Having influence is your ability to impact how someone else behaves or believes. As we talked before in Do you want influence or control, we are influencing people all the time. In the context of the company or organization showing value for your influence it would, like other topics, involve their support of your influence and the furtherance of it by putting you in situations that will better enable you to influence others.
How does it show they value me, or don’t?
The organization increasing your ability to influence and intentionally putting you in situations to use your influence and impact how others in the organization think or act says that they believe in, and strongly value, what you bring to the table. They are encouraging you to further connect with people in the organization and impact them because they believe it will have a positive impact for the organization as a whole. Think about that, that is a pretty big vote of confidence. This level is even more powerful because it is again very visible to others where the value is being placed however it is more subtle. Think of the last time you were in a staff meeting or smaller team meeting. Typically whomever the formal leader is will facilitate the meeting but at some point in the meeting they often reach out to another person who attended, Tina did you have anything to add? John did I miss anything on that point? Suzanne I’d like you to take the lead on this next item. That leader is telling the group that this is a person I listen to and care what they think so you should too. It can happen in other, even more subtle ways too. If you’ve ever come home to have a kid tattle on a sibling right in front of your spouse you’ve probably done it yourself. The kid starts telling the story and you instinctively look at your spouse for a nod of confirmation or a raised eye brow indicating the story may have changed from it’s original form. The same thing can happen in the workplace too (and it doesn’t always have to be tattling). When a person is getting new information that they are unsure of, they look to a person they value to influence them in either confirmation or questioning of that information. Often this comes when a problem is brought to senior leadership, as the decision maker is listening to the problem they will instinctively look to the person they value to influence their reaction to the matter at hand. If this sounds new to you start paying attention in those interactions either when you are in the meeting, picking up your kids from daycare, or in a group of friends and I promise you’ll start to see it.
All influence isn’t created equal and Suzanne sharing information with her own team in the meeting is much different than a senior leader taking their queue on how to react to a problem based on another’s reaction in the meeting. What that tells us is that there are a few sub categories within influence that make up their own little mini hierarchy. Starting from the base, you have influencing people with lower titles, next influencing your peers, and finally influencing those above you in title or status. All three of these are a great place to be in the eyes of the company and all exhibit the vote of confidence I spoke to above.
Influencing people below you could look like acting as a mentor to new team members, leading an explanation of a process to those with less tenure, or being the “go-to” when their questions come up. The organization, or your manager specifically, trusts that you will lead the newer employees or those who may look up to you down the right path. They value the impact you’ll have on these people’s career and long term vision. They also are confident that you’ll be able to lead other’s by following their leadership and example.
Influencing your peers can look like heading the team when your manager is unavailable, sharing grass roots communication on change in support of leadership’s decision, and being the “go-to” for their questions. This layer of the influence level tends to be more subtle than the first. It comes about organically where your peers look to you for guidance. Your manager looks to you support their leadership and the team, while pushing the team forward.
Influencing those above you often looks like being invited to join those of a higher status (could be leadership or simply the more tenured and senior status people in the organization) while they are making decisions, being asked to propose a solution to one of the problems facing the higher ups, and being the “go-to” for their questions. If you’re answering side questions and seem to be invited to meetings where you’re the lowest person on the totem pole, this is a great sign. Your organization trusts you to not only carry forward the message of the strategy and goals of the company but to help create some of those goals and develop the strategy itself.
This is the top of the pyramid so there isn’t a lot to add in how this might show that they don’t value you. The one aspect I would caution on is faux influence. If the organization feels an obligation to have you lead and as a result they put you in positions to and encourage you to influence others in infrequent situations. Beware of someone “throwing you a bone” if you’ve been in a position that should already require influence, leadership, and ability to manage. My suggestion if you’re in this place is over prepare, deliver well, and then over communicate your success. If they don’t value your ability to influence well and you believe you can do it, show them.
If this is the level I’m in, what now?
I am going to again start with, how did I get here? Being considered an influencer within the organization is no small feat. Your organization putting you in positions to influence others, regardless of what level those other people are in, is a compliment to you and your abilities as well as acknowledgement of how valuable you are to the success of the goals. So it didn’t just happen over night and it didn’t happen because of any formal change. Similar to autonomy, you could have accidentally influenced people slowly and therefor, again slowly, got noticed for doing so and were then included in more and more. More likely in this level however, you shared what you were able to accomplish through others. You mentioned to your manager that you were helping out with the new person and taught them the best way to organize their work. You spoke for the team after several members confided in you the fears they had over an upcoming change. You answered the question brought up by leadership when no one else seemed to have a solution. This level is all about communication and your ability to do so will often help you advance through each of the layers more quickly.
This is an elite group as certainly the least amount of people arrive at this level. Your determination to serve the organization and the people within it is paying off. Use this platform to build connections and relationships and never stop learning. These sound like separate calls to action but they are really one in the same. As you navigate your position of influence you will undoubtedly come to a point where your own knowledge will run out. For some of us this happens quicker than for others but it does happen to all eventually. So then what? This is when you peek because you don’t know it all? No, you’ll need the expertise of others to carry you through. As you’re put into these positions of influence build your network and strengthen your relationships with others. You can pair your strengths to propel you both forward. Lets use an example, a group of your teammates is in the breakroom getting a cup of coffee together. A few of them start venting that the new system is so much more clunky than the old one. You yourself didn’t notice but they do a little different work. Ask yourself who the most reliable and level headed person (or people) is in the group and ask more questions. You can mirror this information against the goals of the system and share problems and solutions with your manager. Being that you’re typically the “go-to” for questions and because you provided possible solutions, your manager is likely to take you seriously and push this forward and implement some sort of solution to it and make the work more efficient. Now, you were the conduit but you didn’t even realize there was a problem so you certainly didn’t solve this on your own. It was a collective effort. Go back to the person (or people) who were they most helpful and share how they impacted the success. Expressing gratitude and giving credit is a great way to build those connections so you can continue to improve things as well as learn yourself.
Finally as you’re standing at the top of your Value Hierarchy mountain do take a moment to appreciate the view but don’t stop there. All of the relationship building and learning you’re doing up there need to ultimately bring you to lend a hand to your fellow climbers. Reach out to the next one in line and allow yourself to be influenced by those around you. Increase their level in the pyramid so they’re better able to join you at the top and you can take in the view together.
Things I’m reminding myself of
Friendly reminder (and it almost feels like a PSA at this point), you do not need to be in a leadership position to be valued to the point of influence. I have watched people in positions where they had very nearly the lowest title in the organization and been valued to this point. In contrast, I have seen people with the highest title overseeing hundreds of staff members that barely made it to the status level let alone encouraged and empowered to truly influence and lead their group. Consider what you’re asked to do and how, in the role you’re in, to understand if you’re here (or any level in the hierarchy).
Influencing people all but requires a servant leadership mindset. Too often we strive to make it to the level of influencing people by bossing. That is a way to influence people, though it will often be in the opposite direction of what you wanted and the odds that your company will value your abilities here will be short lived at best. If you’re wanting to get to a point of value from the organization where you’re being asked, encouraged, and trusted to influence come at it from a place of serving them. How can you help or teach or support others? This is the way to gaining that trust and value from not only the organization but those who are following you too.