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Building leadership influence, fast.
Secrets to swiftly cultivating influence when you really need it
“Does everyone have to put in this much effort to get buy-in?” one of my clients asked me recently.
Will is the EMEA Marketing Director for a growing business operating out of the UK.
After two years in his company, recent changes in CEO and amongst his peers have created new relationships and new priorities to navigate.
It’s a great time for Will. His new CEO is passionate about marketing and champions his agenda. And she is challenging Will to push the boundaries for what might be possible.
But with the destabilization that comes with a new leadership team gelling together, some of his peers are not proving as supportive or cooperative.
Wills’ frustration is growing; he’s in the ideal position of having a passionate boss who wants him to reshape their strategy.
But as a collaborative CEO, she expects him to get the rest of the senior team on board. And that’s not proving easy.
Influencing, even at a leadership level, can be tricky.
It’s a long game, that sometimes needs to be played quickly, and strategically.
For Will who every day navigates a packed calendar and barely has time to digest his salad and smoothie between meetings, carving out the space to strategize his approach never makes the top of his list.
Will isn’t alone.
For many action-oriented leaders, the strategic investment in relationship-building often takes a backseat, sometimes unintentionally, to prioritise actions that yield more tangible outcomes.
The challenge is that building true influence requires investment in the development of collaborative relationships that may, in the short term, have no real outcome.
Building influence is a long-term project. And one that leaders must invest in.
But the good news is there are actions you can take to give your influence a kickstart, when you need it.
So this week, here are four tools that you can use to get you started:
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Preparation: When you need to have a conversation with a key stakeholder to get them on your side, take your time to prepare beforehand. It sounds simple, yet most busy leaders land in a conversation and navigate it as they go.
Instead, take the ‘go slow to go fast’ approach. Slow down and plan how you want the conversation to go.
Not only will you have a quicker, more focused discussion your partner will sense the investment you made, which will set you off on the right foot.
Here are seven questions below to guide your preparation.
Who are you attempting to influence? Why?
What does ‘support’ from them actually look like in practice? l
What range of options do you have in approaching the topic?
Which of your strengths can you draw on?
What common ground currently exists that you can build from?
What questions, concerns, or responses do you need to be prepared for?
What will you do to ensure a positive continuation of the relationship, regardless of the outcome?
Reflect on the questions above: Which areas do you normally focus on, and which get less of your attention preparation-wise? What drives that?
Get personal: Delve into the first question more; ‘Who am I attempting to influence?’.
This goes beyond a name. Who is this person, really?
What motivates them? What drives their instinctive thinking; data, feelings, results, or relationships? What do they prioritize? What do they currently think, feel, and believe? What drives them to be this way?
The difference between influencing and manipulating is empathy. And to have empathy you need to understand, be aware of, and be sensitive to the feelings, thoughts, and experiences of the other person.
Influencing will always be ineffective when approached only from your point of view.
Strategise: Influencing doesn’t always need to happen directly and you may need to take a long way around.
Think about who else has influential relationships with the people you need to get on board.
Who has their ear? Who is in their trusted circle?
What would you need to get them on board and be a champion for your cause?
What message do you want them to be sharing about you?