Power Principle: How to Amp up Your Influence at Work

March 23rd, 2017
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:

  1. Drivers: These are results-oriented people. They can become frustrated with long-winded discussions and respond to direct, results-oriented communication.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

1 http://www.chicagotribune.com/dp-millennials-want-an-end-to-hierarchies-in-the-workplace-20150622-story.html/

2 http://crestcomleadership.com/2015/11/24/4-personality-types-that-all-leaders-should-learn-to-recognize/

Too Busy to Think?

October 20th, 2016

Too Busy to Think?
How and Why to Carve Out “Think Time” For Business

Too Busy to Think? How and Why to Carve out 'Think Time' for Business

Business moves fast.

Between the pile of responsibilities on your plate and the constant demands of leading a team, you may feel like you don’t even have time to think. In order to lead well in today’s complex, fast-paced society, however, finding time to think is exactly what you need most.

Sure, “getting stuff done” is essential — at times. But without a clear goal in mind and a clear road map to get there, simply “doing things” might cost you and your team more than it gives. Here’s why — and how — to make time to think.

Why Your “Think Time” Matters

The popular media provides us images of business leaders as people with a lot of “hustle.” As a result, we begin to believe that doing more is the same thing as accomplishing more. But is it?

Warren Buffet has built a business empire by spending most of his time reading and thinking. At AOL, CEO Tim Armstrong and the rest of the executive staff spend four hours a week just thinking. LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner actually puts “think time” in his daily schedule — two hours of it. And Bill Gates’s twice-yearly vacations are spent in contemplation, not in catching up.

When you spend time thinking, you can approach business more efficiently, gaining maximum impact from minimum application of time, money or effort. Abraham Lincoln reportedly once said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” When you think, you spend time sharpening your axe — so when you start chopping down the tree, you can do it more quickly, more cleanly and with less effort.

How to Make Time to Think

Thinking is an essentially different mode of operation than action. While thinking can be combined with action — some executives do their best thinking on the treadmill or bicycle — “think time” works best when it’s structured specifically to let your brain work. Here’s how to create think time that works for you.

  1. Learn to say “no” and “please handle this.”
    Delegating is important. When it comes to finding space to think, delegating is essential. Check your schedule for meetings and tasks you can say “no” to, and find ways to delegate items that must be done. This will help free you from the details, giving you time and space to look at the big picture and to think more strategically.
  2. Find your quiet space.
    Virginia Woolf famously said that “a room of one’s own” was essential for success as a writer. For success as a leader, a “quiet space of one’s own” is just as essential. Focus on developing both a quiet “external” space in the form of an office with a closed door or a solo hike, and a quiet “internal” space with mindfulness practices like focusing on your breathing. When you quiet both the outside and inside noise, you improve the quality of your thought processes.
  3. Let it bubble.
    The best ideas don’t appear fully formed in their creators’ heads. Instead, they arrive in pieces — an idea here, a concept here, an insight on resources there. Use a journal or similar tool to keep track of ideas and to provide some perspective, so you can spend time considering how to fit the parts together.
  4. Be clear.
    Having an idea, mission or plan is half the battle. The other half is communicating it clearly to your team. Practice communicating your vision, ask for feedback and clarify where necessary so your team is as clear on the plan “on the ground” as you are during your quiet moments.
  5. Keep thinking.
    Once your thought processes have paid off by producing a new strategic plan or developing a new solution to a sticky problem, don’t quit. Keep examining how the change is working and contemplating improvements. And stick to your “quiet time” — practice will improve your ability to think deeply, which will continue to improve your business.

Think better when you can bounce ideas off another professional? Talk to your staffing partner about strategies for better hiring and retention.