You don’t need to be a leader to have influence, says Heather Lomax.
A key characteristic of an effective leader is the ability to influence others. In the workplace, influence is no longer monopolised by management. In many companies today, power structures have changed in favour of more collaborative, power-sharing functionalities.
Position titles might be almost arbitrary in a modern work environment. One’s ability to interact with others in a way that fosters mutual respect and a positive viewpoint on a person’s work speaks much louder.
For these reasons, truly anyone can master the art of influence and persuasion in their professional interactions without holding a traditionally-designated position of authority. As societal values change, and organisations must fall in line with cultural demands, many firms have come to prioritise an atmosphere of respect and human dignity over pure hierarchy and output.
Traditional authority-based structures are increasingly seen as somewhat oppressive and can potentially dampen productivity and morale. This development presents opportunity and a more level playing field for all employees.
Make others laugh, share your thoughts and opinions, but be sure to display integrity and mettle.
Practising certain behaviours in professional interactions can lead to quicker advancement or increased responsibilities as people can affect and influence others in a dynamic, organic manner. Below are five tips worth considering for those professionals looking to exert positive influence over their peers and work environment despite their ‘formal’ designation.
Practice respectable, steady character
Your distinctive character and personality is likely one of your strongest assets you might be underusing. As formal organisational boundaries dissolve in the wake of collaborative environments, people begin to feel more unity between one’s ‘work’ self and ‘personal’ self.
Though a sense of professionalism will always be important, it is increasingly normal for one to behave as they would outside of work to a certain degree. Make others laugh, share your thoughts and opinions, but be sure to display integrity and mettle.
Influencing others will be easier if you display yourself as a disciplined individual who follows through on their commitments and acts with a certain degree of reliable predictability regardless of circumstances.
People appreciate and respect consistent character. Certainly, no one’s perfect, but you should aim to be a role model for your co-workers and act in such a manner that you are viewed as agreeable, admirable, and most importantly, steady and even-handed. In short, the best way to exert influence without technically being a leader is to act like one.
Build your charisma and empathy
If you’ve previously been tumultuous and unagreeable, you might find that your voice and ideas fall on deaf ears. The good news is that you can change others’ mentality and attitude by building your charisma over time. One’s intentional interactive attractiveness and use of charm can impact influence over others.
One vital way to build charisma is listening to other people actively. Charismatic people are genuine, positive, and empathetic. When in discussion, you should give teammates fair chances to speak their minds and you must fully consider their viewpoints.
Ask people open-ended, engaging simple questions about their views – the ‘how?, ‘what?,’ and ‘why?’ Give a simple smile when listening and responding. Doing so will empower your colleagues and allow them to begin viewing you as someone who engages them, listens closely, and is in turn worth being heard because they begin to build confidence in you.
These interactions make one more likeable, and likeability is a key factor in external influence.
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Exhibit reciprocity and gratitude
Do favours for others, and they are psychologically drawn towards doing favours for you. You want people to be on your side, and you can do so by providing value to them. In essence, this is the ‘what goes around comes around’ rule. When you improve the lives of people around you, there is a tendency for this effort to reflect onto you.
Additionally, be sure to express gratitude often and when appropriate, even for small favours. How many times have you opened a door for a stranger and the lack of a subsequent ‘thank you’ struck a nerve? People notice when they’re acknowledged, and it fosters a positive association in their perception of your relationship.
Consistently practising reciprocity and showing gratitude are simple, even personally rewarding ways to exert influence on your peers.
Think of the organisation as a strategic whole
Be an involved member of your professional environment. Take advantage of opportunities to learn about your organisation as a whole with a set of specific, reasonably evolving goals. Exhibit interest in various processes, operations, and departments and their functions.
Take a consultant’s perspective on your firm; understanding the long- and short-term goals, general financial state, and inherent weaknesses can enrich your ability to make intelligent, evidence-based business decisions. This overall awareness will garner respect from both peers and higher-ups who notice your initiative and informational influence.
People will come to you with questions and you’ll find yourself with solid answers in more instances than not. Voila – you’ve expanded your sphere of influence.
Be concise, organised, and persistent
Being concise is difficult. Often, it is more impressive to condense complicated ideas into efficient, laconic paragraphs than to wax poetic on your thoughts. Consider your audience in your interactions and what the ultimate message is that you need them to hear.
Build the shortest route possible from your initial idea or introduction to your concluding points. Additionally, ensure you are organised in all formal interaction or presentations. People notice and follow a well-established flow and this increases general receptiveness (and therefore influence).
Lastly, be persistent. In larger organisations, you might have to communicate the same ideas repeatedly before they take root. Have patience and composure. With practice, you will be an effective communicator who people respect and perhaps even an explicit authority figure.
You don’t need ‘chief’ on your business card to exert influence. It is often as simple as practising being a kind, genuine human being who remains well-informed, clear, and focused.
About the author
Heather Lomax is a contributing writer and media relations specialist for Negotiations Training Institute.