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Learning to influence others

January 10, 2019 Leadership Skills

Having the ability to influence others is a powerful skill. It can be an indicator of potential leadership quality and is essential for anyone who manages a team. This is likely why learning how to influence others has historically been one of the top-requested focus areas among our thousands of Torch mentoring participants. We’ll use this post to take a closer look at what influence in the workplace looks like and how you can develop this skill. 

What is influence? 

Influence is the ability to have an effect on someone – whether it’s with regard to their mindset, perceptions, or behaviors.

In the workplace, influence plays many important roles. For instance, a CEO needs to exercise influence to get the entire organization aligned with the company’s vision. Managers also need to be able to influence their teams to collaborate on shared goals. 

But developing the ability to influence others isn’t something that happens overnight. Just like any other skill, it requires thoughtful, intentional practice. In the next section, we’ll review three ways you can improve your ability to influence others as a leader.  

How to influence others as a leader 

1. Build trust  

Would you listen to the guidance of an executive that you didn’t find trustworthy? Probably not. That’s why the first step to influencing others is to build trust with your employees. The more you can demonstrate to your workforce that you’re a reliable, ethical leader, the more likely they are to be open to your influence. Here are a few tips to help you start building trust: 

Take ownership of your actions. Your willingness to take ownership of your actions – including the ones that lead to negative outcomes – can have a significant impact on how much your employees trust you. A leader who demonstrates high levels of accountability builds trust within organizations by demonstrating their ability to be self-aware and responsible. 

Communicate constantly. When you keep employees guessing, whether it’s about the future of the company or an ongoing crisis, you’re leaving them to assume the worst. Instead, keep the rest of your organization in the loop, and don’t shy away from the tough conversations. This will increase your trustworthiness as a leader.

Don’t micromanage. Trust is a two-way street. When you give your employees the space to do their jobs well, they’ll give you the same courtesy – not to mention the many other benefits that come with autonomy. On the other hand, micromanaging a team’s every move will only breed resentment, which doesn’t provide the best foundation for building trust. 

2. Foster relationships

When employees feel like they have a relationship with their company leaders, they’re more likely to be open to their influence. But these relationships don’t happen organically – they require attention and effort by the leader. Below are ideas to foster positive relationships with the people at your organization. 

Ask questions. Asking thoughtful questions is a great way to build rapport with your employees. Taking a genuine interest in the projects that people are working on or learning about their hobbies can help you cultivate a meaningful relationship with the people at your company. This, in turn, will make your workforce more open to your leadership. 

Care personally. While you may only interact with your employees in a professional setting, it’s still possible to care for them on a personal level. For instance, if one of your workers shares that they’re taking care of a sick parent, check in with them. See what you, as a company leader, can do to make their lives a bit easier – whether that’s encouraging them to take time off or simply sending a note to let the employee know you’re there to support them.  

3. Increase emotional intelligence

Emotionally intelligent people have the ability to handle pressure, collaborate with team members, and listen and respond well to others. Given this, it’s easy to see why increasing emotional intelligence plays an important role in becoming an influential leader. While it can take time to cultivate this skill, there are a few things you can take to accelerate the process.

Take advantage of coaching and mentoring. If you need support while developing your emotional intelligence, a mentoring or leadership coaching program is a great resource to tap into. Mentors and coaches can help you set specific goals, share advice, and make sure you’re progressing in the right direction.

Ask for feedback. The best way to know if you’re behaving in emotionally intelligent ways is to ask the people you work with. Do they feel heard when they’re with you? Do they find that you approach their problems with compassion? These are the types of questions you can bring up in your next conversation with them. However, keep in mind that it can be intimidating to share constructive feedback with a company leader. So instead of putting an employee on the spot, give them the time and space to collect their thoughts. 

Having the ability to influence others is a critical skill that all leaders need to cultivate. By focusing on building trust, fostering relationships, and cultivating emotional intelligence, you’ll be well on your way to becoming an influential leader. To learn how Torch can help you develop specific skill sets, request a demo