The Secrets of True Influence

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One of the biggest mistakes I see among my executive coaching clients is confusing position and influence. They aren't the same thing, although a person’s position could potentially increase his or her influence.  

Remember that although titles on the org chart can be helpful, they don't tell the full story of how things really get done. Effective leadership means looking beyond formal structures and recognizing that it's not just your position (or someone else's position) that makes things happen. At the heart of it, influence is all about understanding, cultivating and leveraging relationships.

I work with leaders who must collaborate across organizational boundaries to influence others to deliver business results all the time. Today, I want to share some of the process we go through to develop an effective approach.

First, identify who really makes certain types of decisions. If you aren’t sure about the political dynamics in your company, ask people you can trust who have been around long enough to know. Frame your questions in the right context by communicating how a better understanding of the landscape will help you avoid landmines and more quickly deliver what the business needs. But don’t stop there. Go beyond identifying this group of decision-makers to also understanding who they trust and rely on for advice and input.

Once you have mapped out how things really get done in your company, consider how to best share your ideas. In other words, who would be the best messenger(s) for your ideas? To influence the outcome you want, it may not be you. Never forget how much the messenger matters.

Once you have thought through the dynamics and who can help you, frame your ideas to enlist the support of key stakeholders. What is important to you and to each of these individuals? What are the key points of connection, and how should you communicate those? Choose the right words to help others see your focus on what's best for the business and not your own personal agenda. Remember that influence is not about manipulation. It is about helping your company achieve desired results, in a way that is authentic, genuine, and relationship-oriented.

This week, try out one of these strategies to help you develop the right approach to effectively influence someone to take action. Two booklets from my Leadership Edge SeriesSM can help you learn more. "Communicating With Impact" will show you how to frame your ideas to get more buy-in and overcome potential resistance. And "Building Influence" can help you identify the unwritten rules in your organization.