When I started my corporate career, the allure of becoming a CEO had captured my imagination and fueled my ambition. Leading an organization seemed like the pinnacle and my day to day would include commanding a stage, inspiring an audience, and receiving applause. However, I soon learned that leadership transcends titles, speeches, and corner offices. We all wield influence in various aspects of life, shaping outcomes through collaboration and interaction with others.
As a business coach with Mr. Electric, a Neighborly company, I am tasked every day with guiding our franchise owners toward business success but I couldn’t just tell people what to do. That is not leadership. Instead, I would need to help create a space where people are first receptive to collaboration before seeking to change their behavior and doing so in a mutually beneficial way.
Here are some of the tactics I use to garner influence with franchise owners, colleagues, and community partners which anyone can experiment with:
While it takes a lot of effort, building relationships is a proactive and long-term activity that should never feel transactional. I interact with thirty-five to forty owners each month, roughly a fifth of all our franchise owners in the system. However, I make it a point to maintain contact with owners I have previously coached to deepen our relationship. I also reach out to owners I have never served in anticipation (and expectation) of working with them in the future. These efforts help build trust and position me as a resource they can tap for help.
Learn the “Why”
Without knowing a person’s why, it is difficult to connect what they want with your desired outcome, so take the time to understand the other person’s situation. Identify their goals, motivations, and reasons for their pursuits. For example, I have invested time to build relationships with franchisees and also gain an understanding of what drives them to action. I’m especially interested in the why, because that is the glue that ties the task that I might ask someone to perform.
Think about how you demonstrate to others that you care and will do the right thing. Do you know the names of their spouse and children? Do you know their hobbies? Do you advocate on their behalf in public and in private? Showing a genuine interest in other people promotes open communication, which is critical for a working relationship.
Leveraging Other’s Influence
There will be times when your influence with a person or group has not matured. In these instances, look to borrow influence of more experienced individuals. Be strategic and do your homework. Find out, who has the most influence in this room? What perception do others have of this person? and how do I influence the influencer?
Ask for their sponsorship when addressing a group or seeking to build trust with an individual with whom you have not had time to generate a relationship. This does not mean deprioritizing building genuine relationships, but it can increase your effectiveness in the short-term with less resistance.
These tactics helped me secure buy-in from people who do not directly report to me, both at my organization and in my community. What’s more, they gave me a roadmap to navigating new relationships, groups, and positions. The ability to influence is a skill worth honing and is applicable in all aspects of one’s life, not just when we are CEOs.