How to influence your workplace positively
Do you know how to ask for (and get) what you need in the workplace? Whether you’re a C-suite executive, the leader of a dispersed team or a solo contributor seeking your first management role, influencing skills matter.
Have you ever been baffled by the communication style of a boss, staff member or customer? How well do you understand the motivations, pace, communication style and decision-making process of others? It is imperative to consider these factors in order to enlist the cooperation of others. It is not enough to define a vision of your goal or make a good business case. Before rushing in, think about your audience.
Begin with building trust. This is something the best influencers do early and often. Next, look to understand the goals, motivations and decision-making style of each person. Find out what’s in it for them.
Let’s take the case of Bill, the new guy who had recently been promoted to manager of Operations. In a rush to impress at his first management meeting, Bill presented an important proposal to the management team. He hoped to upgrade and replace the outdated software the company developed years ago. The new software would integrate finance, human resources, operations and IT in ways that meant significant efficiencies. The company could take on big customers and add new revenue without new hires.
Bill was stunned when he learned that Mary, the CFO, had helped develop the company’s software in tandem with Gerald, the manager of IT, years before Bill joined the company. Because Bill didn’t do his company research first, he stepped on a few toes.
Bill could have gained trust and an understanding of his peers’ accomplishments and motivations in one-on-one meetings before presenting his idea.
Even though Bill was embarrassed about his rookie mistake, he went back to the drawing board. He apologized publicly for his mistake and went to work to set up one-on-one meetings with his peers.
This time, he looked to build trust and rapport, observing the differences in how each of his peers preferred to receive information.
Bill learned that Mary made decisions about which people to trust based on their credibility and attention to facts. After the formalities, he was surprised to see that she warmed up and talked enthusiastically about potential cost-saving initiatives.
Gerald wanted his role in supporting the strategic direction of the company to be acknowledged. Once Bill was able to understand and credit some of the important growth points IT had enabled for the company, Gerald embraced the proposed upgrade.
At first, Bill thought mainly about what was in it for him, namely impressing his peers and getting a big win in his new role. He nearly killed the deal.
Instead, he slowed down and observed what was important to his peers. What goals were important? What points of pride did they take in their contribution to the company? How did they process new information? What was in it for them?
Bill learned what great leaders already know: building trust, active listening and respecting other communication styles could create big wins for himself and his company.