Influencing from the lower levels

One of the crucial activities in starting my new role at my workplace is meeting the team and individuals I will be working with.  It helps build relationships with your new co-workers and allows you to better understand their roles in the organization.  During my one-on-ones, I met with a very knowledgeable woman who said to me… 

“you do not need to be the CEO of this company to have power and can influence others’ decisions by first gaining their trust.”  

I have not really thought about this dynamic much, but it does hold true.  Just because we are not the boss does not mean we do not have the power to influence big decisions.  Before leadership promotes you, they are most likely looking for this ability of influence and if you have it, you are probably going to move up faster than someone who does not have it.  Influence is defined as the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone or something, or the effect itself [reference Google].  Keep in mind, with the power of influence comes great responsibility.  We want to make sure we are using the ability to influence to make positive impacts.  The continued trust of others in you depends on how you use your ability to influence.

To me it is very exciting to know that I do not need to be the CEO, vice president, director, or even program manager to influence others.  It is exciting to know that at all levels of an organization, you do have the power to influence.  It may be a little bit more challenging to influence when you do not have the big fancy title, but in time when you build trust, it will become easier.  As I speak from experience, I can think of many times I had to influence a cross-functional member to align on a decision with me.  There are many ways of influencing from push to pull techniques, which you can read up on the internet.  Some techniques are more forceful than others.  Some techniques use more data than others.  Whichever method you pick, without trust you are not going to get anyone to side with you.

Moving forward, keep influence in mind when you reach disagreements with others.  Ask yourself, how can I influence them effectively without ruining our relationship?  You may also want to make sure you are influencing a decision in a positive direction.  It is acceptable to fail, but try to fail less than you succeed.  Too many failed attempts often brings doubt on you and poor feelings towards you.  At the same time, no matter how many times you fail, never give up.  Just remember influence is always there when you need it and it should be used if needed.

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