In order to succeed in the workplace, you need to know how to bring your ideas to fruition. Unless you understand who the key influencers are in your office, even your best ideas won’t receive the recognition they deserve.
The patterns of influence in most offices don’t follow the lines of the formal org chart, so it’s important to identify who has the power to institute change. You also need to know how to persuade those with informal power to buy into your ideas.
Here are five tips for establishing your office influence, identifying the key influencers in your company, and becoming an effective persuader:
1. Understand The Influencer Hierarchy
Your company’s org chart defines the formal distribution of power, but there is also an informal power structure that determines what gets done, who is listened to, and who gets recognized. People with informal power are the influencers that you need to reach when you have an idea for a project or initiative. Take time to understand the hierarchy of influences by observing who is involved in decision-making and who is consistently sought out for their opinion.
2. Lay The Groundwork
Your credibility is one of the most powerful tools of persuasion. Before you approach an influencer with an idea, make sure that you’ve established a level of expertise that will command respect. If you’re making a proposal to someone who isn’t familiar with your background, be prepared to explain how your expertise and past achievements back up your idea.
3. Become An Effective Communicator
In order to persuade people to act on your ideas, you need to have effective communication skills. This includes the ability to detect your audience’s reaction through body language and other non-verbal cues and change your strategy if necessary. You must know when to speak and when to listen, when to exercise tact, and when to drive your point home.
4. Get To Know Your Audience
Before presenting an idea, learn all you can about your audience. Think about their perspective to gain insight into how they think. Identify the external forces that could influence their decision as well as their attitude about change. If possible, observe how they communicate and modify your own communication style accordingly.
5. Establish Relationships
Instead of waiting until you have an idea before approaching one of the influencers in your workplace, focus on building relationships that will broaden your sphere of influence. Your relationships don’t need to be personal, but they do need to be built on a foundation of trust and sincerity. Seek out people with informal power for their advice and steer clear of office politics and gossip. Maintaining enthusiasm and a positive attitude will make others more willing to listen to your ideas.
The ideas presented here can also be applied to meetings with external customers. Persuading a customer to buy a product or service involves many of the same skills that you need to persuade an office influencer to act on your idea. For more tips on identifying influence in the workplace, visit the MBA@UNC blog.
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