Influence – A Career Strategy Tool
Often when conducting training and coaching sessions, even at supervisor, manager, director, and vice president levels, many people feel powerless at work. Indeed, a title alone doesn’t necessarily guarantee you a higher level of power or greater influence. Yes, it’s true, authority does and always will have the final power leverage in almost any given situation. But that does not mean you have no power or influence. So, how can you gain power and influence and why is it important in helping achieve your career goals?
While gaining or exercising influence has never been a piece of cake, today’s distractions add another layer of difficulty. These distractions include the rapid changes all around us. Remember, that activity outside the workplace can be just as distracting as events occurring right under our noses. These include changes in the market, politics, merger/acquisitions, technological changes, and information overload. There may appear to be no room for you or your brand of influence. Further, many people hear the word power and automatically have a dim view of it.
The Dark Side of Power
The mere mention of the word “power” and even “influence” can send some people scurrying down a rabbit hole. These words conjure up visions of the strong over the weak, power hungry elitists, and our old friend, Machiavelli. Unfortunately, yes, there will always be those who feel they are above the law, above others, and above ethics. On the other hand, power can be wielded in an ethical manner and with a velvet glove. Let’s look at how you can achieve that kind of power and influence for your own good, the good of others, and the good of the organization.
Outside In – Dress appropriately. You don’t have to have expensive clothes to look put together, professional, or even classy. You do need to dress in clothes that fit the next role you’re seeking to achieve next. You do need to look clean, well groomed, and comfortable. Feeling comfortable in your outfits does not mean jeans or sweats. While jeans might be appropriate in some settings, sweats would not…OK, if you work in a gym, but you get my point. Even on casual Fridays, pay attention to what executives wear and take a clue.
Body Talk – Always have a good posture. Not only is it healthy, it makes you appear more powerful and “in charge.” Maintain an open posture. Don’t cross your arms and legs particularly when you’re speaking to a colleague whom you don’t know well yet. Having a closed body posture will not help build trust. Maintain eye contact, don’t stare, but in American society, eye contact es muy importante.
Listen – Everyone wants to feel they both have a voice and that that voice has been heard. You can’t give people your undivided attention with schedules, to do lists, and projects running circles in your head while you’re talking or trying to listen. So put everything in your head on hold and focus on the conversation at hand. You will gain a level of respect from your colleagues you can’t buy. There are exceptions to every rule. Do not listen to or spread gossip. This is an instant power and influence loser.
Internal Conversations – While we’re on the topic of communication. Ensure that your self-talk is positive. Self-talk is a crucial element in your journey to success. You cannot be positive, feel empowered, or have influence when beating yourself up. If you think negative thoughts about yourself, you will produce negative actions. The reverse is also true. Positive self-talk is beneficial mentally, emotionally, and physically. Experts such as Brene Brown suggest speaking to yourself in the third person. For example, instead of saying “I will…”, say “Diane has a big speech today and she thinks she’s going to botch it.” Substituting the third person helps distance YOU from the event or situation and helps you to remain calm. This can be particularly helpful if you have a tendency to overreact.
Your Expertise – Believe it or not if you have an area of expertise, this can help build your power and influence, especially your influence. I remember the first job I ever had, after a few weeks, when I went home, and was asked how things were going, I said, “I guess I’m doing OK, the other girls are already asking me how to do things.” I have a sense of accountability, curiosity, and conscientiousness. It began paying off for me and I gained a lot of respect. I left that job for a better one before too long, because, well, OK, I’m impatient too!
Be Vulnerable – So I just shared a bit of personal information about my being impatient. People often think this is a no-no and that it is not a good idea to let others see your weaknesses. This is not true. Others must see you as being human and compassionate to connect. When was the last time you wanted to connect with an egotistical boor? If you can’t connect with others, you have no hope of having any power or influence. After all, that’s the whole idea, right?
Network – Building your network is ongoing and it should begin your first day on the job. Seek out people who can both help you and those you can help. People are flattered when you ask for their opinion or their help. Find a mentor or coach and don’t rule out hiring a professional coach. Many people find they need a coach when they are in transition, but then can’t afford the funds. Having a coach even while you are in a position, is important to your career goals. Don’t be clingy or needy as those two will definitely leave you in a power drain.
Understand and Be Clear – Understanding yourself is the foundation for leadership and strategic thinking. Being clear about your goals helps you formulate a better action plan and helps your mentor or coach to provide more targeted assistance.
Having influence and personal power helps you be more productive, get noticed, obtain promotions, and achieve goals faster. Start working on your influence as a career strategy tool today!
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