Many equate influence to power, but it is so much more. True influence conveys an emotional connection and trust. Depending who we talk with, most people can attest to how influence helped them. A supervisor or leader may say that influence helped them get their voice heard. A team member may say that their influence allowed them to work with the team more effectively.
Most will agree that having influence is advantageous, but building that influence, like learning a skill, takes time and effort. Fortunately, there are strategies that can be used to cultivate your influence.
5 Tips to Cultivate Influence
1. Build Trust with Your Co-Workers
Influence is most often and most easily carried through trust. Only when a co-worker trusts you will he or she be open to your influence. If you’re in a higher position in the company hierarchy, it’s possible to convey a demand or assign a task that must be carried out by your employee, but true influence suggests a free will component.
2. Enhance Reliability Through Consistency
If you execute your tasks efficiently and on time, day after day, people will eventually come to rely on you. You are letting your leadership characteristics shine through by allowing your team, manager, and employer to see you demonstrate consistent results with your good work. Consistency is vital for building influence because it proves that you’re reliable, making people more open and trustworthy of your decisions.
3. Be Assertive, Not Aggressive
Being assertive is the only way to get your ideas noticed, especially when you’re competing with others for visibility, such as in a meeting. However, there’s a difference between being assertive and being aggressive. Assertiveness should extend as a general quality to all your interactions, regardless of whether you’re speaking to colleagues above, below, or at your level, and regardless of the conversational format. Being assertive, so long as you truly believe in what you’re saying, is a way to cultivate a reputation of authority and earn the ability to influence your peers and employer.
4. Be Personable
When trying to build influence in the workplace, a little personality goes a long way. If people can’t sense that you’re being authentic, they won’t be as open to your influence or ideas. Being personal is especially important as you’re climbing up the career ladder. If you isolate yourself or try to build your perceived authority by distancing yourself from others, it might only serve to alienate you and put you in a position where you’re viewed with distrust, resentment, or “not a team player”. Influence can never be achieved in isolation since you need to have a significant impact on others to be an influential figure.
5. Focus on Actions not Words
Trying to build influence through words is useless. Each time your actions fail to match up to your words decreases the meaning of those words. We have all known someone that can recite at will all the wonderful things they have done. However, if pressed, no one can remember any actions that supported this recitation. People won’t remember what you say, they’ll remember what you did and how it impacted them. If you’re going to build influence in the workplace, you need to speak through your actions, or, at the very least, have the actions and history to back up whatever you’re saying. This proves your reliability and ability to follow through.
Influence is often the catalyst to action without direct command or exertion of force. Start cultivating your influence today!