The pressure on leaders has never been greater and the higher up the tree you go, the harder it gets. So many people are relying on you. All eyes are on you and when something goes wrong, they’ll be looking to you for the answers.
You only have to browse the headlines to see a weekly litany of ‘fallen’ high profile leaders whose reputations are in tatters. Maybe they did something wrong or were merely a scapegoat being 'thrown under the bus'. Either way, the pressure is relentless.
Then there’s the angst of working in a risk averse, dysfunctional organisation where those above you appear to suffer decision making paralysis. Meanwhile… your project is waiting and waiting and waiting on a critical decision.
The clock is ticking, months are passing and you have a restless team waiting for the ‘green light’ to proceed. Yet no one can tell you what’s really causing the procrastination and vague platitudes or promises of ‘Soon…’ are wearing thin.
While these are just two common scenarios (and there are many more!), the impact is the same. As frustration and stress continue to rise, it feels like your only option is to work harder. If you just put in more hours; go the extra mile and engage more people, more often, you’ll achieve a breakthrough.
But before you box on, BEWARE!
The ‘Just Work Harder’ strategy is a spinning wheels trap and one that is likely to result in a vicious cycle. As you become increasingly emotionally vested, chances are you’ll lose perspective. Throwing everything you have at the problem will lead to errors of judgement, burnout and unhelpful repercussions.
But what if there was a simpler, easier and more effective way to bypass the spinning wheels’ trap?
Thankfully, there is, and it all starts with switching the way you influence.
In the same way you’d swap your heels for runners if you were going to run a marathon, the key to successful influence lies in choosing the most effective techniques.
Six Simple Leadership Influence Switches
What are ‘Leadership Influence Switches,’ I hear you ask?
Influence Switches are simple ways to ditch something that’s not working and swap in something that will. Switches can be a mindset shift; behaviour change, a decision or action pivot (if X doesn’t work, I’ll go with Y).
Best of all, they are within your control and take no more time or effort than what you’re doing now. Once implemented, Leadership Switches save time, effort and angst.
Switch Your Story – what you’re telling yourself may not be true!
Either way, it will not be the whole or only truth. Review the situation from all angles by putting yourself in the key decision maker’s shoes.
Observing and listening with curiosity (rather than judgement), ask:
- What are they seeing and experiencing?
- What are their motivators and drivers?
- What do they stand to gain or lose by supporting me?
If the story you're telling yourself isn't serving, supporting, nurturing or challenging you in a good way - change it to a truth that does.
Switch Your Intention from Battling to Breaking Through
Battling is hard work, whilst stepping back to identify potential Break Through strategies is fun. Think strategically and act tactically. Relentlessly search for, uncover, create and pursue emerging opportunities.
- If this were a game of chess, what would your next move, and the one after that, be?
Switch Your Focus - from where you’ve been to where you’re heading
Progress and Momentum are rarely achieved by looking in the rear vision mirror. Don’t get bogged down by hanging onto past wrongdoings and resentments.
- What do I ultimately want and need to achieve, and what outcome will that result in?
- How much will this really matter in 3, 6 ,12 months and 5 years?
Switch from Sitting Duck (Victim) to Front Foot Freddie (Victor)
Sure, you can wait for the next blow, criticism or rejection to fall and then react. Or, you can anticipate all the possible outcomes and plan for each one. These alternative plans create a safety net so no matter what happens, you’ll be ready to respond.
- What are all the likely outcomes that may eventuate?
- If any of these happen, what steps will I/We take?
- Who will I proactively engage with to gain support?
Top Tip: Identify those who influence the key decision maker/s and establish genuine, high trust, mutually respectful relationships with them. Ask:
- “What can I do to help make this easier for you?”
This presupposes that you CAN make things easier for the decision maker/s and are ready, willing and able to help.
- What are the parts of the decision or action on which you could compromise?
Sometimes it’s easier to ask for a small step forward and leave the rest for later. I call this 'Planting Seeds, Fertilising and Watering an Idea' over several meetings.
Have you ever noticed how many things resolve themselves over time, without action or interference from you?
Switch the Way You Show Up
Swap quietly seething, anxious or poker face to genuinely calm, clear and confident. This is the single most powerful Influencing Switch and the one over which you have the most control.
Only 7% communication effectiveness (aka influence) comes from the words we use. 93% comes from our body language – physiology, voice tone, pitch and pace and non-verbal attitude.
No matter how well you try to hide your frustration, judgement and anger, it will inevitably come out of every pore of your body! Alternatively if you are feeling and projecting clear calm confidence, it will have a powerful and positive impact on those you are engaging with.
Once you have mastered Influencing Switches 1 – 5, this one will become much easier. When engaging with the decision maker/s ask yourself:
- Based on my desired outcome, how do I need to BE?
- What practices can I engage, in the moment, that will help me get into my chosen ‘state’?
Top Tips: Deep, steady breathing; Feet flat on the ground; Relaxed shoulders; Visualisations and Affirmations can all help with this.
- How will I sustain my chosen state, no matter what happens in the meeting?
So there you have it – 6 Simple Influencing Switches you can make straight away. As the old saying goes,
“The definition of insanity (and frustration) is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
All it takes to make any of these Leadership Influencing Switches is to be consciously aware and intentional.
So, which of these are you going to use to 'up your influence' and break through the status quo?