The Importance of Influence23 Nov 2020
From the mailroom to the boardroom and everywhere in between, no matter where you are on the corporate ladder, it pays to be influential. That was the central premise of Dale Carnegie's "How to Win Friends and Influence People," published this month in 1936, and despite the many changes seen in the past 84 years, a lot of the book's lessons remain critical to success in business.
As such. you should always aim to build up your professional influence. Whether that's just at your company so that you can become a more effective employee and make your way up the corporate ladder, or to become a thought leader within the sector as a whole, it's a critical career goal. How can you do it? The following tips should help:
1) Influence starts with listening
Perhaps the most important part of effective communication is the ability to listen and take in what others are saying. The Harvard Business Review noted that this is also true of being influential, because you have to know what people want or need to see things your way. When you are trying to get a point across, you should not just barrel through a conversation, but rather accept the give-and-take.
2) It's all about who you know
You have no doubt heard the following saying: "100,000 people can't be wrong." That's true because people put a lot of stock into the wisdom of the crowd, and when you are trying to influence people, it pays to already have others on your side who agree with you. The more people at your company or within your field who know and trust you, the easier it is to be influential with those who do not yet.
3) You have to build trust
Of course, those things don't happen overnight; there has to be proof of concept that the things you espouse or push for are effective. The Centre for Creative Leadership explained that building trust is a process, and you shouldn't expect to become an influential person at your company overnight. Think of it this way: People tend to listen to the senior members of a team for a reason, and the newest hire just isn't going to have the same clout, no matter how good their ideas are.
4) Communication is key
Being able to get your point across as quickly and easily as possible is a critical part of being influential. Why convey your ideas in paragraphs when you could do the same thing in just a few sentences? Being influential requires elite communication skills, according to the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply. With that in mind, you might need to do more to build out your tool box, so that your next idea comes across exactly how you want it to, and lands with the right audience.
5) Lay a path for success
It may not always be effective to say something along the lines of, "If we do this, then we will achieve that." That's especially true if you're talking about long-term processes or efforts. The Project Management Institute recommended that when you are trying to build your influence, you lay out the steps to reach your desired outcome, and be willing go through some negotiations on the best way to get there. It shouldn't be your way or the highway — you must instead be willing to travel the same roads as your collaborators.
When you want to build up these skills — and more — to become an influencer at your company or within your industry at large, ICML is here to help. Check out our course on influencing to go in depth on what you can do to become more influential in your circles and beyond.