All lab managers benefit from developing their influence and using it around the lab. We need to influence stakeholders, line managers, peers, and staff. Being able to get things decided and completed even when you don’t have explicit authority is an important leadership skill. “The ability to influence is the number one skill in business,” says Robert Dilenschneider. “[Influence] is the piece that makes the rest possible.”
Developing influence can be difficult. Dilenschneider, the author of Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestseller The Ultimate Guide to Power & Influence: Everything You Need to Know, is an experienced business leader who was the CEO of Hill and Knowlton, Inc. and is now the founder of the Dilenschneider Group. The firm provides advice to leading companies around the world. He has also authored 17 other books, including A Briefing for Leaders, The Public Relations Handbook, Decisions, and Nailing It.
In this article, Dilenschneider answers our questions about how lab managers can further develop and use influence to improve their lab.
Q: What is the basis for real influence?
A: Real influence comes when you have people around you who believe in you and embrace your thinking, or when you have a relationship with an individual who can make something happen. The more helpful you can be to coworkers, clients, and your employer, the more they will like you—and come to count on you. When you use your skills and talents to help others, not only will you draw others to you, you’ll become a better person and experience a real sense of fulfillment.
Q: Why is building influence important?
A: It’s what allows us to find the opportunity hidden in the uncertainty. It’s what allows us to thrive in virtually any field and any job. It’s what gives us staying power. It’s a skill set we all need. Building influence isn’t something that happens overnight, and it isn’t easy, but it is a skill we all need.
Q: Where can we best look to develop influence?
A: Prioritize real-world relationships. Take some time to identify the real decision-makers in your network, the people who actually move the needle. Have real conversations and connect with them genuinely.
Q: How can we think of influence as an ongoing process?
A: Influence is about building relationships. It is not a once and done activity. It’s also more about offering help than about asking for a job, a promotion, or a sale.
Q: Is there something simple that anyone can do to improve their influence?
A: Provide a personal touch. Authenticity matters, especially in this electronic age. Look for ways to provide a personal gesture. These may be time-consuming, but they leave a lasting impression.
Q: How does using gratitude connect to influence?
A: In our nonstop, frantic lives, we may easily forget the importance of gratitude. When we take a moment to smile and say thank you, there is a brief but vital connection. We benefit as much from saying it as others appreciate hearing it. Vast emotional distances can be overcome in a moment by a thank you that conveys “I value you and what you do.”
Q: How can we protect the influence we have?
A: Assume your life is an open book. Social media has blurred the lines between personal and professional. Be careful that what you post represents your reputation. Be cautious about posting things that are controversial, inflammatory, or insensitive.
Q: Is there a language that leaders of high influence consistently use?
A: Use the language of success. Be original. Use the active voice. Use energetic sentences and avoid flabby language. Avoid cliches and other habitually unclear language. Make your messages clear.
Q: How can we improve our influence through problem-solving?
A: Seek to be a problem solver and a conflict neutralizer. The key is to clarify and succinctly state what the problem is. Find out why the issue is emotionally important to the people involved. Help by offering solutions that satisfy all of the parties needed to make the solutions work.
Q: What if I make a mistake?
A: Everyone makes mistakes. Don’t think that you’re the only one. Understand why you made the mistake, and understand what needs to be corrected. Whatever you do, don’t let a mistake just stand. It needs to be addressed. Take responsibility, learn, and find a constructive way to move forward. Don’t wallow in failure. Do continue to take risks.