INFLUENCE IS LIKE A MAGNET
Pallavi Pinakin demonstrates how to win friends and influence other people
Dale Carnegie’s book titled ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People,’ which was published in 1936, has remained a worldwide bestseller for over 80 years – a sign that millions of people crave greater influence especially in the workplace.
A successful corporate trainer and self-improvement guru, Carnegie understood that influence is a subtle and complex force that goes far beyond one’s position in the office hierarchy. Some leaders may enjoy plenty of authority but little meaningful power beyond that. Conversely, others seem to wield immense influence no matter where they stand on the corporate ladder.
You might be familiar with the compelling character of Donna in the hit television show Suits. Despite being only an executive assistant at a law firm filled with high-powered Ivy League educated legal eagles, Donna is one of the most influential figures in and around the office. She plays a key role in persuading people, guiding events and shaping outcomes – in fact, she applies many of Carnegie’s lessons like a pro (perhaps a well-thumbed copy of his evergreen book lies on her bookshelf at home!).
Becoming more influential at work is a long-term endeavour that demands consistent effort – it is definitely not something you can accomplish overnight.
With that said, you can start taking simple steps towards your goal almost immediately. It won’t be long before you notice a widening of your sphere of impact and over time, your influence will grow in leaps and bounds. Once you achieve the level of power you desire, you’ll need to continue putting in time and energy to maintain it.
Here are some suggestions to kick off your personal quest to gain greater influence.
BE CURIOUS As Carnegie points out, “you can make more friends in two months by being interested in them than in two years by making them interested in you.” Cultivate a genuine interest in your colleagues. Take the time to ask open-ended questions, and get acquainted with their interests and priorities. Go beyond water cooler gossip and really get to know the other person (without being invasive, of course). And encourage them to open up and talk about themselves.
Author and leadership presence coach Carol Kinsey Goman explains: “I’ve found that when I speak with a successful executive, I get the feeling that he or she is wonderful – but when I speak with a charismatic leader, I’m made to feel that I am wonderful.”
LISTEN DEEPLY Being a sparkling conversationalist might win you admiration and envy but it won’t really help you nurture deep relationships. From ancient philosophers to modern leadership experts, empathetic listening has always been the cornerstone of garnering influence. People want to be heard as much as they like to be liked.
Moreover, listening carefully gives you a chance to gather valuable information. For instance, if you know your colleague is interested in a leadership workshop but hesitant to suggest her own name, you can nominate her for it. By doing so, you demonstrate your commitment to your colleague’s success and win her loyalty.
OPEN UP Return openness with openness. People are more likely to trust and respect you if you’re willing to share meaningful facets of your life with them. Be it joy, sadness or vulnerability, allow your colleagues a glimpse of who you really are.
Behavioural investigator Vanessa Van Edwards recommends sharing stories that don’t only show you at your best but also reveal your flaws – this will allow your audience to relate to you better. The human brain is made to respond to storytelling and a well narrated anecdote can significantly transform the way in which people see you.
Hand in hand with being open is the ability to apologise. The most successful influencers are quick to admit their mistakes when they find themselves genuinely in the wrong. This lends added credibility to their deeply held convictions in other situations.
NETWORK This can sometimes seem like an unnecessary or even manipulative activity. In fact, at its best, it is about building a reliable professional community bound by mutual respect and sharing. Being part of a robust network is one of the best ways to increase your influence in the domain of work. Instead of viewing networking as a selfish mercenary exchange of favours, try to see it as a potentially lifelong relationship – the more you invest in it, the stronger it grows.
Why not approach networking with a fresh perspective? Seek like-minded individuals beyond your immediate professional circle and ask yourself what you can do for them instead of what they could do for you.
Give of yourself generously and meaningfully – meaning your time, experience and wisdom. And when the time comes, you will be repaid in spades.