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Grow Your Power, Boost Your Influence

Getting others to listen to you is the result of a 4-step process.
February 23, 2009
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/200290

Do you want to be more influential and powerful? Do you want your employees, your customers and your vendors to listen to what you have to say and do what you want them to do? We all do. Everyone wants to make an impact on the world; it only seems natural. But many of us don't know how to do it. If you're like most entrepreneurs who want to increase their effect on others, then you need to know the right steps.

Gaining power is a four-step process that can be easily learned. It takes insight, openness and willingness to make some changes.

To start, think about a few crucial definitions. First, we have influence--the ability to make people do things they wouldn't have done without our input or impact. The result of that is what we know as power. No influence, no power.

But how do you actually gain influence as an entrepreneur? Start with your goals. Someone once said, "If you don't know where you're going, you'll probably end up somewhere else." Your goals are your roadmap to achieving results and power, so they need to be specific and measurable. Everyone wants to be a success, and most want to gain wealth, but if your roadmap isn't specific and measurable, then you'll probably end up in Maine when you thought you were headed for Miami. In other words, how will you know if you actually earned that $200,000 profit on your last contract if you don't have a specific means to count your revenue, sort out the expenses from the profits and attribute both to various cost centers, departments or teams in your company?

Second, become aware of that little voice in your head that constantly evaluates your performance. Everyone has one, but some people are more tuned in to that voice than other people. Unfortunately, as a result of criticizing parents, teachers and bosses, we've developed a sharply negative inner voice rather than a positive one. We frequently tell ourselves, "I made a terrible mistake again," "I'll never succeed," "I just can't seem to make it in this competitive world," "Everyone else is doing better than me," "I'm not as good, smart or aggressive as other people."

There's often a kernel of truth to these thoughts, but most people exaggerate them. And when that happens, we feel bad about ourselves or think our actions are not up to par, and success becomes more difficult to attain. The key here is to decrease its impact; identify the negativity of our self-talk, minimize it and make it more rational. At the same time, work on maximizing your positive self-talk, and give yourself a verbal pat on the back when things work out. Repeat these positive attributions and feel better about yourself.

Third, identify your tools--resources (traits, characteristics and factors) you can use to impact people. You always have many more tools than you think, but you don't realize it until you finally take inventory of them. You'll be amazed at how many unused resources you have. For instance, can you rely on your knowledge, skills, abilities and intelligence to influence people? Do you have a positive reputation that others admire? Do you have problem-solving skills, time, equipment, integrity and force of personality that can be useful? How about charisma, perceptiveness, position and social networks--can these factors assist you in attaining your goals? And there are many other tools. Once you start thinking about them, especially the ones that have brought you success in the past, you'll continue to create this powerful list of resources.

Fourth, discover your influencing techniques. These are methods or means to successfully use your tools to exert influence and become powerful; there are six of them that effective entrepreneurs typically use. To begin, you create rapport with your employees, customers and vendors. You build bridges toward influence by reaching out to people, building relationships, telling them what you like and dislike, how you feel about their work, their products and themselves. You'll understand these individuals better and they'll understand you better. The result is increased influence and power--just what you want.

Effective entrepreneurs are also assertive: They state their needs and wishes in a way that doesn't step on other people. Be sure to avoid aggression, which usually leads to anger, frustration, resistance and sometimes sabotage. Being assertive is the means to make your ideas and actions known to others in a way that's acceptable to them and therefore allows you to more successfully influence them.

Using logic, explaining issues, ideas and directions in a clear, orderly manner is another way to exert influence and gain power. People will see that you can explain things in ways they can understand. And when people understand things, they're far more willing to agree to what you're requesting.

Yet another technique used to impact people is team building. This tried-and-true method allows people to work together toward a common goal in a united and coordinated manner. People share their thoughts, ideas and actions, almost always coming up with end products that are richer, more appropriate and more successful than any one or two individuals could have created alone. What's more, team members will admire and respect you for putting the team together to address a problem or challenge. You win out as an influential leader.

Powerful entrepreneurs are credible. They influence people because of the way they talk, the way they dress and the way they respond to issues. They demonstrate a strong knowledge base, respond to questions and challenges in a timely, complete and accurate manner, and they use their teams to build performance and outcomes. Employees, vendors and customers easily learn to trust credible leaders and want to work with and buy from them because of their reliability.

Finally, effective leaders use cultural hierarchy to influence people. This technique is two-fold: It involves using cultural norms and sharing power. In the first instance, entrepreneurs create an atmosphere where everyone knows "how it's done around here." You run a tight ship. There are few questions or vagaries. The modus operandi is clear. Your employees' morale and esprit is a result of the rules and behaviors the entrepreneur sets down. Leader who are in charge by virtue of their positions are valued by others for having created a pleasant atmosphere. When working with employees, customers and vendors, the entrepreneur can influence people based on the norms of operation.

The other aspect of cultural hierarchy involves the sharing of power. The executive's power is increased when it's shared with managers who can inform their subordinates that they're acting or responding in a specific way because the chief executive gave them permission to do so. This is especially helpful in a team of peers where one person needs to be in charge or more powerful. That person is given the mantle of increased power by the top entrepreneur and can therefore influence peers.

Exerting power is a process, which, when followed, gets other people to do what you want them to do. Each time this process is used, the individual builds a repertoire and a base of successes.