be comfortable giving your opinion and admitting mistakes, but those around you won’t always have such confidence. When you see passion in another teammate, ask them to speak or celebrate their wins. You don’t have to make it awkward, just say you simply wanted to make sure no one missed it.


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