The acquisition of influence is a long-term process. It is the gradual accumulation of credibility over time, and it is a strategy far more than a skill.
Here are five researched strategies that aid in gaining influence in a career.
- Don’t follow fashion
The next time you hear the unmistakeable sound of a bandwagon gathering speed, why not ask everyone to pause and reflect? There are probably other options worth considering – safer and less alluring ones. It may be that you can’t stop the bandwagon, but at least if it crashes you’ll be the one to emerge with your reputation enhanced rather than in tatters.
- Keep a foot in both camps
So what if you become the person who acts as the bridge? Start a conversation across offices, functions and divisions, for no other motive than curiosity. The reward may be that you can start to open up new channels of communication and become the interlocutor of choice. You get to be invited to both sets of meetings. If the two sides need to collaborate, they will probably rely on you to get it done. Be the conduit, the messenger, and become influential to all sides not just your own.
- Say it in a metaphor
Next time you want to make a point or an observation, particularly to a large audience, why not consider expressing yourself metaphorically? Maybe your organisation used to share the properties of a lion, but now it needs to become more of a cheetah: greater win ratios but smaller prey. Or perhaps your team has become so concerned with defending its territory that it has stopped thinking about the need to score a few goals of its own? Perhaps the cultural shift you are trying to achieve is akin to a PC user encountering his first Mac? The more vivid your word picture, the more easily your audience can relate to the original idea; and the chances of your idea gaining traction and spreading are increased exponentially.
Good non-confrontational ways of performing the vital public service of keeping a discussion on track include saying the following:
- “Can we just take stock…?”
- “What we seem to be saying is…”
- “Maybe it would helpful if I recap where we seem to have got to so far…”
These can be particularly useful when a discussion gets heated or when one or two participants are dominating.
- Get feedback about process, not just outcomes
In the aftermath of a meeting or pitch, we will often make a sweeping value judgement: it went well; it was a disaster. But how often will we anatomise victory or defeat – actually strive to understand what specific behaviours or processes made the difference between the one and the other? The great sports stars and their coaches have this down pat: improvement does not come from good intentions or wishful thinking. It comes from the almost scientific application of data driven feedback.
The original article was written by Steven Pearce and appeared in Winning Business Digest.
John Timperley is managing director of The Results Consultancy, which specialises in helping professional firms in the legal, accounting and consulting sectors to win more high value business. John can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org www.winningbusiness.net.