Laura, a senior health care leader, was thinking about her morning meeting with a feeling of uncertainty. She had met with key stakeholders twice about obtaining a contract for the provision of health services for clients. She was committed to maintaining a strong relationship with them but she felt that she was losing ground. She wondered if there were other strategies she could use that would leverage her influence to be a strong partner and successfully tackle the issues.
There was a nagging feeling that once again she was challenged with the confidence needed to lead this discussion. She knew she had content expertise, but struggled to find the right words to influence the direction of the meeting.
Have you ever felt this way as you walk into an important meeting? I share this story as it is not an uncommon experience. I often hear from leaders who wish to have a stronger presence or influence in working with others. They feel confident in their knowledge base but are eager to learn about how to exert their influence for more collaborative and productive dialogue.
Interestingly, the word influence as a verb dates back to the 15th Century, meaning “lead to believe, do”. As leaders, is this not our mission when working with others?
Influence can be positive or negative, but influential leaders are focused on creating positive dynamics and working towards positive ends. Here are six tried and true strategies that can help you develop more skills to be influential as a leader:
1) Be enthusiastic about what can be created by working together. Bring sincerity and energy to the conversation. Your sincerity and energy convey your commitment and eagerness for a supportive and productive conversation. If you are not enthusiastic about the future direction, it is unlikely that your stakeholders will feel compelled to come on board.
2) Use metaphors or words that create the visuals or pictures that create the desired future. Using “We” as you talk builds a sense of commonality with stakeholders. We are all in this together and we can share in our successes.
3) Mentally check your assumptions and biases. Are you judging their views or assuming the outcome? Staying open minded allows for new possibilities to emerge.
4) Genuinely listen to what is being said and acknowledge their perspectives. Seek to understand where your stakeholders are coming from by being open and curious about their thinking. Often, just saying “tell me more” encourages a more open and trusting dialogue. Think how you can meet their needs while at the same time maintaining your principles and mandate. By addressing some of their needs usually other parties reciprocate by offering you a similar courtesy. This generates a feeling of mutuality and desire to seek collaborative solutions.
5) Demonstrate confidence through your convictions and strength of voice that by working together barriers can be overcome.
6) Lastly, mentally prepare ahead of time of how you will bring your presence to the meeting. What leadership characteristics do you want to demonstrate? Thinking ahead and planning your strategy forms your mindset of how and what you will do to positively influence others.
As leaders we are called to provide a direction for the future. Our engagement and ability to influence others is pivotal in moving forward. Successful leaders foster a productive environment for all to achieve collaborative goals.