“The key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority”
– Kenneth Blanchard
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Role of Influence in the Workplace
Decision-making in any organization is more about communication than it is about the nitty-gritty of the decision itself. How a person conveys his message can determine how well-received that message is and whether or not it is actioned.
People will accept your ideas and collaborate with you, only when you make them do so. You don’t need to be the loudest in the team to achieve this, just the most persuasive.
The art of persuading people to side with your choices is called “influence.” In the workplace, influence plays a key role in not just day-to-day decision-making, but also in job recognition and career progression.
At times, the word “influence” is confused with “manipulation.” At times, it looks like something very tough to achieve. Before we get into the topic, lets listen in to an engaging TED talk by Teresa de Grosbois on this topic where she talks about how having influence can be as easy as breathing everyday.
Original Source: https://www.ted.com/
Are bosses the only influencers in a company?
In almost all organizational settings, influence is connected to authority. A person in a position of power always wields influence over other employees, purely because of the role they occupy. CEOs, departmental heads, team leaders, and project managers are the usual suspects.
But the world is changing, and so is the organizational landscape.
A study conducted by McKinsey & Company revealed that the people who senior management believe are employee influencers aren’t always the most-influential in the workplace. There are hidden influencers in the workplace who persuade their colleagues to do things their way. These employees are usually in subordinate positions and aren’t in traditional positions of power. But, they have the fastest growth on the corporate ladder because they’re the ones who call the shots, behind-the-scenes.
Influence & The Flat Workplace
Today’s organizations are doing away with old-fashioned regimented hierarchies. Most places have adopted a flat organizational structure. Here, except for a handful of people, everyone else is on an equal footing.
This type of flat hierarchy allows employees to make decisions independently. Employees are told to brainstorm and provide their ideas. Everyone is given a chance to present their case and have their ideas actioned.
But as they say, too many cooks spoil the broth.
Flat organizational structures can create mayhem. At the team-level, there’s no formal figure of authority to take the final call. It becomes very easy to lose track of good ideas and valuable insights into the raucous that follows.
It’s imperative to bring the team together in favor of a single course-of-action to ensure effective decision-making and efficient operations. But how can you achieve such a consensus when you’re not in a position of authority? How do you make your colleagues listen to you and take your inputs seriously?
Influencing without authority
In an organization, a leader isn’t a formal position or a job title. A leader is anyone who motivates a group of people to do a certain thing.
You too, can be a leader and influence your colleagues without holding authority. Many workplaces globally are allowing proactive employees to take personal accountability for organizational success by becoming key decision makers. Such a leadership strategy can make the workplace more inclusive, empowering, productive, and engaging.
The trick here is to hone your skills of persuasion. In this eBook, we’ll look at how you can develop the ability to become compelling influencers in the workplace, despite not being in a position of power.
Essential Groundwork For Successful Influential Outcomes
Here are the key things you need to do to ensure your strategies to gain influence yield positive results:
1. Develop the right attitude
Influence is different from control. This is something you need to understand right at the start.
Your attitude towards your co-workers and supervisors shouldn’t be one of exerting control. You should focus on helping them understand and acknowledge the true value of the insights you’re offering.
When talking to colleagues, be assertive, not aggressive. Keep the lines of communication open and let it not become one-sided. Remember that even though the idea was yours, you could learn something in the process too.
2. Implement positive body language
One of the key tenets of successful persuasion is body language. The right gestures, facial expressions, and postures can help you gain influence even over the most resistant people.
When trying to influence others, remember to:
• Maintain eye contact with each individual.
• Face people directly when talking to them.
• Offer genuine, heartfelt smiles.
• Have an open body posture that looks welcoming and non-threatening – palms facing upwards, arms held loose, shoulders relaxed.
• Mirror their body language – this is a sign of engagement between you and your conversation partner.
• Not invade their personal space.
3. Become an active listener
A true influencer, a true leader, is empathetic. They listen to the concerns and challenges of others and suggest actions that can be helpful for everyone.
When you develop the skill of active listening, you are better able to visualize and appreciate others’ frame of reference. That’s the only way to ensure that you have a win-win situation – you get your way and others benefit from it too.
So, in addition to having a warm and welcoming body language, you should be an active listener as well.
4. Don’t neglect the emotional dimension
Organizations are made up of people. Decisions are taken by people. As you know, people are as ruled by their feelings, as they are by logic.
The outcome of your bid to influence your colleagues succeeds or fails depending on the emotional state of the people you’re interacting with. That’s why, it’s important to account for the unique expectations, baggage, and needs that each individual has when trying to influence them.
So, work on developing your emotional quotient as well. Manage your own negative emotions and become positive in your outlook. Get to know the people you work with and understand their stressors. Be mindful of the way you phrase things and don’t let a past bad encounter influence your future interactions.
5. Be consistent in your actions
Many employees who want to see concrete results before agreeing to follow someone else’s suggestions. To win over such people, you need to be consistently excellent in your job performance.
As a rule, live what you preach. Actually, implement the ideas and proposals you’re making. You can use this as evidence to showcase the true worth of your ideas.
Showcase integrity and honesty in your decision-making. You’ll appear more reliable and trustworthy this way. It is these traits that will encourage people to follow your lead.
6. Anticipate the resistance
As we’ve discussed, many employees want to see concrete results People in authority often experience resistance when persuading people to adopt a particular idea/action. This resistance is more when you try to influence without authority.
The only way to tackle this challenge is to understand the possible types of resistance you may face and where they’ll come from. Who amongst your colleagues is the most likely to challenge your influence? What might they say?
It helps if you have a meaningful relationship with your colleagues and supervisors.
Your interactions will give you insight into how people think and what type of persuasive tactics they’ll respond best to. You can then customize your approach for each person.
7. Set the expectations and ask for commitment upfront
When you try to influence someone to do something, there will be an outcome. But sometimes, the outcome may not be what you desire. Often, this is because of misunderstandings between the two parties. Someone may have accepted your proposed ideas, without really understanding what is expected out of them. Forcing them to do something they didn’t sign-up for will not only destroy your relationship with them, but it will certainly be devastating for the company.
For a truly successful influence outcome, you need to be upfront and transparent about what you expect from others. You need to let them know what resources and time commitment you need from them, what support or skill sets you require from them and what sacrifices you expect them to make.
You should go a step further and seek their commitment to your proposed plans. If not complete buy-in, you should ensure that all parties are willing to comply with your plans.
This type of compliance and commitment is the only way to protect and preserve your relationships with your co-workers in the long run.
Influencing without authority is one of the toughest tasks in the world. Not only do you need to persuade your colleagues and managers about the profitability & potential of your proposal, but you need to do so without jeopardising your relationship with them.
The good thing is, it is easy to influence without authority when you customize your interactions and approach to each individual. By understanding what makes each person tick, you can know how to appeal to their best nature.
Once you get consensus and buy-in from the people who matter, it becomes easier to increase your scope of influence.