Every leadership development programme is conducted based on the assumption that leaders have to know how to influence those they lead, and that’s a perfectly valid assumption. But that’s not the whole truth.
One of the biggest challenges any leader faces is not about influencing those who report to them, but influencing those they report to. Think about it … Have you ever been faced with a situation where you see what your company needs to do. You’re convinced in your heart and mind that it’s necessary and will benefit the company, but those above you just don’t see it and have other agendas.
What do you do then?
If your ideas, suggestions and offers of advice fall on deaf ears, you risk one of two things happening. One, you become frustrated, irritable and stressed or, two, you disengage and start looking for a job elsewhere despite the fact that you may be happy where you are. In addition, the organisation suffers in that it doesn’t make the progress it could have made by implementing your idea and it also risks losing talented people as they become disenchanted with the lack of foresight on the part of the powers that be.
That’s why it’s so important for leaders at all levels in an organisation to know how to influence those above them.
So how exactly does one pull this off?
If you see what your organisation needs to do in order to survive or thrive when others don’t see it, you first have to identify your motive in wanting to implement your idea. If your motive is based on self-interest – you think it will help your career, you will naturally want to get the credit for coming up with the idea.
If however you believe that what needs to be done is in the organisation’s (and all employees’ interests), you’ll be prepared to sacrifice your self-interest for the greater good of the organisation and all of its employees.
And the sacrifice you have to make? You have to get the powers that be to think your idea is their idea. When you get that right, they champion “their” idea and ensure that it gets implemented for the benefit of all in the company!
That takes courage, emotional maturity and humility – qualities sadly lacking in the business world.
Here, then, are a few steps to follow to get those above you to embrace your idea:
#1 At an appropriate time and in appropriate circumstances, start a conversation with the key decision makers in your company. The conversation should focus on the topic related to the idea you have.
#2 The intention of your conversation – which you must make known to the person you’re speaking to – is to get their opinion on the matter. This is a VERY important step because everyone likes to give their opinion. Besides, once a person forms an opinion on a matter, they will go a long way to find ways to get support for their opinion, and that gets the idea accepted by others.
#3 Once those above you have embraced your idea as their own, you can refer to what they say on the matter. Their views and support will give it the authority it needs to get it implemented.
If ever there were a time for HR Professionals to start demonstrating emotional maturity and influencing those above them, it’s now. Are you up for it?
Alan Hosking is the Publisher of HR Future magazine, www.hrfuture.net and @HRFuturemag. He is an internationally recognised authority on leadership competencies for the future and teaches experienced and younger business leaders how to lead with empathy, compassion, integrity, purpose and agility. He has been an Age Management Coach for two decades and is the author of parenting best seller What nobody Tells a New Father.