What are the barriers to doing this?
Being able to influence a situation, whether selecting from available choices or actively arguing a point of view, raises an individual’s stake in the outcome. Once again, leaders who are not confident in their own skills or position are not always comfortable sharing information and inviting others into decision making. Putting yourself and your ideas out there for others to critique is scary and exposes vulnerabilities.
Why is it important to do anyway?
With all of these challenges, extending influence is extremely critical to developing trust with people. When your workforce is given the opportunity to influence the outcome of an activity, policy or decision their desire to understand and interest in participation change. The increased level of engagement comes from being invested in the outcome. At SOMC, there are two questions on the employee satisfaction survey that directly relate to a leader’s ability to successfully extend influence: “My workgroup is asked for their opinions before decisions are made;” and “I have the opportunity to influence policies and decisions that affect my work.” Trustworthy leaders not only seek input from their workforce, they work diligently to ensure the feeling of “having a stake in the outcome” is real, not a fig leaf.
How can you do it?
- Invite your workforce to participate in meetings. If you are interested in extending influence to your workforce, you have to invite them into the conversation. Make sure that there are enough opportunities for you to interact with members of your staff (rounding, department meetings, and huddles). Set aside time during each of these interactions to ask for the opinions of your team on processes, policies, improvements, etc. Share your thoughts and ask them what they think to further the meaningful exchange.
- Let go of your position power. Sharing information in a way that extends influence is the same as sharing position power. The individuals doing the work every day have viewpoints that we can’t possibly have. For extending influence to be successful, the humility necessary to let go of your “position” and extending the power to your workforce to create new solutions of define improved processes is required.
- Really listen to what other people have to say. If you ask…really listen to the response. Actively listen to the ideas being shared by your team. Write down their thoughts. Ask follow-up questions. Even if you don’t think at the moment that there is value in an idea, take it down anyway. Who knows…there may be a “nugget” of an idea that has merit. Also as a “leader really listening” (another SOMC employee satisfaction question), follow-up with your team on all the ideas and what may be pursued and others that will not be and why. Connect improvements and changes to individuals’ ideas.
What is the most effective example of ‘extending influence’ that you have observed from another leader?
Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/blog . We learn best from each other’s experiences.