In today’s complex and matrixed organizational world, we often need to influence others and get buy-in from people that are outside our direct authority or chain of command. According to Clay Scroggins, the author of “How to Lead When You’re Not in Charge,” influence is one of the critical foundations of effective leadership.
When I talk about influence with my clients, we focus on mastering four specific principles and skills:
- Understanding the difference between leadership and authority
- Ensuring you are seen as a credible and worthy leader
- Building effective relationships
- Enlisting support from other colleagues
I will touch on each of these and tell you from working with many clients on influence, mastering these principles will go a long way in making you a more powerful influencer.
Gain influence with inspiration
For the first skill, when it comes to understanding the difference between leadership and authority, it is all about recognizing today’s business world is different. When speaking about people, they perform their best when they want to accomplish something or are inspired to accomplish something, not when they are forced to.
So, when you’re in a situation where influence is key, ask yourself, “Am I coming from a place where I’m inspiring, or from a place where I’m pulling rank and being directive?”
This sounds like an easy question that we would all likely answer – “Yes of course, I’m inspiring”.
Don’t fall into the trap and assume you’re inspiring because you know it’s the right answer. Take a few minutes, step back and really examine your behaviors and how others might be perceiving them. Often times this small step back can help you uncover a few simple tweaks to make to your approach.
Will people allow you to influence them?
The second principle is based on whether or not you have earned the right to influence; meaning do others see you as believable enough to convince or lead them?
As with most abilities, it comes down to how you show up. I talk about showing up continuously, you want to show up in a way that confirms you know your stuff, are trustworthy and reliable and that you get results.
Think about how likely you are to be influenced by someone you don’t find credible, reliable or trustworthy; probably not much. That’s why it’s essential to demonstrate these traits – they earn you the right to lead and influence.
And again, don’t fall into the trap and assume you’ve earned this right. Be sure to get perspective on how others see you. This understanding can help you reflect on your own behaviors and so you can assess which behaviors might have led to which perceptions.
Relationships, Relationships, Relationships
You intuitively know relationships are key, you read it in many books and see it in many articles.
Yet how much time do you really spend building relationships?
Many of the people I talk to know how important building relationships are, yet because of perceived time constraints they simply don’t do it.
Making time to build relationships should always be on your To-Do List and you’re the only one who can put it there. It’s important to realize this is a critical step to take if you want to be successful in influencing others and getting results.
So, carve out the time to learn about key stakeholders:
- Goals, priorities and desires
- Struggles and challenges
- How you might be able to help them
- How they think and make decisions
- Perceptions of you and your area’s value
And make note of the learnings so you have them to reference when the time to influence arrives.
Enlist the support of your valued colleagues
When you enlist the support of the people you’ve built those relationships with, you can create even more support for your ideas or position – and having this support gives you a much better chance of influencing key stakeholders. The idea here is that there is power in numbers.
This internal network can also be a great sounding board and a great place to seek advice for how to present your ideas/recommendations. Remember, these folks live in your organization too and often see things differently, so they’re often able to offer new ideas and approaches for how to best deliver your message.
Four key principles to influencing without authority
Remember, to get to a place where you can influence without having direct authority, there are four key principles to focus on:
- Come from a place of inspiration; inspire people, don’t force them.
- Be credible and trustworthy.
- Build relationships with other people
- Enlisting support from your already valued colleagues
If you are interested in learning more about these principals or talking about a situation you are faced with, reach out, I’d love to hear from you. You can schedule time with me here.