Want to lead change at work? Here’s how to grow your influence

Synopsis of an article from SmartBrief Leadership by Art Pretty, Published 25th June 2020

In this article Art shares some ideas and approaches on how you can build your network and collaborate more effectively across your organisation (without compromising your values).

The ‘facts of organizational life’

Organisational politics are everywhere and sadly there is no escaping it, from the parent teacher association to community sports to the executive team. Some how in all environments where decision making authority exists, so too does the politics around making those decisions.

“That’s workplace power. The challenge for everyone else is how to either cultivate power organically or to tap into decision-makers’ power.”

Three approaches for growing your influence at work

1. Develop strong networks to help grow your influence

Building a strong network provides support, guidance and insider knowledge. “It gives you access to private information and individuals with unique skill sets.”

So how do you build those networks? Like many other rituals they take work and they need to be practiced on a regular basis. Many of us take networking for granted, or we only practice it when we need it for support. To be most effective you need to build it into your normal work week.

Art suggests you build a task into your regular weekly planning where you answer three questions

On Sunday evening or whenever you do your weekly planning, jot down these three questions:

  • What relationships will I start this week?
  • What relationships do I need to renew this week?
  • What relationships do I need to repair this week?

We all know that relationships are a two way street, but many people forget that as we build our corporate networks; it is important to ‘bring something of value to each party’. That value may be in the form of collaboration, promotion/attribution, stakeholder/decision-making, or broking other network connections.

Art also points out that too many of us avoid repairing broken relationships. This is really important work and not to be skipped as “it potentially eliminates or at least neutralizes individuals who might operate in an adversarial mode with you.”

2. Build influence by solving ‘grayzone’ problems

Grayzones are in every organisation, they are the complex or poorly defined processes where things can be tricky and can slow work down.
Leading and helping others successfully navigate these grayzones can be a very good way of building a strong network. If you can help to fix issues that impacts the work of both you and your colleagues, you will be noticed and connections will flow. While you are doing this ensure you use the opportunity to recognise others for their contribution – making them a hero will also payback for you.

3. Leverage the reciprocity principle

The research from Robert Cialdini and others suggests that the concept of reciprocity applies across all cultures on our planet. Effectively, reciprocity means if I do something for you, you will feel compelled to do something for me at some time.”

When you regularly work to help others, they will most frequently recognise and support you back. Growing your influence in the organisation and helping you identify new opportunities and be successful.

The bottom line

By focusing on (i) enabling others achieve their goals, (ii) identifying and leading improvement initiatives, and (iii) connecting the right resources to vexing problems you can build your network, strengthen your influence and maintain your integrity.

Art Petty is an executive and emerging leader coach and a popular leadership and management author, speaker and workshop presenter. His experience guiding multiple software firms to positions of market leadership comes through in his books, articles, and live and online programs. Visit Petty’s Management Excellence blog and Leadership Caffeine articles.

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