“I really liked your comments on office politics. Now, would you address the issue of influencing, especially as you move up the ladder? Currently at a mid-senior level in my organization, I am about to change to an assignment where I will be dealing with very senior leaders on a daily basis. Any tips or advice?” Elizabeth M.
Congratulations on your new assignment, Elizabeth! Here’s your opportunity to build visibility and increase your impact.
You are right to understand that your impact is closely tied to your capacity to influence. That’s a large part of what leadership is all about.
Just recently I had a coaching session on this very issue. An engineer-recently-turned-manager was dissatisfied with the response she was getting in her new team meetings. She didn’t sense that her comments were being heard, acknowledged, or processed. Her ideas appeared to be dead on arrival.
As we explored what was happening, it emerged that Nancy (not her real name) was using an old technique that had worked well when she was an individual contributor: get right to the point and crisply deliver the definitive answer.
As an emerging leader, Nancy needed a new technique. Leaders are listeners, first and foremost. They’re not about pronouncing answers. Nancy noticed that the effective team members told what she called a “back story” to their idea before proposing their central question or idea. The technician in Nancy resisted “wasting time” like that, but we talked about what it means to leave behind that role. Her new role required that she focus on influencing people rather than delivering solutions.
Building a bridge with that “back story” would give her colleagues a context for her perspective and invite them to engage. Nancy promised to give this new technique a try this week.
So as you make the shift from manager to leader, be mindful that influence:
- is a people process, not a technical problem
- encourages engagement
- uses language adaptively
- leverages the power of platform
- uses differences as a ground for conversation
- begins with how an issue is defined and framed
- builds on personal relationships
- depends upon integrity and reputation
- makes use of good timing
- is an ongoing, dynamic, strategic practice
- aims to be productive, not right
Enjoy your new assignment, Elizabeth, and share with us what you learn about the fine art of influencing!