Your path to leadership probably started with being an exceptional individual contributor. But as you rise through the ranks, your success becomes more about what you can accomplish with and through others. In other words, your leadership effectiveness ties closely to your ability to influence.
So, what does it take to influence others? You might think that influence requires extroversion, charisma or a passion for office politics. But when it comes down to it, true influence means using your voice and your actions authentically and courageously to affect change. And I'm willing to bet that you have more influence — and more opportunities to use that influence — than you might realize. Here are three ways of showing influence at work that often get overlooked but that can make a real difference.
1. Influence by Educating
Sometimes you may observe nuances and dynamics that others just don’t pay attention to or see.
For example, let's say your colleague tells you that he believes that certain people didn't speak up at a recent meeting because of their apathy or shortage of good ideas. His conclusion may or may not be valid, but it certainly opens the door for you to share factors that he may be overlooking. What are some other possibilities he should consider? Maybe the introverts on your team would have participated more if they had gotten an agenda or materials in advance to help them prepare their thoughts on the topic. Or perhaps the interrupters who bulldoze over everyone else made it difficult for others to get a word in. Or maybe the fast pace of the meeting made it feel like input wasn’t really desired.
Passing along a different perspective or new information can help others notice what they would have otherwise missed. Do this in the moment or get in the habit of regularly sharing useful articles or relevant research.
2. Influence through Feedback
It's not easy to hear about a habit or behavior that's been holding back your success or impeding your ability to get results. But if you've gotten feedback like this recently, you probably wondered, "Why didn't someone tell me this before now?"
Keep this in mind the next time you hesitate to offer feedback to someone else. One of the most effective ways you can influence others is by sharing information to help them succeed. Your feedback may be just what they need to overcome career-stalling behavior.
To make giving feedback easier, keep your desire to help the other person first and foremost in your mind. Stick to being factual: Share the behavior that you observed and multiple impacts of that behavior. And don't forget that sharing positive feedback influences people too. When your direct report or colleague does something that works well, use encouraging words to influence them to do more of it!
3. Influence by Example
As a leader, you are always in the invisible spotlight. People pay close attention to what you do, and definitely notice when your words don’t align with your actions.
Take this example: You're encouraging one of your team members to be more strategic and focus on the big picture instead of getting caught up in minutiae. But then you turn around and make nitpicky edits to their PowerPoint document. Your actions may have sent a very different message about big-picture thinking than your words did — and diminished your influence in the process.
This week, pay extra attention to the story that your actions tell about what you really value.
Of these three influence strategies, where do you see the biggest opportunity for you? However you choose to exercise your influence, recognize that your unique voice can concurrently drive your success and benefit others. For more strategies like these, check out my guide to "Building Influence" in the Leadership EDGE Series℠.