We all know him.
You know, the guy in the office who seems to have the ability to influence the boss into doing whatever he wants him to do. He’s the one who leaves the rest of us scratching our heads (or perhaps grumbling under our breath) on just exactly how he does it. He is the one who goes against the grain most the time, marches to his own beat, so why does that seem to work to his advantage? And, better yet, how do I get some of what he’s having for breakfast?
Influence is power, and in the workplace, it is critical for success. Learning HOW to be influential, without being a brown-noser, can be tricky, but with practice, will become second-nature. I’ve compiled a list of ways to build your influence in the workplace. This can work individually, but also can be practiced as a company in order to become more influential in your particular industry.
Build Trusting Relationships - I’ve mentioned in a previous post how vital it is to gain trust with coworkers and an influential person does just that. In fact, it’s an ongoing process, as it should be. Once co-workers trust you, it opens them up to your influence. The easiest way to build these sorts of relationships, is to be honest. Be consistent in everything. Be reliable. Follow through with projects in a timely manner. Be authentic. Sounds almost too simple, but these are the blocks that will create a solid base for any successful business.
Personal Involvement - No matter your title or task, get involved with those around you. The path to influence is not paved through isolating yourself, especially if you are a supervisor or boss. Find ways to connect with those around you. This will build unity, teamwork, trust. The key is to be approachable by not appearing too perfect, because let’s face it, who is?
Ask Questions - Ask “Why not?” or “What if?” Challenge conventional wisdom and in turn this will invite others to think for themselves. This is where people of influence don’t really fit the typical mold. They think outside of the box. In fact, they might even ask why the box is there in the first place, while innovating a way to repurpose it.
Opinionated - Similar to asking questions, influential people have definite opinions. Being “opinionated” generally has a negative connotation, but to be a more influential person in business, being opinionated is a driving force to success. You must believe firmly, authentically, in what you are doing and in so doing, those around you will begin believing in what you’re doing as well. That is influence.
Open to Opinion - This takes an element of humility. Welcome thoughts and ideas that are different from your own and open your mind to their suggestions, without offense. In fact, encourage contradictions. This ties back to the building blocks of mutual trust and respect. If you want to be listened to, you must first take a moment to listen.
Be Focused, yet Flexible - You’re thinking, “How can I be both”? It is difficult, but possible. Yes remain rigid in your beliefs, hold true to your plan. This is important. But also be open to negotiations and compromises should someone contradict your way of thinking, because someone inevitably will. You must be capable of believing in yourself AND others. Otherwise you’ll be known as stubborn, immovable and unapproachable.
Action, not Argument - Words, written or spoken, will only get you so far. It’s much more important to show those around you what you mean and who you are, rather than talk about what you intend to do. Stay on the lookout for opportunities and as they approach, quickly take action. This, too, will build your credibility in the workplace because it proves you can indeed “walk the walk”.
Hans Zimmer is an Oscar Award-winning composer and one of the most talented and influential composers of our day. He has written scores to movies such as “Pirates of the Caribbean”, “Sherlock Holmes”, “The Lion King” and “Gladiator”. Attempting to watch one of these movies without the theme song, would be like seeing a rainbow absent of color. His music gives life to the story. He recently said, “If somebody tells you that there’s a rule, break it. That is the only way that things move forward.”
Be the outside-thinker, the louder (and more inquisitive) voice, and you might just be surprised at how far-reaching your influence can be.
Let me Know: When has “thinking outside the box” helped you achieve success?