Whether you want to admit it or not – we all either need or want to increase our influence. It may be at work or in your household. It could be getting a project team to implement your suggestion or getting your 5-year-old to bed on time. Both require a level of influence. Authority alone will only go so far; you have to also do something that encourages them to go along with you.
You may be like me – influence hasn’t always been viewed as a positive. Many of us can hear the echo of the words “bad influence”. We tend to think of avoiding bad influences instead of becoming a positive influence. It’s good to work on our influencing skills. How do you increase your influence? You implement some behaviors or practices. Here are three behaviors you can implement today.
1. Listen to Understand
Stephen Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People made popular the concept “Seek First to Understand”. To Understand we must Listen. Our environment is busy and distracting. When was the last time you put down all technology (or hid it away) for a few hours and just listened to those around you? Listening isn’t efficient. To truly understand someone will take time and patience. The respect shown by listening to understand creates respect in turn – the kind earned, not commanded. Influence is achieved through this earned respect.
In my past career as a Regional Manager I chose to travel to those I led. Many could view this as inefficient–spending hours between travel time and time on location. I found that the extra effort gave my team-members the respect they deserved, allowed me to limit distractions and produced a greater understanding of their needs. In the end I feel it earned their respect and grew my influence.
It doesn’t matter who you practice this with – Adult or Child. When you give someone your full attention for a significant amount of time you give them some of your heart and they will pay it back in kind. Within the next 24 hours – find a person you need to increase your influence with and Listen to Understand.
2. Develop Relationships
At work, choose to develop relationships with people you rely on and potentially don’t interact with frequently. Who leads a department that supports yours? Who completes a report that you review every month? Do you know them by name? Do you know anything else about them? Do you know people at all levels within your organization? How about outside of your organization?
It’s easier to develop relationships with those you see or speak with all the time. Who’s that essential person that requires less interaction? Find an opportunity to interact with that person. Practice point number one (1) above and you'll be well on your way to creating a relationship with someone and as a result will grow your influence. Stop being the person that passes another in the hallway without knowing their name or what they do.
At home or in your personal life, do you have time dedicated to relationship deepening? This could be a designated date night or something you’re both passionate about such as dancing, walking, woodworking, painting, running or bicycling. Develop or deepen a relationship with someone today. John C. Maxwell has made popular the saying “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”. You’ll see that all three (3) points involve a level of caring.
3. Show Appreciation
A “thank you” increases Your Influence. Acknowledging another’s contribution is another form of respect that generates influence. No one wants to feel unappreciated and most times it’s unintentional when good work goes unacknowledged. To solve for this, you become purposeful in your appreciation. Are there routine opportunities to show appreciation? Maybe end of month or end of quarter results provide a way to acknowledge someone on your team.
When was the last time you sent a handwritten note? Picked up the phone? Sent an email? A great way a manager can celebrate a team-member is to share compliments received from external or internal clients during meetings. At home, appreciation can be shown for a multitude of things – clean rooms, enjoyable meals, completion of household chores, or a small kindness shown to another family member. Give some thanks; the recipient will appreciate the effort and it will make the world a kinder place.
These are three options you may pursue that cost you no more than your intentional effort. Recall that Influence is gained because of behaviors or practices, not through authority given by title. Be a Positive Influencer!