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Leadership Learning Managing

Understanding Your Own Influence Toolbox

An Ascent Fellow receives media training

We spend a remarkable amount of time trying to persuade people to think or act in ways that we see as important or necessary. But how we influence others – or how well – differs. At Ascent Leadership Networks, we assess and develop top leaders across industries, in both for-profit and non-profit organizations. In our study of global leaders, we’ve found the importance of exerting influence so critical that it now underlies two-thirds of our core leadership capabilities which we use to assess each individual.

With the board meeting coming up, a CEO reviews his slide deck. He replaces a set of bullets with a graph, knowing that one of his board members always asks to see numbers in context. He pauses, considering how to describe the new direction he wants to take.

An SVP sends out a note after a tough month to their direct reports, recognizing the team’s work and helping them prepare for the coming month. Before hitting send, the SVP adds a photo of their toddler. “Sadie’s smile always raises my spirits,” the SVP thinks.

A politician reviews her speech for a live event. The politician explains to her staff the concern that her messaging might not resonate with a key group of stakeholders. They spend hours reviewing what they know about these stakeholders and debating alternatives.

Depending on your role, you have different challenges when influencing, and require different tools. The head of a small firm must connect effectively with each individual, while the CEO of a multinational organization has to influence through others to reach the levels below them. By honing the skills that match your needs, you can influence more effectively. So the CEO of that small firm might use their understanding of what motivates each person to tailor their messaging. Or the CEO of the multinational firm notices that the COO is especially gifted at motivating others, so asks the COO to help deliver a particularly challenging message. Over time, leaders build their skills at influencing in their environment. But what happens when something changes?

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many leaders have found it challenging to engage their teams while working remotely. “I couldn’t see people’s faces, so I didn’t know if something I said landed or not,” one leader told us. “I used to pass my people as I walked to meetings, and I could tell if they were doing all right, or if I needed to check in,” another said. Leaders have needed new ways to connect with their people, to assess their reactions. And some have found them.  (You can read more about leading remotely, here.)

Even during normal business times, leaders need to learn new ways to manage: a CEO of a startup has to adapt when the company experiences exponential growth, for example. Or a leader who accepts a role in a more complex organization can’t go on working the same way.  Or one who takes on a change initiative faces new challenges.  Whether you change roles or the role changes for you, you’ll need to raise your game.

A key question is: how well equipped are you for your current role, or what your role has become? Or the role that your organization needs you to take on?  And, more importantly, how well equipped are you for the role that you want to have next?

[In the coming month, we will be sharing a questionnaire with Worth and Techonomy members, giving you a chance to assess your own influence toolbox.  You will be able to see how you influence others, what your go-to style is, and consider how well that matches your current role, as well as a role you aspire to take on next. Network members looking to refine and grow their skills will also receive an invitation to join a seminar where we will share further insights and strategies for success. To participate, request your membership below]

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