The 4 Essentials of Influence

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To lead well, you need influence. And this month we're talking about how to build it. Last week, I took you through an exercise to help you figure out what influence looks like for you. This week, I'll help you better understand influence — and how to increase your own — by breaking it down into four key components.

1. Credibility

This is the big one. Influence starts with credibility. Without it, you can’t effectively influence, no matter what approach you take. If you're not sure whether others see you as credible, seek some feedback. If you hear questions about your credibility, correct that by helping others see your strengths and the value you bring. If you’re like many high performers, you may underestimate the positive impact you have. So, take the time to identify and share examples of how you consistently add value, in a way that's relevant for the audience. 2. Connection to the Big Picture

Part of being influential is being known as someone who brings a lot to table — intelligence, insight, etc. But you also have to be known as someone who's not just in it for yourself. Connect what you do to the big picture of what's right for the organization. If you speak just about your (or your department's) goals and priorities, it can leave others wondering whether your motivation is self-serving. That can quickly erode your credibility.

3. Relationships

All organizations have formal leaders whose power ties to their positions. But they also have informal leaders who shape what really gets done. Your influence depends on the strength of your relationships with both formal leaders and informal leaders. Take a few minutes to review and assess these.

4. Processes

The final part of the influence equation relates to the processes you use to build influence. In other words, be strategic about how you leverage and engage others. For example, how often do you hold the "meeting before the meeting" to get buy-in from others and avoid surprises? Have you thought through the right messenger for advancing your goals? Sometimes it isn't you.  Look at what you do today, and small tweaks you could make to bring others along more effectively.

Next week, I'll have a tool to help you gauge how you're doing in developing your influence. To get the most out of this assessment, make a point this week to notice where you currently stand in each of these key areas. And to learn more about building influence and other key career skills, check out my Leadership EDGE SeriesSM. Pick what’s most relevant for you or invest in the complete set of eight for a 20% savings.