By Neal Eisenstein, MBA
Leaders are responsible for achieving results and a fundamental truth of leadership is that we work through others to achieve goals and objectives. In large part, leadership requires the ability to influence others. If you’ve read this much, you can probably relate.
Whether you have positional authority over teams or operate in a matrix environment, the job of the leader is to establish, promote and drive a vision. No matter where you stand in the organization, if you want to feel more effective, earn that raise and feel validated by others – how often and with whom you work to influence will make all the difference.
At its core, we are always working to influence and align with people who may be wired differently then us – different values, priorities, concerns, strengths and development needs. Some of us put in long hours and work nights and weekends. Others work to relieve the burden of an understaffing or underperforming team by doing parts of the job you used to have before being promoted. Others do a bit more telling then asking, falling into the trap of barking orders in order to save time and energy. Sound familiar?
Your talent brings their own unique interpretations to their work, the business and operating within a comfort zone and patterns that have developed over time. It’s never just the information that we share, the financial reports, project plans or strategy documents that people need to understand. It’s also their interpretation of information to align with your needs, organization challenges and what is important to you as the leader. So, the question becomes, “how can you more effectively ensure that business discussions result in accurate interpretations of how others need to assert or the best framework to help others understand what seems crystal clear to you?”
Here are three strategies to influence more effectively.
- Using metaphor to illustrate ideas and envision a better future state. Let me ask, what sounds more motivating, “We need to get this done by next week even though we’re short staffed, “ or “How can we extricate ourselves from this dark, muddy mess and feel like we’re operating in green grass and sunshine?” Metaphor requires a bit of pause and creativity but can yield better results because the point is to motivate people to see and act toward working through challenges.
- Asking versus telling. Telling others how to approach their work might feel productive in the moment, i.e. getting things off your desk and out of your mind. In reality, telling versus asking keeps people in “doer mode” and does little to help others think for themselves or develop confidence that they can actually improve their approach to solving problems. It also becomes a very powerful tool to work through challenges with peers and bosses because it opens up the conversation to reflection and the potential to align on possibilities rather then problems.
- Post mortem discussions. When leaders bring direct reports or peer partners together to process learning, talk about what worked and honestly assess the breakdowns – this can be a powerful rallying point for alignment. As long as the criticism doesn’t feel personal to peers or the team, this can be a powerful mechanism for learning. It can also be a powerful platform to drive your agenda, help others to embrace your perspective and get agreement at the table.
The currency of rising leadership is the ability to demonstrate agility and balance in influencing others. The job of the rising leader is to experiment with different ways of working and communicating to work more effectively with and through others. If you’re dealing with some challenges in this area, reach out for guidance and support.
Neal can assist you in learning to influence others more productively. Contact him for a complimentary consult.