Remember J. Jonah Jameson, Spiderman/Peter Parker’s boss at the Daily Bugle? Remember how he perched at his desk, shouting orders at his employees? Sure, this example is a bit over the top, but he’s the perfect (albeit exaggerated) example of the old paradigm leader. He was The Boss. He didn’t need people skills because his word was law. He didn’t influence people, he commanded them. Today, managers are shifting from the old Authority model to the new Influence model to lead and guide their organizations.
In an earlier post we looked at how technology and cloud culture were changing the nature of business relationships and those changes extend to leadership. Today’s most successful leaders aren’t standing at the helm barking orders. They have relationships with their employees, they wield influence rather than authority. The business relationship is no longer about people doing things for you simply because they have to. In many cases, to be successful, we need the support of people who don’t directly report to us, other teams and peers. In these situations, authority will only get you so far. Relationships will get you further.
In today’s work environment we all must, at some point, rely on others in our pursuit of success. The Law of Reciprocity is well-worth contemplating; it’s a key Influence Strategy. In a nutshell, it means that people respond to positive actions with positive actions of their own. The more time and attention we invest in our relationships, the more time spent building trust and connections, the more influence we have. Let’s be clear, this isn’t intended to be manipulative. It is an understanding that being generous now builds connections for later. People with whom you have a real relationship will want to help you. This all ties in with our RQ Relationship IntelligenceTM Model.
Let’s look how to make this shift from authority to influence
Understand your team members’ strengths: According to the Gallup Leadership Research, “…when an organization’s leadership fails to focus on individuals’ strengths, the odds of an employee being engaged [meaning interested and participating to the full of their abilities] are a dismal 1 in 11 (9%). But when an organization’s leadership focuses on the strengths of its employees, the odds soar to almost 3 in 4 (73%). When leaders focus on and invest in their employees’ strengths, the odds of each person being engaged goes up eightfold.” If you don’t know what their strengths are, ask them!
Understand what is important to team members: To influence someone you have to understand what their currency is, i.e., what is important to them.at their Here are some questions you should always ask: What is success to you in this job? What is important to you about this? What is your ideal scenario? And then listen. To influence someone within a work context, you must understand their expectations of the job. If you can, give them what they need to be successful. If not, you may have to work on adjusting their expectations where possible. And be aware that sometimes people won’t want tell you what their real currency is, like recognition for example. In these cases you can often discover it for yourself by paying close attention to what motivates them.
Communication: Now that you understand the strengths and currencies of your teams’ members and have a plan to deliver on both of those powerful influence areas, you must constantly communicate with your team. You need an internal communications plan that shows how you are acting on their goals, concerns, and opportunities each and every day. Communication is one of the most powerful influence tools. Great communicators are usually influential, and a leader can’t be highly influential without a detailed communications effort!
Everyone sees themselves as a leader, and for a very good reason; everyone leads something. Maybe you aren’t a project manager, but there are aspects of every project you work on that you do lead. That said, if you plan on playing an increasing role in leadership, start now. Work on your influence skills before you need them. There are many styles of leadership and each has its place. Know them all. Know when to use each one, and be able to change gears and adjust your style when needs demand.
Hmm. Styles of Leadership…perhaps a post for another time.