When it comes to leading people, whether you have a title or not, developing your influence is the only way to generate long-term buy-in and commitment from others. Leadership is all about influence; the more you have, the more effective your leadership will be.
However, in today’s high-pressure world of fast-paced business, it can be tempting to fall back on your title and resort to telling your subordinates what to do. That’s not leading; that’s bossing, resulting in a disengaged team, which results in inferior outcomes.
Simple Strategies for Increasing Influence When Leading Down
As a 360-degree leader, you lead up (to your boss or supervisor), you lead across (to your peers), and you lead down (to those who see you as boss or supervisor). When we think of leading or influencing down, you can take some simple yet intentional steps to increase your influence.
1. Walking Slowly Through the Halls. It sounds funny to say that knowing that many people reading this will not have a had a hall to walk slowly through for as long as they can remember. Remote and work-at-home employees make hall walking obsolete, but the concept is a good one. In the 1970’s and 1980’s, it was known as MBWA, managing by walking around. It was a reminder to take some time each day to step away from your agenda-driven day where you are focused on your calendar and the many activities you have planned and intentionally get out among your people, and do it informally.
What does informally mean, and why does it matter? Informally could mean showing up to meetings early to spend a few minutes connecting with your teammates. Or starting every meeting with a few minutes of personal catching-up. It may mean making regular trips to the coffee room or water station and speaking with people along the way.
In a remote working world, informally could mean reaching out to your team just to check-in, with no formal agenda. Join your scheduled virtual meeting early and let others know you will be there to say hi. Include some sort of icebreaker question in the virtual meeting to get people talking and connecting with you and each other.
This may seem like a time-waster to many leaders, but it is an essential element allowing your team to make contact with you. It slows things so people can relate to you. To connect with people, you need to travel at their speed, not yours. It also allows you to show you care about more than just the agenda and the results; you care about them. It will make you appear more approachable to your people.
2. See Everyone on your team as a “10”. I can almost hear you groaning, “but not everyone on my team is a “10”!” Don’t allow that to keep you from seeing them as a “10”. The way you see someone will influence how you interact with them. When you see people for who they can become, you communicate that you believe in them, and you are there to help them reach their true potential. When a teammate feels valued and respected, they will go out of their way to not disappoint you. Their level of performance can increase simply by knowing the boss believes in them.
Sam Walton, the founder of Wal-Mart said, “Outstanding leaders go out of their way to boost the self-esteem of their people. If people believe in themselves, it’s amazing what they can accomplish.” Self-esteem is a part of a person’s self-concept, which also includes their self-ideal (where they see themselves being successful) and their self-image (how they see themselves and how they think others see them). Are you, as a leader, responsible for someone else’s self-concept? No! But if you can influence someone’s self-concept and increase their level of engagement and performance, wouldn’t you want to do that?
Perry Holley is a coach and facilitator with the John Maxwell Company’s Corporate Solutions Group as well as a published author. He has a passion for developing others and seeing people grow into the leaders they were intended to become.