Over the past couple of weeks, I met with six leaders in several global organizations. Each of these leaders was Vice President level or higher. Each was given the task to fix a long-standing problem in their firms wherein the responsibility of the job was much larger than their positional authority. Sound familiar? Leaders in many organizations encounter this imbalance of responsibility vs. authority.
Good news – you can achieve your goals when authority and responsibility are out of balance.
How? To succeed as leaders, we must influence as if we do not need authority.
What are the steps to succeed as a leader when your responsibility exceeds your authority?
First, create a clear goal. The goal is your end game. The goal requires measurements. If you cannot measure your goal, it is not clear enough. Go back and try again. For example, a healthy workforce is not a goal. 100% participation in the wellness program is a goal. The bigger the target, the more you will need milestones leading to the goal. Big goals – my favorites!
Next, practice the five I’s of Influence. The five I’s are techniques and processes that set our direction and position us to lead change.
1. I am aware of my style. We all have key aspects of our personality style that manifest in our behavior and how we speak. Know how you come across. This self-awareness helps you intentionally flex your style to influence others positively.
2. I observe. Observing the people, we lead and listening to them, we will better understand their motivators. I call motivators currency. Currency comes in many forms intrinsic, social and economic. Observe the environment to identify the structure, resources, time, finances and ability of the people we will influence. For example, Joe likes to name drop about his connections in the c-suite. He proudly displays awards for his philanthropic causes. These are hinting that social recognition is a dominant currency for him.
3. I connect. Influence requires us to act on two levels, the individual level and to create a coalition. Studies show if we connect first with warmth and moderate competence we create active engagement. To convey warmth, face the person with an open, relaxed and professional posture. Smile sincerely, make eye contact and have your hands open.
To create a coalition requires us to identify the influential stakeholders, experts, decision-makers, supporters, and naysayers. Use relationship maps help you strategically, by outlining critical connections, their currency, their environment, what they need, and how you might help them. Creating a coalition requires thoughtful intent and action. Influencers connect with a wide variety of other influencers.
4. I communicate. The people with whom we connect want to know the who, what, and why about you. Prepare a message about your goals using concise, confident language. Show respect and listen.
For example, “Hi, Sally. Thank you for taking a few minutes to speak with me. Congratulations on your recent recognition as Resident Managing Director of the year. Your comments about customer focus at the awards dinner were inspiring, and I knew I needed to connect with you. I’m leading a task force to identify three of the most impactful ways to increase our client retention across the country. Your office has the highest client retention in the firm. How do you and your colleagues achieve these results? Who else do you suggest I speak with?”
Listen, take notes, summarize their input, and stay in touch with your connection.
5. I act with intention. Influential leaders control their behavior. When we act with intention, we focus on others as we engage the hearts, minds, and guts of those we lead.
Finally, we implement tactics that take the least amount of effort to achieve the most significant result. This requires experimentation and observation while we adjust six influence tactics to find the tipping point for substantial change. Imagine adjusting these tactics to move toward the goal. Some goals require a single tactic, others might need three or all tactics at different times. What are the tactics?
- Help them love it.
- Make it simple.
- Apply peer pressure or recognition.
- Create a big tribe.
- Accountability and rewards.
- Modify the environment.
When we practice the five I’s of influence, the most critical tactics stand out.
Hint: if training is your go-to tactic, you likely missed a significant observation. Stand-alone training rarely creates sustained behavior change.
You will succeed as a leader when authority is out of balance with responsibility if you influence. Influential leadership includes setting measurable goals, self-awareness, observation, connection, concise communication, listening and acting with intention.
Pick one action that you will implement today to increase your influence. Experiment and enjoy!