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Five Tips to Expand Your Influence in the Workplace

Leading through influence improves cooperation and reduces tension

by
Scott D. Hanton, PhD

Scott Hanton is the editorial director of Lab Manager. He spent 30 years as a research chemist, lab manager, and business leader at Air Products and Intertek. He earned...

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Influence is the ability to get work done through people over whom you have no authority. In essence, influence is about asking for the delivery of work rather than demanding it. Developing influence requires building a reputation of trust and dependability. Using influence allows for projects to get completed across teams, departments, and organizations.

Here are five tips to help improve your influence skills:

Building influence

Influence is built through the consistent application of basic leadership traits. Here are some behaviors you can demonstrate to cultivate greater influence:

  • Be cooperative
  • Be reliable. Deliver. Follow through on commitments
  • Be proactive and take needed actions
  • Be assertive without being aggressive
  • Be flexible. Be open to different approaches
  • Be personable. Be open to others and what’s going on around you
  • Be willing to help
  • Listen

Using influence

One of the keys to exerting influence is being collaborative and sharing power. By openly contributing ideas, sharing your talents, being open to learning new things, and acting cooperatively, others will more readily engage with you and your needs. Leading through influence is more about asking than telling. It is also about engaging in healthy debate to find the best path, regardless of who generated the idea, and seeking beneficial outcomes. When others see how they will benefit, they are more likely to cooperate.

Leading through influence

In many situations, influence can be more effective than authority. Many people respond more constructively to being asked than being told to do work activities. This open communication builds mutual trust, enables more cooperative work, and reduces tension and rebelliousness. When people are asked about work, they are also much more likely to share their expertise, opinions, and observations. This can lead to better outcomes and more creativity.

Even lab managers with authority in the lab may choose to exert their leadership through influence first. They can get the benefits of influence and only revert to authority when staff don’t respond to being asked first.

Everyone has influence

While authority comes with specific roles, anyone can earn influence. The benefits of influence can be available to any role and at any level. It can be very beneficial to the lab to help all staff understand how to develop influence because the broad application of these behaviors benefits everyone.

Mapping influence

Most organizations have organizational charts that show the flow of authority. These are commonly part of an onboarding process. It helps everyone understand where their role fits. It is also very beneficial to understand who has influence with key decision-makers, especially the line managers who approve proposals. Mapping who will be consulted before key decisions tells us who else to educate when you are advocating for approval of a project or a purchase.

Developing and growing influence will enable lab managers to get bigger, more complex projects completed by actively cooperating with a broader range of people who bring different skills and knowledge.


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