Influence is a powerful currency in the business world. Influencing skills are instrumental to success especially for leaders whose main goal is to move their people and their organization forward. Without the capacity to be a compelling force that affects the actions, opinions and behaviour of others, a leader experiences an existential and professional standstill, as if they are just kicking a can down the road. To a great extent, building influence at work is a matter of managing relationships well and -fortunately- it is an acquired skill.
The following practices may be useful in nurturing it:
1. Be trustworthy. Influence cannot exist without trust. Employees always follow the leaders they trust; they get things done out of their free will and the knowledge that a task was assigned to them by a person who is open, honest and transparent. This is how an employee opens up to a leader’s influence. Trust is the conduit.
2. Be consistent and reliable. When one’s style of management and expectations constantly fluctuate, there is a high probability that they will be unable to get their people on their side. Unpredictability kills influence and people will start distancing themselves and dismissing such a leader as unreliable and unworthy to follow.
3. Be confident. Assertiveness is a key ingredient of truly influential leadership. It increases visibility and lends a valuable degree of gravitas to a person’s ideas and opinions. However, there is a very fine line between confidence and aggression which leaders should be mindful not to overstep. Always treat every audience with tact yet with unwavering conviction in what is imparted. When a person truly believes in what they are saying, others will follow.
4. Show your flexibility. Remaining true to one’s convictions should not entail rigidity. People hardly ever respect or accept to be influenced by anyone who is unable to even acknowledge the existence of other opinions, let alone adjust theirs. Therefore, be prepared to negotiate and find mutually beneficial compromises when the situation requires it.
5. Be human. People will be more amenable to the influence of a leader who has shown they really care about building rapport, who is a member of the team. It never hurts to have personal exchanges with them, to approach them as a human and not as an authority.
6. Show, don’t tell. The workplace is not a university amphitheatre so one’s rhetorical aptitude can never be an incubator of influence. Rather, employees expect actions, result delivery and exceptional work ethic before they become receptive to one’s influence.
7. Listen. Influence is based on mutuality. Therefore, leaders should always listen to, respect and acknowledge their people’s opinions if they wish to be extended the same courtesy. Such an environment of mutuality breeds influence as employees always value the leader who shows them appreciation.