How to Build Influence at Work
Getting What You Want by Helping Others
Sally wanted a promotion or a transfer to another department, but it seemed like she had been at odds with her boss, Judy, for the past two years. Every time Sally tried to pin Judy down on why operations and finance wanted her group, the data analytics department, to run yet another report, Judy evaded her questions.
Then there was Joe, the newest data analyst on the team, who sat three cubicles over from Sally. He constantly interrupted Sally to ask questions, even when she said she was busy. These interruptions often turned into extended training sessions, without so much as a thank you from Joe. What’s more, Joe took credit for work he couldn’t have done without a lot of Sally’s help.
Sally saw her boss as an obstacle and Joe as a nuisance to be swatted away.
Rather than quitting her job, or moving to another company, Sally decided to take another approach. Even though she had little confidence in Judy’s leadership skills, and found her boss to be scattered and uncommunicative, Sally wanted to mend her reputation in the department. She was surprised to realize that over the past couple of years that her frustrations got the better of her.
At heart, Sally was cooperative, driven, and motivated by challenges. She had allowed herself to become grumpy and fixated on being right, rather than being a team player.
Sally set out to observe what was essential to her boss and to pitch in more. She spoke up in meetings to volunteer on challenging projects. Privately, Sally set new boundaries with Joe on how much training time she could offer. Publicly, she credited Joe with having real talent as an analyst and volunteered to devote a specific amount of time weekly to training him. She cheerfully pointed out the value of this training to the team and Joe.
Within less than six months, Judy had changed her tune about Sally’s merits and referred to her as a team player. Joe surprisingly thanked her publicly for the training and was more respectful about asking for her time. Sally was promoted to a sales operations analyst role by learning to influence the people around her. In her new role, she was expected to influence her team by bringing new ideas for improving profit margins and retaining high revenue accounts. She welcomed the opportunity.
- Observe and learn the norms before making recommendations
- Keep your promises and build your own credibility first
- Learn what matters (to team, peers, and leadership)
- Set healthy boundaries
- Discover current “influencers”
- Build relationships and align interests
- Adapt your communication style to each individual
- Have a smart strategy that aligns with overall mission and objectives
- Test your ideas one-on-one, before presenting to a group
Finally, Sally learned that the best persuasion and influence come from remembering what’s in it for them (W.I.F.T.).