There are many leadership lessons that you never forget. One of my pivotal lessons happened over 15 years ago, but I still remember, reflect on, and share the learnings regularly. It centers around the ability to influence others for the purpose of leading well. It’s only when people believe in you and trust you that you can successfully lead them.
The Activity That Taught Me the Importance of Influence
I was attending a week-long leadership event when we were given an exercise that impressed upon me the necessity of building influence with your team. Unfortunately for me, I learned this lesson the hard way.
My team, made up of 3 people plus myself, was asked to choose a CEO for a hypothetical company. Although the situation was virtual, the group managing the event had discerned the best course of action and it was our job to come up with a group decision to present to the other groups doing the same thing.
After doing the necessary online research, I came to a confident decision. Unfortunately, my choice did not align with my fellow team members. I was not able to influence my team to accept my choice, so I agreed to present a different solution. When we presented to the larger group, we discovered that my original solution, not the one we presented, was in fact the recommended course of action. Clearly, I needed to do a better job of presenting my case and increasing my influence.
4 Tips for Increasing Your Influence
Throughout the 15 years that have passed since this exercise, I have gained a lot of insight regarding how to gain the trust and respect of a team. I continue to hone this skill, as it is essential for leaders of teams big and small. Here are my top 4 suggestions for increasing your influence with your team.
- Connect with people personally
- Be clear when you share information
- Build lasting relationships
Connect with people personally –
The best way to earn immediate trust with someone is to connect with them on a personal topic. We feel a quick attachment to people who share a common interest or background. Find out what is going on in their professional and personal lives and what got them to where they are today. You may connect on something as remote as having both spent a summer in Europe or as simple as a love of wine. This commonality will build rapport and an affinity that will be greatly beneficial on a personal and professional level.
Listening is hard to do and this may have been my biggest mistake during the above failed exercise. Don’t be too focused on getting your perspective out there. Rather, be more interactive and allow other people to voice their opinion. After you’ve taken genuine interest in hearing what they have to say, your team members will be more receptive to what you have to say.
Be clear –
Be sure you explain your arguments clearly. Back up your opinion with good reasoning and facts. In my example above, I felt confident in my choice but I didn’t communicate the facts/advantages well. Had I done a better job supporting my opinion, my choice may have been the one our team decided on and then our team would have been right. Be as succinct as possible, but don’t skimp on the supporting facts.
Build lasting relationships –
Your team members are not a means to and end. Your relationship should go 2-ways. You are there to help them and they are there to help you. The wins are shared as well as the setbacks. Be sure you work as a team and support each other as a team. You’re in it together. This is not a platform for one person to shine.
Overall, my lack of influencing my team 15 years ago has been a great opportunity to learn and develop my own leadership skills. I have a greater appreciation for the need to build trust and respect. It’s not about being right, it’s about helping the team be successful. Additionally, it’s not something that develops overnight, but the rewards are lasting.