The Job Coaches: Improve your influence skills

Do you ever feel envious of that successful work colleague who’s connected to everyone, whose projects and budgets get approved, and whose opinions are actively sought out because people want to know what they think? Don’t waste time being jealous. Instead, expand and improve your influence skills and abilities.photo

Whether at work or in your personal life, your ability to make an appeal based on logic, emotion or a sense of cooperation is essential for success.

Influence and leadership are related in that anyone, regardless of having a job title or not, can be proficient at them. Influence comes into play when you want to build relationships, secure support, inspire, persuade other people to champion your idea, or when you need to spark someone’s imagination.

People with first-rate influence skills combine interpersonal, communication and assertiveness abilities.

The intent of influence is to build a network of win-win interaction between people, not to control or manipulate them.

To determine how effective your influence skills are, ask yourself: Do I get results through and with people? Is my involvement sufficient to make something happen? Do I have the personal power to shape outcomes and cause things to happen?

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.

Become a perceptive observer. 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.

Be knowledgeable and have a bias for action. If you want to have an impact on results, know your organization and its culture, as well as your job, inside and out. Be clear about what you want to achieve. Under-promise and over-deliver on timelines for getting things accomplished.

Be visible by engaging and involving others. Actively listen to what people are saying. 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.

Be self-aware. Understand and control your own emotions and actions. Know both your limitations and your strengths, and then position yourself to maximize what you do best.

Give, give, GIVE! When you give, people will give back. Never underestimate someone’s heartfelt desire to leave a positive mark. Make your own constructive contribution while seeing, and appreciating, the gifts of others.

Cultivate meaningful two-way relationships. Help before someone asks. Say thank you. Be there when people need you. Be a broker of ideas and information. People like to be around those who make positive things happen.

Be sincere and authentic. Approach situations seeking to find a mutually beneficial outcome; avoid the “I win, you lose” mentality. Assure that your words and your deeds are consistent and rooted in goodness. As Herminia Ibarra, a professor at the Harvard Business School says, “Integrity can be a source of power.”

Ace these skills, and enjoy being called an influential leader!

Jane Perdue is CEO of The Braithewaite Group.The Job Coaches are experienced volunteers from the Center for Women’s Job Counseling Program. Ask them a question by calling 843-763-7333 or e-mailing info@c4women.org. If you would like further assistance, make an appointment; a donation of $20 is requested for appointments.

First appeared in the Moxie section of The Post and Courier Friday, December 4, 2009.

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