HR Today: Being more influential at the workplace

Some people are naturally born leaders and exert some level of influence wherever they find themselves. Interestingly many others have also learnt the act of being a leader and have influenced major decisions the world over.

Being influential can easily be seen as authoritative if it is not exercised with some level of tact. Most people, at some point in their professional life, feel that they are not getting anywhere but just kicking the can down the road. Sometimes that is nature’s way of saying you need to change your job or better still try a different field all together. But often it simply means you need to ramp up your influence and be more meaningful. One can take a step back, have an introspection and change direction and focus.

Becoming more influential at work, or in any environment, is largely a matter of managing relationships. That means taking a careful look at all your workplace relationships – top to bottom, bottom to top and side to side and building bridges and alliances every step of the way. It also means positioning yourself such that your opinions will always matter.

Think of each person and situation as a chance to do something new, something different – to bring what you have on board. And when you bring your best, you increase your influence. Also desire to offer practical and workable solutions in every situation that may arise. Aspire to be different amongst other people in the organization. Develop yourself not only in your field of practice but also acquiring some level of knowledge of the entire business processes.

There are many ways we can influence decisions and opinions at our workplaces; it is surprising that we do that all the time but unfortunately it is done in a very subtle way and it goes unnoticed. Let’s consider these ways of maximizing our influence at the workplace;

Influence yourself: As you’re supporting, engaging, and enabling others, don’t forget about yourself. Take the time to work on your own needs and growth. Think positive, position yourself for greatness by building capacity, learn to be analytical. Study people you come into contact with and offer matured solution whenever it is needed. Build on your emotional intelligence, be quick to identify your pitfalls and work at them. Create a brand identity that will attract people to you and make you the obvious choice for seeking ideas on issues.

Influence your direct report: It is assumed that every leader can influence his/her subordinates. Ordinarily it should have been so but it is not always the case. One must build capacity over a period of time to be able to lead others. Once this is done with proper coaching and mentoring, confidence is developed and it becomes easy to be more influential since experience and exposure will be brought to bear. Every leader or boss must manage relationship with his direct reports very well and also be interesting in their career growth. Develop a rapport that enhances trust and loyalty with your direct reports.

Influence your colleagues: It’s sometimes difficult to influence your colleagues especially if the approach is seen to be domineering. Know your colleagues and find a positive way of influencing them. It’s likely that most of your peers just want someone to listen to them – someone they can vent to. Most especially when they have disagreement with other colleagues or in some instances personal and family issues. When they do, it’s best to stay neutral and not get caught up in the drama. Try to be the person who listens to others, shows appreciation and chips in when they need help. Always avoid taken sides on issues, be practically objective as much as possible.

Influence your leader/boss: Build a great relationship with your boss by being engaging and effective. That means you don’t go to them only with problems, but also to brainstorm about solutions and visions and new ideas. Become a person who can be counted on, can solve problems and create solutions – be solution oriented. Being held in high estimation by your boss is one of the best kinds of influence. It raises the bar for you and helps you to challenge yourself all time. However, there are some bosses who are very difficult to deal with, they simply don’t believe in any body’s idea, just be a little patient. If your boss fails with his/her ideas and ways of doing things, you will be consulted and then your influence will commence.

Influence meetings/decisions: Every organization has meetings, and most of us dread them. But meetings can be a great opportunity to grow your influence. You can become the person who listens when everyone else is speaking and expresses ideas when everyone else is silent. When people are confused and can’t make headway, it becomes an ideal time to put your well thought views across and establish the real essence of the need for a decision to be made. The idea is to be present when others check out, to be heard when others aren’t listening, and to listen when others are speaking. Also be mindful that most major decisions are taken at meetings, try to be analytical and offer tailor made solutions.

Influence your team: Teams are made up of individuals, each with their own style, cultural background and diversity, experience/exposure, and work style/ethics. One way to exercise influence in your team is to make sure that everyone feels valued. If you can be the person who appreciates everyone’s opinions and viewpoints, you’ll be seen as someone who appreciates others, and in turn you’ll be well respected. People are grateful to those who acknowledge and appreciate them, so be kind to your team, and in turn, they will give you stature and prominence. Hasten slowly when it comes to the views of others, it may not be making sense to you or to the discussion but be careful of how you respond to them. Do not denigrate or condemn them, try as much as you can not to discuss these downtimes of others after the meeting. Let them feel appreciated for speaking and contributing to the discussion. You build support and increase your influence with things like this.

Becoming influential takes effort and predisposition. As we know, influential people can change the world and it has been experienced in diverse ways, but first you have to start changing from within. Know yourself by identifying your strength and weaknesses, capitalize on your strength and build on your weaknesses over time. The use of technology can be a great tool in influencing decisions at the workplace, learn about technology and people management, use it to the advantage of all and stay more influential at work. Remember to never underestimate the influence you have on others by your actions and inactions. People watch what we do every step of the way and therefore we must act with a lot of discretion.

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