In my article, Want to Lead Change at Work? Focus on Growing Your Influence with a “Clean Power” Approach, I share three essential tips for jump-starting your influence development:
- Mapping and strengthening your internal and external networks
- Solving challenges in the gray-zone
- Leveraging the principle of reciprocity
While these are individually and collectively excellent long-term influence-building activities, you can immediately employ two communication tactics to improve the impression you make on your bosses and colleagues.
Show Your Audience Respect with Solid Posture and Fierce Listening
A good friend and a communication authority, Dr. Nick Morgan, encourages us to pay closer attention to our body language to convey the right message. In a fabulous article by Rebecca Knight at HBR (tiered subscription model), How to Increase Your Influence at Work, she quotes Dr. Morgan:
Standing up straight with your shoulders back helps you come across as confident and commanding. When you adopt a slumping posture, you think in subordinate terms, and you talk in subordinate terms.
While we’re having more video meetings now, and many of us are sitting, I wonder what your posture on-screen conveys to those you are engaging?
Take time to watch yourself on one of your recorded meetings. Are you conveying an inviting, open posture, and are you positioned toward the camera? Are you maintaining eye contact and looking through your camera, or are you distracted by the e-mail window and instant messages popping up on your screens?
More than a few individuals I’ve encountered would earn the wrath of my Mom, who never tolerated anything other than rock-solid posture and extreme focus or what I describe as “fierce listening.”
Design Your Message First to Communicate with Confidence
The number one communication skill I help my clients cultivate is how to design, deliver, and support crisp, clear, relevant messages on challenging topics. It turns out, it’s incredibly challenging to laser focus your message and build the supporting pieces—key drivers and evidence—for high stakes communication situations, and then deliver it confidently.
I’ve lost track of how many people in critical roles ramble on and on attempting to deliver and justify their rationale for change or why we should adopt a new policy or strategy. Mostly, they bore their audiences to tears and in some instances, they invite resistance to their ideas because their messaging was so convoluted. For those who strive to excel in these communication moments, I teach a process called “strategic message design through message mapping.” (Check out my article: The Career Enhancing Benefits of Message Mapping.)
While the concept is simple, the work is painfully challenging. The work that goes into building and revising a message map will help the individual surface a crystal clear core message along with the key drivers (rationale) and supporting evidence.
Ask anyone who has been through a message map review development and revision process with me, and you’re likely to hear the word “pain” or a close equivalent. Ask them how it worked out when the pressure was on, and they had to deliver the message, and you’ll see a big smile, and then they’ll offer something that sounds like, “It worked great.”
And while I guide them through the process from chaos to clarity, the entire exercise is about cultivating the discipline to tune your message for your audience. There are few things more impressive in the workplace than an individual navigating a high-stakes communication situation—with senior stakeholders or colleagues, and crushing the presentation and question and answer. It’s a brand-building, influence-creating event!
The Bottom-Line for Now:
So, Mom’s advice was right. Sit up straight, focus on the other person, and when it’s your turn to talk, make it count! Developing your influence is a must-do for maximizing your impact and growing your career. And while it’s a long-game, you can start succeeding immediately with these simple but not simplistic tactics.