It’s nearly impossible to pick up a newspaper or listen to the news without hearing a story about how an executive, politician, celebrity, etc. has misused their power and influence. At the other end of the spectrum are those who believe they have zero power and influence, and opt out of even trying.
Both camps have it wrong.
Power and influence are available to everyone. Being proficient at influencing isn’t linked to having a big job title. In this day of social networking and relationships, one’s ability to feel personally empowered to make an appeal (to influence) based on logic, emotion or a sense of cooperation is essential for personal and professional success. Influencing others is critical for securing support, persuading other people to champion your idea, or to stimulate someone’s imagination. As retired AlliedSignal CEO Lawrence Bossidy says, “The day when you could yell and scream and beat people into good performance is over. Today you have to appeal to them by helping them see how they can get from here to there, by establishing some credibility, and by giving them some reason and help to get there. Do all those things, and they’ll knock down doors.”
People with first-rate influence skills combine interpersonal, communication and assertiveness abilities. The purpose of influence is building win-win interactions between people, not controlling or manipulating them, both common misperceptions about power and influence.
To determine how effective your ability to influence is, ask yourself:
- Do I drive results even when I’m not the boss?
- Do I have the ability to shape outcomes and make things to happen?
- Do people seek out my opinion?
If you answered “no” to any of these questions, polishing up your skills in the following areas will help you increase your sphere of influence.
Get clued in. Watch what’s going on in your company or around you at home or with friends. Individuals with strong influencing skills examine, ask and validate.
Have a bias for action. Be clear about what you want to achieve and have a plan for making it so. Under-promise and over-deliver on timelines for getting things accomplished.
Involve others. People who have highly developed influence skills first pull people to their ideas, and then push those ideas to the rest of the organization through other people.
Watch your intentions. Understand your motivation. Are you in it to win it for yourself, or for the greater good?
Be a broker of ideas and information. Share what you know. Connect people with ideas and each other. Create alliances and identify stakeholders who share a win-win orientation and common goals.
Don’t be a conversation or credit hog. Don’t force your ideas on people or perpetually keep yourself in the spotlight. Don’t let your ego stand in the way of positive win-win outcomes.
How successful you are in influencing others depends in large measure on your ability to use the right tactic. Jay Jamrog, senior vice president of research for Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) believes leaders must know the influence skills they have, be able to identify skill gaps and get the right development tools to close those gaps. As part of its new Women’s Leadership Institute, the Center for Women recently offered a “Power, Persuasion and Influence” workshop. Participants learned which influence styles are commonly used by both men and women, which ones women use most often and which ones they should be using more.
Ready to get some positive power and influence?
Author: Jane Perdue, Leadership and women in business expert and consultant with Braithwaite Innovation Group. Reach Jane through her company’s website www.braithwaiteinnovationgroup.com or at email@example.com.
First appeared in the Business Review section of The Post and Courier Monday, April 30, 2012.