People often equate the desire to influence with being Machiavellian. It’s not. It’s good business practice; providing it’s done with the intent of securing good outcomes for all involved – not just yourself.
If you want to get traction at work and progress, you need to be able to influence.
The good news is there are techniques you can learn to master this craft. Here are ten tips to get you started.
1. Understand yourself. Examine the mindset you are applying to your work and relationships. Letting assumptions drive your thought processes, and ultimately behaviour, can negatively impact your decision making and interactions with colleagues and stakeholders. It’s impossible to understand others – if you don’t first understand yourself and what drives your behaviour.
2. Be interested in others. Take the time to understand what intrinsically motivates those around you. Having insight into others better enables you to work with them, and encourage and inspire them to secure common goals. Be curious as to their thoughts and what drives their behaviour, rather than judgemental. Taking an interest in other people is the foundation for securing strong and lasting relationships.
3. Penetrate the system. Know the system in which the organisation operates, and how the players inter-relate, make decisions, and secure outcomes. This includes understanding what drives change in the environment, as well as the organisation’s strategy, business model and challenges. Having insight into the system helps you to navigate the complexity, discover opportunities and get your ideas supported.
4. Activate your integrity. Integrity once lost is almost impossible to regain. Guard it carefully and push beyond self-interest. When you do this you seek to play the better game in discussions and advocate positions that are not self-serving, but serve the greater good. This helps to define your brand as a person who is authentic, honourable and ethical. All of which helps to build trust and long standing relationships.
5. Get busy, on purpose. Influential people get things done. Be deliberate about how you use your time. It’s easy to get distracted, so be clear on your purpose and what you need to get done to deliver on it. Be decisive in how you make decisions. Know when to rely on ‘gut instinct’, or deeper analysis. And lastly, be determined in the face of set-backs. Persistence pays off.
6. Play the long game. Seek to secure long term, constructive relationships which are mutually beneficial. One sided relationships – where it’s all about one person – don’t last. One person will eventually walk away. Be generous with the support you provide. While helping people secure their goals makes you feel good, it also builds relationships. Humans feel innately obligated to ‘return the favour’, so helping someone else will ultimately help you in the long run.
7. Design your network. Be conscious about how you build your network. Identify relationship gaps and weaknesses, and put a plan in place to address them.
8. Lead consciously. Be conscious of your actions and how they are seen by other people. Inconsistencies in what you say and do are easily seen by others. Your leadership is constantly on display, and remember that leadership isn’t defined by hierarchy. Be clear on your personal brand and what you want to be known for. Ask yourself whether you are living up to it. If not, work out what needs to change, and make that happen.
9. Craft your communication. It’s not how much you talk, but what you say that matters. Ground your messages in reality and what people need to know. Keep it simple. Be empathetic, authentic and transparent. Most importantly, believe your own message. It will show when you don’t.
10. Negotiate wisely. Negotiations happen every day. Strive to secure outcomes that leave all involved with their dignity intact. Build the necessary relationships early. Be ready for the negotiation process, and have the resolve to see it through.
The world is changing, and to thrive in the VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) century, how you work needs to change too. Influence though is not just about an individual. It’s a team game.
Just as influential individuals make more progress, so too do influential teams.