Influence is leadership.
Without influence you cannot lead anyone or anything to action. With it, you can have impact on your social group, your team, your department, your campus, your industry and your world. If you want things to change, you impact them through your influence. The more it grows the more effective you will be.
How then does one gain influence over their team in order to affect positive change? Former Notre Dame coach and ESPN analyst Lou Holtz says people will ask the following three questions of a leader: “Can I trust you? Do you believe in this? Do you care about me?” Trust is the foundation of any relationship. If removed, it can destroy the most successful organization or the most influential leader. Warren Buffet says, “Trust is like the air we breathe; no one notices when it’s there, but when it’s not, everyone notices.”
If you take the time to invest in it and build it, it can lead to strong influence. One cannot simply come into any position or new organization with a new set of rules for people and expect for them to follow. Andy Stanley says, “Rules without relationship leads to rebellion.”
Credibility is a key component of whether you will ever show yourself worthy of that trust. Ultimately, does what you are saying make sense? Is what you are saying believable, and do you believe it? Doubt exists for two reasons: lack of confidence in your expertise and your motives are in question, which goes back to trust. Why would anyone want to listen to an idiot?
Parents experience this mistrust with their teenage children when they cannot figure out how to use their iPhone, but want to give advice to their kids on dating. Demonstrated competence inspires trust. If I see you doing what you are asking me to do, it makes it easier for me to follow you. People will doubt motives if there is a lack of consistency and accountability. Are your words matching your actions?
In general, people have a fear of being manipulated. Being honest and transparent in your communication about why any changes are necessary and specific in terms of the expectations helps to alleviate that fear. Broadly communicate your vision and why you think it’s important to the group. Teams will feed off of your belief.
My wife always says you have to connect before you can correct. If you’re completely avoiding a personal connection with your employees, you’re making a big mistake. Do you care about the people on your team? No really, do you care? Caring isn’t something that can be faked. People can tell when someone is not being authentic. As a leader, employees sometimes place you on a pedestal, but putting yourself on their level by showing your own vulnerability and imperfections helps them overcome their challenges.
It’s hard for employees to feel appreciated when their leader is too busy for a simple chat. It starts with “Good morning, how are you?” and actually caring about the answer. Get to know the team on a personal level and love them for who they are. What do they enjoy? What are their goals? I personally use a coaching questionnaire at the start of the supervisory relationship to give me insight into a person and what they are about.
A quick note to your team after a win or a note of encouragement during a big project can go a long way. Doug Connet, the former CEO of Campbell’s soup, would write handwritten notes to his employees congratulating them on projects, wishing them a happy birthday or anniversary, or condolences on a family loss to all of his employees around the world. Learn, practice and get good at recognizing your people for the work they do. Research shows appreciation is the No. 1 thing employees say their managers could do to inspire them to produce great work.
The attitude of leaders toward others affects not only how they see themselves. Gallop Org data 1999, showed opinions of workers about their organization were largely molded by their opinions of their supervisors rather than the organization as a whole. The quality of the relationship was key – not pay, benefits or perks. Ultimately people are your competitive advantage; if you treat them well, they will do amazing things for you.
In order to have influence over a new team, ask yourself those three questions: Can they trust you? Do you believe in what you are asking them to do? Do you care about them? If the answer is yes to all three, you are well on your way to influence and ultimately impact.