Influencing others is one of the most important leadership skills you can possess. When you lead people without authority, using these influence qualities will make your job easier. In order to influence people, of course communication is required. Our interactions with others can escalate into conflict, avoidance or misunderstanding. If you attempt to influence without using and demonstrating these qualities, it can feel manipulative or even worse, like coercion to the people with whom you are talking.
In general, we are more influential when we have good relationships with people. Those relationships, and therefore your ability to influence, will improve when you practice and develop these qualities:
- Likeability. People work with those they know and trust. That’s not a surprise. One way to be more likeable is to smile more often. Another is to concentrate on making eye contact. Alan Turing, who led the team that unlocked the Nazi code in WWII, was influenced by a team member who told him he needed to do something to let the team know he cared and acknowledged their hard work. Once he worked on being more likeable, they worked together more collaboratively. The result? They broke the code and saved an estimated 14 million lives and two years of war.
- Reciprocity. No one is an island and totally self-sufficient. We accomplish more through the support of others and giving back is essential to reciprocity. Returning a favor, taking someone to lunch, pitching in when a colleague needs help are all ways you can use reciprocity to increase your influence. In addition, if you are new to a team, make sure you reach out to others first. You will be seen as a person who values relationships and can be turned to as a resource. Give and take is important in any relationship, work or personal. Not reciprocating can start to create a divide and lack of trust.
- Credibility. This is a matter of integrity. Do what you say you are going to do. Be trustworthy. Consistency builds credibility and builds trust with your team. Consistency across your team says to the organization that your team is high performing. This increases your credibility, which improves your influence ability.
- Composure. How poised and calm do you appear in the midst of conflict and when deadlines are tight? How composed are you when a colleague does something that surprises you or doesn’t feel supportive? You will be able to influence people more easily if you are the one who can remain calm and composed through the storm. Your team will feel safe to approach you even when things aren’t going well. Having good composure includes a willingness to be open and to hear the hard things when it is difficult to communicate them.
- Commitment. Leaders who openly share their commitments with their team will more easily influence others to support their vision. Leaders who aren’t clear on their commitments create confusion and people don’t know when to say yes or when to say no. They don’t know what impact their answer will have on you. Leaders who demonstrate commitment by doing what they say they are going to do and supporting their teams are influential in getting things done in the organization.
Luckily, learning influence skills is a matter of practicing each of these five qualities. If you or your team could benefit from improving your influence skills, I offer leadership coaching programs and a workshop on influence. Please contact me through LinkedIn or my website for more information.
Kathy Garland works with leaders to improve results through strengthening their influence, emotional intelligence and relationship-building strategies. She is an executive coach, mentor and speaker and specializes in working with women leaders and their teams in technical and analytical careers. She is certified in the MHS EQi Emotional Intelligence Survey as well as 360 Management Skills Surveys. For a complimentary copy of my ebook “30 Questions for the Effective Leader” please fill out this Download Form.
Additional resources on #creative leadership:
Mastering Our Communication by Robb Braun
The Creative Entrepreneur by Sharon Jenkins
Value Recognition by Cheri Valentine Kierstead