Influence is about motivating people to willingly work together toward the achievement of clearly defined results.
In most common business situations such as:
- Leading cross functional teams
- Managing projects
- Starting in a new leadership role
- Spear-heading change initiatives
Our likelihood of success is directly proportional to two key factors:
1. Our personal level of influence
2. The influence levels of our closest supporters.
Given their importance to our success as leaders, it seems only natural that we would want to assess influence levels. Following is an easy process for incorporating routine assessments of influence into the major phases of strategic and/or project plans. This process is followed by a set of criteria to use in order to assess a person’s level of influence (including your own) relative to a situation.
From the Beginning
In the earliest phases of an initiative, develop a list of people who possess the technical skills and knowledge required to get things done, the sponsors and/or stakeholders, and include the people you feel would be vital to have in your corner. For each person listed, determine the number of characteristics below he or she possesses or displays. Create a separate personal action plan with steps you can take to fill-in your knowledge gaps. Be sure to include specific ways to build trust and strengthen your relationships with these individuals. For each highly influential person, seek to gain a clear understanding of his/her business and personal objectives. If you both agree that your initiative supports his/her goals, then you should ask the individual how he/she can best support your initiative.
In The Midst of It All
Throughout the course of the initiative, compare the actions of each person on your original list to the set of influence characteristics. Be on the look-out for people whose influence level is on the rise and, if appropriate, coach those whose influence level is diminishing. Be sure to assess each new person who becomes involved along the way. Set aside time with influential people to listen to their input, determine alignment with their objectives, and seek their support for your initiative. In addition to your personal action plan for getting to know and building relationships with influential people, start to include ideas for introducing people to each other when you feel a connection could be beneficial. You should be re-evaluating your own level of influence on a regular basis and taking appropriate action to repair set-backs or fortify progress. Depending on the initiative, this could even be a weekly “to-do.”
One practical tip is to read the list of influential characteristics before meetings as a reminder of the actions and behaviors you want to exemplify. Afterwards, acknowledge participants who demonstrated integrity and were clearly focused on the “big picture” (not just their own agenda). Review your words and actions. Were you demonstrating influence-building best practices? If not, why not?
When the Dust Settles
Review your actions and behaviors throughout the course of the initiative against the list of influential characteristics. How well did you do? Were you improving your level of influence along the way? If not, why not? If yes, what can you do to make sure you maintain or continue to grow your personal influence?
At the end of an initiative, be sure to reinforce the valuable relationships you’ve developed by taking the time to acknowledge each person’s contribution with a personalized show of appreciation. For the person who values recognition, this could be a letter to his/her manager thanking them for allowing the individual to work with you and highlighting his/her accomplishments. For the person who shies away from the limelight, consider writing a personal note on the inside flap of a meaningful book. Then, in your planner, schedule time to connect on a regular basis with each person by phone, via email, or in person. Remain in contact so that you can help these individuals when they need your support. Staying in touch lets people know that your interest and involvement with them during your initiative was genuine and that you are a person of integrity.
How to Measure Influence
Think about a person within the context of a specific situation or his/her potential sphere of influence. Take into account only what you know to be true about the person or have witnessed directly. Consider whether or not each of the characteristics or behaviors listed below apply to this person. The more times you answer “yes,” the greater the individual’s level of influence.
- Reacts with integrity, dignity, fairness, and empathy for others in both positive and negative circumstances
- Is unwilling to accomplish personal objectives at the expense of the company or others
- Has relationships with people representing a variety of knowledge bases throughout the organization, industry, and/or community
- Is asked to be involved in situations outside of his/her functional area or above his/her level in the organizational hierarchy
- Shines the “spotlight” on others making sure they receive credit for accomplishments
- Consistently produces results
- Associates during work and personal time with others who are known to be powerful/influential in the company, industry and/or community
- Willingly shares resources
- Interacts well with all types of people at all levels in the organization
- Does not blame others or make excuses when things go wrong
- Is well suited to his/her role
- Seems able to reduce the level of uncertainty for others in a given situation
What actions have you taken or behaviors have you displayed that have increased your level of influence with a group of people or in a given situation?
For more information about the complete Gauging Influence tool and how to measure influence please contact Nicole De Falco at firstname.lastname@example.org.