Power Principle: How to Amp up Your Influence at Work
In today’s flatter, team-based and dynamic organizations, influence matters more than ever. Here’s how to drive performance and build loyalty — without cracking the proverbial whip:
Truly effective leadership is all about getting people to follow willingly, rather than forcing them to follow you through your authority alone. Today, more and more workers — specifically millennials — prefer1 an egalitarian structure over hierarchy, and influential leadership is often the most effective way to get everyone pulling in the same direction.
Influential leadership is far more art than science, and it can be difficult to know how to develop the skills needed to wield influence rather than power. Let’s examine some of the ways you can begin to build influence and have it work to your advantage — and the advantage of your entire team.
Understand the Personality Styles of Your Team
No two people are the same, but we can generally classify people into four personality styles. The way in which they receive and process information is influenced heavily by that style. To become an influential leader, you must adjust your own approach to the individual, not the other way around. The most common personality styles are2:
- Drivers: These are results-oriented people. They can become frustrated with long-winded discussions and respond to direct, results-oriented communication.
- Expressives: Typically your social butterflies, they are outgoing and creative. They can be influenced through inclusion in the decision-making process and respond best when they feel their input is valued.
- Amiables: Easygoing and dependable, they rarely make waves. They are best influenced when you consider their feelings and can demonstrate how an action will impact both them and those around them.
- Analyticals: These folks are systematic and structured in the way they approach work. They are influenced by facts and data, and are not easily moved by feelings and emotions.
Understanding the personality styles you are working with will help you tailor your message when trying to influence people towards action or change. This understanding will also help build stronger relationships with your team, and once you’ve established a strong relationship, it is much easier to have influence.
Focus on the Benefits of Change
People naturally resist change, and when you receive pushback on a new process or initiative, it’s easy to default to the old mantra, “Do it because I said so.” You can influence, however, even in the face of resistance. The key is to tailor your message to the personality styles of your group and to focus on communicating the ways in which the change will benefit them.
If a change will eliminate redundancies in their jobs, for example, show them how. Illustrate how it will make their workday easier or less stressful. Determine the true benefits they will experience through the change, and communicate them clearly. If they have questions, let them ask. It will help you determine the benefits to highlight, and the more information the group has about a change, the more receptive they will be.
Take a Class or Workshop
There are many seminars, classes (both online and offline), mastermind groups and workshops that focus on building an influential leadership style. A formal class environment can benefit you by giving you a plan of action and providing you with a safe space in which to role-play and get familiar with the strategies involved with influencing. If possible, grab a colleague to participate with you. This gives you an in-house accountability partner to practice with when the class is over, and to debrief with as you build your influential leadership style.
Don’t Give Up
Don’t be afraid to talk to your team about the fact you are in the process of trying to better yourself as a leader. This can help them ease into the transition and be more receptive to a new approach. As with any new skill, persistence is the key to amping up your influence as a leader. It will take you time to develop your influential muscles, and you’ll probably fail more than a few times in the early stages.
It can be a useful exercise to keep track of the situations in which you sought to influence rather than impose authority. Make a list of the things that went well, and the things that could have gone a lot better. Look for patterns to help you more clearly identify the areas in which you need to focus in future situations, as well as the actions you should repeat. Positive results will follow with persistence, practice and a bit of patience.