In­flu­encers make the best lead­ers

Winnipeg Free Press - Section H - - FRONT PAGE - BAR­BARA BOWES

OUR world of work has shifted and changed sig­nif­i­cantly over the last decade. No mat­ter what in­dus­try sec­tor your or­ga­ni­za­tion fits, your is­sues and chal­lenges are more com­plex, more dy­namic and faster paced than ever be­fore. In ad­di­tion, or­ga­ni­za­tional lead­ers have learned that the con­cept of a global econ­omy is not just some far flung the­ory but in­stead, it has real im­pact right here in our city and amongst our work­ing col­leagues.

Thank­fully, many busi­nesses have been able to take ad­van­tage of new tech­nol­ogy and in most cases, job losses are coun­tered with new op­por­tu­ni­ties, new jobs and new ca­reers.

How­ever, we’ve also seen a sub­stan­tial change in how peo­ple are will­ing to be led and how lead­ers try to lead. In fact, lead­er­ship is con­tin­u­ally tran­si­tion­ing. Over time, we’ve seen the old strict com­mand and con­trol and the car­rot and stick lead­er­ship ap­proaches fall into dis­re­pute. Team based lead­er­ship seems to be past its hey­day while em­ployee en­gage­ment is still a fre­quent topic of con­ver­sa­tion. So, where is all of this go­ing? What does it mean for or­ga­ni­za­tions and for lead­ers?

In my view, it sug­gests that much more at­ten­tion must be brought to bear on teach­ing the lead­er­ship skills needed to man­age in this type of dy­namic en­vi­ron­ment. Em­ploy­ees don’t just want to be told what to do, they want to be led, in­flu­enced, en­cour­aged to par­tic­i­pate and re­spected for their in­put into or­ga­ni­za­tional suc­cess. When this oc­curs, you’ll see both the or­ga­ni­za­tion and the em­ploy­ees pros­per like never be­fore. In fact, study af­ter study has demon­strated that en­gaged em­ploy­ees are more pro­duc­tive, have more pos­i­tive at­ti­tudes, are more in­no­va­tive and have less ab­sen­teeism. Or­ga­ni­za­tions on the other hand ben­e­fit from lower em­ployee costs and higher prof­itabil­ity.

I also be­lieve that ev­ery per­son in an or­ga­ni­za­tion has the ca­pa­bil­ity to lead at some level and should par­tic­i­pate in build­ing upon th­ese lead­er­ship skills. In par­tic­u­lar, I be­lieve that ev­ery­one should learn how to ef­fec­tively per­suade and in­flu­ence oth­ers in the work­place. When em­ploy­ees and front-line lead­ers ap­ply this skill, they are bet­ter team mem­bers and team lead­ers with more ef­fec­tive skills in de­vel­op­ing and build­ing re­la­tion­ships. Be­ing able to ef­fec­tively in­flu­ence also helps in­di­vid­u­als to de­velop and sus­tain re­la­tion­ships out­side the work­place, at home or in the vol­un­teer com­mu­nity.

Ac­cord­ing to Robert Cial­dini, an author and re­searcher in the area of in­flu­ence, there are a num­ber of prin­ci­ples of in­flu­ence that ap­ply in ev­ery sit­u­a­tion. This in­cludes the prin­ci­ple of lik­ing, rec­i­proc­ity, so­cial proof, con­sis­tency, au­thor­ity and scarcity.

More specif­i­cally, hav­ing in­flu­ence re­quires you to de­velop a net­work of in­di­vid­u­als or col­leagues who re­spect and sup­port your work. It sug­gests that in­di­vid­u­als who of­fer as­sis­tance with­out any ex­pec­ta­tion will of­ten find sup­port when they, too, need it. As well, peo­ple look for role mod­els who can act as so­cial proof and au­thor­ity through con­sis­tent be­hav­ior. Fi­nally, in­flu­ence can be ef­fec­tive when peo­ple see their ben­e­fits as unique and/or ex­clu­sive.

On the other hand, the most ef­fec­tive means for a novice to be­come pro­fi­cient at ap­ply­ing an in­flu­ence strat­egy is to adopt a sim­ple and ef­fec­tive in­flu­ence model such as the fol­low­ing: As­sume ev­ery­one can be a po­ten­tial ally While many of us might per­ceive the per­son we need to in­flu­ence as some­what dif­fi­cult, it is im­por­tant to in­stead think of this per­son in terms of an ally. This per­cep­tion will change the whole tone of how you will in­ter­act and will help to cre­ate trust. See the in­di­vid­ual as an op­por­tu­nity to build your net­work. Clar­ify work goals and pri­or­i­ties The fo­cus here must be on “work” goals rather than per­sonal goals. What do you need from the other per­son? What are your pri­mary and sec­ondary goals? Keep per­sonal wants and per­sonal goals such as be­ing right, out of the thought process. Un­der­stand the other per­son’s world Ex­am­ine your coun­ter­part’s or­ga­ni­za­tional cul­ture, their po­ten­tial pres­sure points and their busi­ness goals and ob­jec­tives. Think about what might be im­por­tant to them. How are they mea­sured at work and what might it take to de­velop and in­flu­ence them to­ward a win/win so­lu­tion? Ask ques­tions for clar­i­fi­ca­tion. Be­come an ex­cep­tional lis­tener While it’s a com­mon be­lief that be­ing able to speak up and hold a con­ver­sa­tion will cre­ate a higher level of in­flu­ence, I be­lieve that be­ing an ef­fec­tive lis­tener is equally if not more im­por­tant. For in­stance, lis­ten­ing al­lows you to gain in­for­ma­tion about the other party’s be­liefs, their per­sonal and pro­fes­sional at­ti­tudes, their level of knowl­edge and their spe­cific goals and ob­jec­tives. Good lis­ten­ing en­ables you to build trust quickly. Iden­tify what re­ally mat­ters When lis­ten­ing, you must pay at­ten­tion to as­sess­ing what’s im­por­tant to both par­ties. Take time to ex­am­ine so called “cur­ren­cies” such as be­ing part of some­thing mean­ing­ful or hav­ing the op­por­tu­nity to learn new skills. Some peo­ple are in­flu­enced by the abil­ity to gain per­sonal recog­ni­tion or the se­cu­rity of be­long­ing to an elite group. Still oth­ers can be in­flu­enced sim­ply by your own per­sonal re­la­tion­ship. Typ­i­cally, in­di­vid­u­als fo­cus on one to three per­sonal mo­ti­va­tors when they make a de­ci­sion to fol­low; find­ing out what th­ese are will en­able you to in­flu­ence. Con­firm re­la­tion­ship sta­tus If you’re on good terms with an in­di­vid­ual, you can ap­proach them di­rectly; how­ever, if you don’t know the per­son, you need to find a way to make a con­nec­tion and be­gin to build trust. This can be ac­com­plished by hav­ing some­one re­fer you to the in­di­vid­ual and take time to find com­mon ground. Make sure you are un­der­stood Once you have clar­i­fied your goals and ob­jec­tives, be sure to use vo­cab­u­lary and terms that the other party fully un­der­stands. Put your­self in the other per­son’s shoes, tell a story and/or make a vis­ual com­par­i­son, use di­a­grams and en­sure you have eas­ily un­der­stood facts to sup­port your view. Be open and flex­i­ble Open your mind to creative op­tions, ac­cept un­con­ven­tional and unique ideas and be cu­ri­ous enough to dis­cuss th­ese at length. While open­ness might im­ply risk, open­ness also en­ables us to learn and grow. Be­ing flex­i­ble and open enough to ex­am­ine the po­ten­tial of any and all ideas also serves to build trust. In­flu­ence through ex­change The adage of ‘I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine’ is a com­mon in­flu­ence ex­change strat­egy that sub­tly cre­ates a sense of un­con­scious in­debt­ed­ness. It can also in­clude more forth­right in­cen­tives or ex­changes but no mat­ter what, the strat­egy in­volves pro­vid­ing a ben­e­fit to the other party, even when you may not have the same val­ues. Take the ini­tia­tive and make the first move in this ex­change.

Be­ing a leader, no mat­ter what level or what role, re­quires that you de­velop the skill of in­flu­enc­ing oth­ers. Known as a ‘soft or pull tac­tic’, it re­quires more time and en­ergy, but this ap­proach is much less force­ful and in­stead serves to build trust­ing re­la­tion­ships, de­velop per­sonal em­ployee ac­count­abil­ity and more suc­cess­ful over­all em­ployee en­gage­ment.

Our world of work has shifted and changed sig­nif­i­cantly such that to­day we are con­fronted with more com­plex and more dy­namic chal­lenges. In my view, em­ployee en­gage­ment is the longterm so­lu­tion and the strat­egy is en­sur­ing our lead­ers are strong in­flu­encers.

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