Influence: Too Much or Just Right?

February 7, 2014

Melissa Lanier

Melissa Lanier is the Director of Talent Management at GES, where she develops the organization’s leaders and helps senior leaders drive change.

Are you an influencer? This is an important question because the world of work has changed. Managers must deal with matrixed organizations, flatter management structures, outsourcing, and virtual teams – sometimes all at once. In this world, the command and-control leadership approach often leads to frustration for both leaders and followers. Leaders are just not prepared to get things done without formal authority.

Personal influence, the action or process of producing effects on the actions, behavior, opinions, etc., of another or others, is a key leadership skill – and one that leaders must work to hone as organizations become more complex. I am fortunate that early in my career, I had some sharp mentors who were also excellent influencers. I learned some useful strategies that I am happy to share.

Here are my four favorite:

1. Form coalitions – Multiply your influence by forming a group. Ask your peers to support your ideas, but don’t stop there. The best coalitions are cross-functional.

2. Make an inspirational appeal – Does the group you need to influence share values, beliefs or hopes? If so, the inspiration appeal may be the way to go. For example, if everyone believes that quality is critical, explain how your approach improves quality.

3. Bring in an expert – This could be an internal expert or an external consultant. Ask your expert to back-up your suggested course of action with facts and data.

4. Have the meeting before the meeting – Consulting with others before you announce the “way forward” helps secure their buy-in for a particular course of action. It also gives them a vested interest in the outcome.

Want to find your personal influencing style? Read What’s Your Influencing Style from the Harvard Business Review blog.

What’s worked for you to increase your influence with those you don’t manage directly? How are you planning to better influence your team in 2014? Share your thoughts and opinions below with our readers.

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