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How to Increase Your Influence to Drive Change in Your Organization


In the construction industry, where several individuals are often decision-makers for a company, having everyone agree on any proposed changes to the organization can prove challenging. If you have modifications you’d like to see take place for your company, building your leadership is a key to ensure it happens.

“I’m somebody who thinks of leadership as a skill, not necessarily as a trait,”says Beta Mannix, the Ann Whitney Olin Professor of Management at Cornell University’s Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management. “I think you can learn to be a more effective leader.”

The following ways can help you expand your influence in the workplace and introduce the changes you want.

Build Your Emotional Intelligence

Decision-makers should first work toward building emotional intelligence, an awareness and understanding of your and other people’s emotions. This aids in creating a climate where people are motivated to welcome change in the first place, says Mannix, whose research and work center on leadership behaviors and organizational change.

In meetings and conversations within your organization, pay attention to people’s reactions. Their facial expressions may signal disagreement or discomfort with what’s discussed. Discuss what others think about your ideas. If you’re struggling to perceive how someone feels, simply ask them. After all, as Mannix says: “Emotion is data; it’s information.”

“Emotion is data; it’s information.”

Caron Lott-Dunn, president and CEO of Career Management and Service Consulting Inc. in Little Rock, Arkansas, consults with private and nonprofit companies on efficiency, productivity, and more. She says an emotionally intelligent influencer contributes to a people-first environment. “If each person can self-reflect and realize how they are in tune with themselves, how they react to people, if they can provide empathy, care and concern, if they can walk a mile in another person’s shoes, then they can really improve the productivity of the organization hundredfold.”

Build Your Influence Off of Another’s

You don’t have to go it alone. Mannix suggests forming connections with a network of influential peers and colleagues can assist you in making a change. They should be the allies you trust and respect. They should also be able to reach as many people as possible and vouch for you and your ideas. “Build a coalition of people who are also likeminded through your network,” says Mannix. “That’s one of the first things you can start doing.”

According to Lott-Dunn, it’s best not to play favorites when building relationships with others. “You want to build a rapport that’s appropriate for who you’re interacting with. It’s being sincere,” she explains. “People can tell when you’re not sincere. It’s genuinely caring about people and trying to understand who they are so that you canbuild a better working relationship.”

Assess the Root of Your Proposal

Organizations often go for “low-hanging fruit,” or easy-to-address changes, when there are actually deeper organizational matters to address, Mannix says. Don’t try to change something just for the sake of it. Make sure your idea benefits your company on many  levels. There are questions to consider when assessing if your ideal change is a true gain for your company. Mannix suggests asking yourself “What is the sense of motivation for change?” and “Do you have an idea of how you’re going to get there?”

While easy fixes aren’t bad, they too need a plan. “Things that can be simple–like updating technology–that can be a great fix, but [be sure to] accompany that with, ‘We have to make sure we get enough training,’” Mannix says.

According to Lott-Dunn, if people can align themselves with the mission of the company, they’ll steer themselves in that direction. Be sure your ideas match the mission. “Build a culture that is mission-driven and vision-focused,” she said. “If you forget about your mission, it’s going to show in your organization.”

Minimize Anxiety

There are reasons others often resist change: It’s challenging and often requires more than one simple step. Whether you want people in the company to adapt to new technology or learn a new skill,  be prepared to lessen your team’s stress level, says Mannix. You should also help everyone understand why a change is good for them. This can help you build your respect and credibility, therefore enhancing your influence. “How am I going to make the learning easier? How do I make the day-to-day easier?” are questions to ask yourself, according to Mannix.

“Even in that sense, you want to bring people together and have some type of communication. Communication can dispel a lot of things.”

Productivity decreases with stress, Lott-Dunn explains. Address this through transparent conversations. “Sometimes, if you’re in a crisis situation, you have to do what has to be done,” she said. “Even in that sense, you want to bring people together and have some type of communication. Communication can dispel a lot of things.”

Be Accessible

Others may not wish to follow a leader who they don’t see, so don’t hide out in your office all day. Lott-Dunn says “management by walking around” is a great way to note how functions within your organization are operating.

Having an open-door policy also helps establish you’re someone others can turn to, Lott-Dunn says.

Mannix also suggests maintaining visibility among your team members by asking them questions and discussing ideas. “Sometimes, it’s connecting with them,” Mannix says. “People will later say, ‘This is a very well-rounded person. This is somebody I want to follow.’”

Having an open-door policy also helps establish you’re someone others can turn to, Lott-Dunn says.
“If they know that you know what you’re doing, they will follow you, and they will feel they can respect you for what you know,” she says. “The respect will maintain the influence. They know you will be dedicated.”


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