Fine art of building influence in your workplace | Daily News


Leading your flock into greener pastures – Part 15

Fine art of building influence in your workplace

As a leader, you want to have more influence and control over your working life. It is a natural feeling. For example, greater influence may mean: (a) All the necessary resources to do everything you have to do being available without you needing to work extra hours, (b) Everyone that you rely upon to provide the necessary information and so on to complete your work giving it to you on time, every time, (c). Senior managers taking more notice of your views and opinions when making important decisions that affect you and your team.

In this instalment we encourage you to question and challenge yourself about the amount of influence you have, and work on expanding your sphere of influence over your work and, perhaps, in your organisation.

Discovering your influence

Your success in influencing people and situations is as much down to your mindset as to you having a particular skill.

There is only one approach that you can adopt towards changes happening in your organisation that affect you.

You must be an agent of change (and not victim of change) .Youlook for opportunities to improve the performance of your organisation and to influence people to change processes, ways of working and so on. You don’t wait for the change to happen and then cope as best you can.

If you want to develop further your mindset and attitude towards influencing people you need to step outside of your comfort zone. (We already studied it earlier)

Control over work

Like all executives, you have some but not total control over the work you do. Expanding your sphere of influence requires you to identify the factors that impact on your ability to work towards achieving the required results, and then invest your time and effort in having a greater influence over those factors. The following exercise helps you to do so:

Take time to reflect on and list the factors that help you to be highly productive in doing your job. Your list may include, for example, competent staff, reliable equipment and so on. Question yourself about whether you’re making full use of these factors. For example, can you delegate more tasks to competent staff to increase their productivity.

Reflect on and identify the factors that hinder you from being highly productive in doing your job. As you identify each factor, use the following guidelines to decide on the extent to which each factor is inside or outside of your control.

  •  Within my control. These are those which you can decide what to do, when and how, without having to refer to or ask for permission from your superior or any other person.
  •  Within my sphere of influence. These factors are those that aren’t directly within your control, but you can influence somebody to act on them if you spend time gathering and analysing information, and make a robust argument for justifying that your proposals should be acted upon. For example, you may want to influence your attendance at (or the timing or duration of) meetings, or the level of priority that other departments give to your team’s work.
  •  Outside of my control. These factors are those that you can’t influence. Don’t waste your time on them.

Gain influence

Influence is power. Achieving more influence in the workplace is critical for success. Gaining influence on a team can help you work together more effectively. Gaining influence in a supervisory position can make you more respected and appreciated. Gaining influence in a meeting can make your voice more likely to be heard and acknowledged.

Influence has countless advantages, but gaining that influence, like learning a skill, takes time and effort.

1. Build trust with your co-workers. Influence is most often and most easily carried through trust. When a co-worker trusts you, slowly he will be open to your influence. If you’re the CEO or MD, it’s possible to convey a demand or assign a task that must be carried out by your employee. However, true influence suggests a free will. The easiest way to cultivate trust that is to be open and honest, no matter what. State your opinions, disclose your apprehensions, and don’t keep secrets. It’s as simple as that.

2. Cultivate reliability through consistency. Inconsistency is the fastest way to ruin your reputation. Consistency, on the other hand, is slow but sure. If you execute your tasks effectively and on time, day after day, eventually people will come to rely on you. The same is true when you execute a consistent style of leadership, setting consistent expectations with your subordinates and giving consistent rewards for good work.

That consistency is vital for building influence. Otherwise, you’ll have an air of unpredictability about you, and people won’t know whether to trust or impugn your suggestions.

3. Be Assertive, Not Aggressive. Being assertive is the only way to get your ideas noticed, especially when you’re competing with others for visibility, such as in a meeting. However, there’s a difference between being assertive and being aggressive. You’ll need to present your thoughts and ideas with a high degree of confidence, indicating your convictions. However. any excessive degree of confidence could be mistaken for needless arrogance, which will compromise your perceived authority. Tread carefully.

This assertiveness should extend as a general quality to all your interactions, regardless of whether you’re speaking to employees above, below, or at your level, and regardless of the conversation format

4. Be flexible. Flexibility is also important. You may say it conflicts with the need to be assertiveand it’s difficult to assert yourself fully if you’re open to changing your opinion. You are right but being too stringent or adamant in your beliefs will work against you. In this case, people will come to see you as a stubborn, immovable monolith, incapable of believing in anyone other than yourself. This can decrease the respect people have for you and compromise your overall influence.

Instead, work actively to show your flexibility while holding firm on your beliefs. Negotiations and compromises are often the best ways to do this. Stay rigid in your beliefs when someone contradicts you, but work with them to find a mutually acceptable solution.

5. Be personal. A little personality goes a long way, especially when you’re trying to build influence in the workplace. This is especially important when you’re in a higher position, as a boss or a supervisor. If you isolate yourself, or try to build your perceived authority by distancing yourself from the others, it might only serve to alienate you and put you in a position where you’re viewed with distrust or even resentment.

Instead, go out of your way to have personal exchanges with your employees and co-workers. You don’t need to build friendships, but there’s no reason why you can’t get to know each other. Personal working relationships are important for cultivating a sense of team, and if people see you as another person on the team, they’ll be more receptive when you disclose your ideas or opinions.

6. Focus on actions rather than argument. Trying to build influence through words is useless. Even a leader with perfect diction and a background in rhetorical strategy can’t hope to win the influence of his peers through speeches and arguments alone. If you’re going to build influence in the workplace, you need to speak through your actions, or at the very least have the actions and history to back up whatever it is you’re saying.

Part of this comes into play when you build consistency. Working hard consistently and getting consistently good results shows people that you’re able to walk the walk. Demonstrating your ideas through real examples is the next step in this process. Instead of arguing about how your structure will work in theory, put it to the test. Show instead of tell.

7. Listen to others. Finally, remember that influence is a two-way street. The more you believe in the people around you and incorporate their ideas into your vision, the more they’ll believe in your ideas and incorporate them into their work habits. If you want to build up this kind of relationship with your co-workers and employees, you first have to listen. Listen to everyone’s opinion, and encourage people to speak up, especially if they don’t often voice their opinions. Take time to respect and acknowledge everybody’s opinion, and let people know that you value them.

This creates an atmosphere of mutual trust, mutual respect, and mutual teamwork. If you’re spearheading the initiative to build this environment, they’ll come to see you as a leader, and your opinions will naturally be heard, acknowledged, and respected as a result.

Remember - influence is an extraordinary asset in the professional world, but remember, your goal here should be to become more respected in the workplace, not to increase the likelihood of getting others to do your bidding. One is a respectable journey to greater prominence and productivity, while the other is simply a Machiavellian power trip.

(Lionel Wijesiri is a retired company director with over 35 years’ experience in senior business management. Presently he is a business consultant, freelance newspaper columnist and a writer.)

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