In the largely non-hierarchical professional sphere of today, qualifiers like title and experience are no longer enough to get things done. Instead, the idea of "influence" plays an outsized role in making an impact and growing your career.
But how can you cultivate "influence" and become a leader in an informal, socially decided way? According to Rebecca Knight's work in the Harvard Business Review, it boils down to one approach: Making your work more about the people you work with and less about you.
While it seems counterintuitive to becoming "influential" to set yourself aside, it's one of the best ways to get others to join in your cause. Knight suggests framing everything you work on — any approaches you take or projects you present — as being of benefit to both the person you're hoping to influence and to the company as a whole, which is something your work should probably be doing anyway.
To effectively angle your ideas as mutually beneficial, you need to do your homework on what they need, according to Knight.
"Consider each stakeholder’s needs, perspectives, and temperaments," Knight writes. "For each person, make sure you’re answering the question, ‘What’s in it for me?’" Once you've tailored your pitch from this angle, using the word "we" is a powerful yet casual way to reinforce your ideas as mutually beneficial. Consider saying "We'll see value if we..." or "What we'll get from this..."
However, convincing others that your plan is what's best for them requires work beyond a few carefully crafted words, Knight says. You need to make sure your colleagues get to know you so they can assume positive intent. In other words, if you don't know someone, it's tough to trust them — especially when they're asking for your buy in on big or potentially risky ideas.
Prioritize making personal connections with those around you. Talk to them like a person, get to know their interests and share some of your own. Also, pay attention to the small parts of interactions that can imbue trust.
"Standing up straight with your shoulders back helps you come across as confident and commanding; slouching and looking down at your feet has the opposite effect," Knight writes. She also advises pitching your voice lower to connote power, although it's best to behave however makes you feel more comfortable and confident. After all, the most convincing confidence is real confidence.
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