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Leadership Academy reveals power of influence

Thursday, August 01, 2013   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Barbara Francella
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More than 400 Network of Executive Women members explored ways to advance their careers during the fifth NEW Leadership Academy webinar "The 6 Sources of Influence,” Aug. 1, 2013.

Career coach Jo Miller, CEO of Women’s Leadership Coaching, led NEW members through the one-hour learning session, which identified six sources of influence and laid out why workplace influence is key to growing a career.

Describing a common work scenario, Miller related a case of two colleagues offering the same idea, but only one receiving validation and credit. In many cases, she said, the person whose voice is not recognized hasn’t taken the measures to establish herself as a person of influence.

"The second person to speak up might be the individual who gets to those meetings just a couple of minutes early, takes a seat right at the table and greets others as they arrive, playing the role of host and establishing a rapport," she noted.

"Someone once said, power and influence are just like cow manure. If you keep it to yourself, it really stinks, but if you spread it around, you can do a lot of good."

Miller cited celebrity dog trainer Cesar Milan as a noteworthy example of a person with influence with his emphasis on calm, assertive authority to transform canine behavior. The same philosophy can be shared with boardroom dynamics, she said, as "our behavior teaches others how to treat us."

While first impressions are important, influence is the "cumulative impact of every impression you make every day," she said.

Key sources of influence

Among the most important sources of influence, she said, is "positional influence," which is inherent in job title and role. "You were hired to fulfill an important role and people need to know about that,” Miller said. She advises women to seize all opportunities to educate others about their roles and how they can help.

Introducing yourself with a "thirty-second commercial," stating who you are, your position, and how your work positively impacts the organization, can enhance and, if needed, even save your reputation and position.

"Expertise influence" requires acknowledging your capabilities and training, a valuable strategy at any stage of career. "Don’t wait for an invitation to speak up regarding your areas of responsibility and expertise," Miller advised new and emerging leaders. At the middle levels, volunteering for high-profile assignments will boost influence, while senior-level professionals can continue to build their brand as thought leaders and speak on panels and at conferences.

"Resources influence" offers greater returns to an organization with resources that allow you to do your job well. Women can increase resources influence by sharpening negotiation skills to gain access to necessary resources and understanding how finances and budgets work. Handled effectively, these skills can raise a person's standing when decisions regarding resources are made.

"Next time they’re carving up the budget pie, they may give you an even bigger slice because they know that you’ll use it well and make an even greater impact," Miller said.

Having a finger on the pulse of what is going on in your organization, industry and profession is the basis of "informational influence." As colleagues being to see you as someone who is well informed, they’ll notice that you make better business decisions more rapidly, she noted.

Important to exercising information influence is the ability to filter out useful information from gossip or noise; trading harmful information can quickly destroy a professional reputation.

"Direct influence" is shaped by stepping in, as a leader, to be firm, professional and very direct when another’s behavior is detrimental to your team or organization. Miller advises using direct influence with caution, as its overuse fails to empower team members: "It’s okay to consider using your direct influence in about 1 percent of cases where something truly is going wrong," she said. Women who use this skill appropriately and carefully, however, gain trust and respect from others.

"Relationships influence" is the natural outcome to taking time to build a network of authentic relationships across the company, the industry and your profession. Miller considers relationships influence the "grandmother of them all," the most crucial form of influence for effective leadership and advancement. "As you build those relationships, your ability to lead and influence will expand almost effortlessly. Every other form of influence goes a lot more smoothly if you already have a trusting relationship established with that other individual," she said.

During the NEW Leadership Academy's question-and-answer session, one participating member asked how to gain a voice in a room where a colleague consistently interrupts your thoughts with their own.

Miller advised that such situations might require becoming comfortable with interrupting on your own behalf, or speaking louder to hold your ground. "Smile, keep moving forward, strengthen your voice and don’t show frustration," she said.

In company cultures that don’t accept interruption as readily, you may want to acquire the meeting agenda as a way to gain control of establishing your viewpoint, she added.

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