The modern work environment involves smaller teams, leaner resources, and loftier goals. While we set financial indicators and industry benchmarks, create plans and timelines, align strengths with cross-functional teams; there are always whirlwind activities that dim the view and get us off track and off task. To become a trusted voice that rises above the distractions and appeals to the masses, here are seven ways you can influence under pressure, improve your personal value and become a credible leader in the workplace.
1. Lead with facts. Despite your desires at times to let your personal assumptions run wild, come to your meetings (and conclusions) always armed with facts and figures. While those facts are always enhanced by the narrative, they certainly don’t lie. Be known as a person who does their fact checking before they assert their opinion
2. “To find yourself, think for yourself.” — Socrates
Cultivate and celebrate self-reliance. Do not wait for someone to get you what you need, or someone to tell you exactly how to get it. Ask. There is nothing wrong with seeking out a co-worker, peer, manager, and outlining your need and what they can do to help fill the gaps that can move a project forward.
3. Accept responsibility for your actions. If you want to enjoy the benefits of #2 then you better be willing to accept responsibility when something goes wrong. And ohhhhhh yes, it will sometimes go wrong. Don’t make excuses. Whether you did something wrong or something “happened” to you because of the way of the office world, it doesn’t matter. Own it. It doesn’t have to remain, either. It simply becomes a starting point for doing better. People appreciate accountability.
4. Say “please” and “thank you.” People are much more prone to collaboration when you are polite and friendly. Never assume that your ask is something they had in their workday plan so respect their time, talent, and attention by using common courtesy and respectful communication.
5. Geek out. Never stop learning and improving yourself. Have interests, goals, and past times… READ books. Sign up for a class, get a certification or learn another language. There is a lot of cool stuff out there that will broaden your horizons and deepen your value in both your role and in your working relationships. Many companies have budgets for training and development. Find out what you have available at work, but don’t be afraid of investing in yourself as well.
6. “Seek to understand before being understood.” This one is tough when we feel like we are just waiting for our turn to speak and make our own brilliant point. When you feel a tendency to remark before understanding a situation, always ask for a bit more context. It will make people more willing to speak with you and it will make your decisions more grounded in the whole story – and not just your version of the situation. Good leaders are ones who listen first and then act.
7. Change stuff that isn’t working. You can’t fix everything but you’re never without options. Being powerless is an illusion. Decide you want something else and do what it takes to make it happen. It doesn’t happen just because you say so, you have to actually work for change, but it’s worth the effort. Make your work better, make outcomes different, make current challenges no longer relevant, make your time spent meaningful… make it something.
When we spend so many hours on the job we should relish in the experience and use it as an opportunity to better ourselves, deepen relationships and truly add value to our customers and clients. Always seeking to be wiser, more valuable, more well-rounded, and most importantly more fulfilled. Simply telling people what to do vs. influencing cooperation can mean the difference between just a manager or a respected and effective leader. (Choose the latter.)