Influence is truly the new leadership currency. As organizations leave the top down command and control structures, being influential and having visibility is going to be critical.
Yet when you’re working to grow your visibility and your influence, there are some pitfalls to watch out for.
Sometimes people hold back because they are afraid of coming across as showy. They don’t want to be labeled as “that person.” They don’t want to be known as the egocentric one or the person who is building relationships simply to get a higher position with a higher compensation. It helps to remember that the reason you are growing your visibility and your influence is to create environments of trust, respect and safety for you and others.
Limiting your influence to only your immediate circle holds you back. If you are only developing relationships with and influencing people directly around you, you are missing the mark. Oftentimes I’ve witnessed people going to events with those from their own company and simply sticking together throughout the event. This is a tremendous mistake. Make an effort to meet new people and connect with those from other departments or organizations. You never know what relationships you will form and what you can learn from your new friends. Being known as a “connector” is a great thing—meaning you help connect like-minded people because you are in the mindset of linking great individuals with each other.
A client of mine was heading up a division, and she was trying to build up her visibility and relationships. She had some relationships in the company, but not a lot. We talked about it, and she created a list of the people that she felt it would be smart to have better relationships with, because they work together all the time, and it would make things much easier. Then she had this “aha” moment where she realized, “Why am I only focused on the people that are closest to me or who I work with? I work for a large company, so why am I not looking to build relationships with people in other divisions, that I don’t have that much to do with yet as well with those I work more intimately with?” Sure enough, a year after she started building her coalition efforts, she started to have business dealings with the consumer products department, which she hadn’t had before. Consumer products was a growing business for the company, and while it had been small at the time she started, it was becoming a much larger profit center for the organization. So the connections she had made proved to be beneficial to her and her work and her team and the organization overall.
A similar pitfall is only attempting to grow influence with senior executives, or only cultivating relationships with superiors. Be careful about this, because the centers of power dynamics could be elsewhere.
Be flexible. Don’t box yourself in to where you can’t adapt to different personalities, different behavior sets, or different value sets. Your ability to be agile and flexible is critical to growing your visibility and influence.
Watch out about being short with people when you are under pressure. Be mindful of your pressure level, especially today and be especially careful about taking out your frustrations on others. While it’s understandable to have a pressured job, if you continue to demonstrate stress behaviors this will impact how others perceive you.
Crossing your own boundaries. Boundaries are a means by which you create respect and safety for yourself. If you cross your boundaries or allow other people to cross them, you lose integrity, and you could lose the trust, respect, and safety that you’ve been working hard to create.
If you are in a hierarchical organization, sometimes you think you can’t influence people because you don’t have a title, and you don’t have authority. You need to get past that mindset, and find ways to manifest lateral leadership and influence through networking. People are a gateway to other people. Maybe the person you come to can’t really help you make an impact, and they know somebody else who can. Make sure that you are connected to connectors.
Keep things positive, and watch out for negativity. Having a positive point of view, and persuading people to a positive point of view, is a great thing. It’s one thing to have a contrary opinion or disagree, and most people do not want to be around or work with someone who is negative all the time. Author Dr. David Cooperrider created a methodology called Appreciative Inquiry, and he says that when you look for the good stuff, you find the good stuff. Sometimes when I leverage his work, people will say, “But we have to talk about how the team isn’t functioning, or how these business strategies aren’t working.” I’ll say, “What makes you think that if we talk about the good stuff, we won’t then find the things that aren’t working?” It’s just a different way to get to the issues and solutions.
And if you continue to look for the good, you will too become a positive attractor for others. People want to be near those who inspire them and who are hopeful and positive about the future.
Esther Weinberg is the Chief Leadership Development Officer and Founder of The Ready Zone. To dive deeper into the ideas and strategies offered in this article, complete our Needs Assessment and we’ll schedule time to connect. In the meantime, download our FREE eBook – “Better Leaders. Better People. Better Results. Six Eye-Opening Strategies to Thrive Through Change You Did Not Ask For”