How can you influence leaders?


Wooden figure standing on the box for show influence and empowerment. Concept of business leadership for leader team, successful competition winner and Leader with influence

For many this is the ultimate question. And it’s a topic I’ve spoken about at events in London and internationally in recent months. Whatever your role in an organisation, there are seven key tips I share to help people redefine their relationship with leaders.

1.Ask if this is a hill you want to die on – if you’re constantly challenging the organisation or the leaders to do things differently, it’s important to pick your battles. You can’t fight them all, let alone win them all. You can find out more about this in this blog about building relationships with leaders.

2. Listen to their language – what are they focused on and what words do they often use? If they use words like “value” a lot, ask them what that means for them when it comes to communication. Then shape your messages around that. I talk about this in my book, Influential Internal Communication:

“Ask the question ‘What do you mean by value?’ It can take a moment of courage and bravery to ask it, but you’ll get the answer and ensure that how you present your value is linked to this answer – not your interpretation of the word ‘value’. This is a real example and when this happened, the definition of value was around risk. So I reviewed, refreshed and reframed plans, objectives and outputs to ensure I was supporting the organization and managing the reputational risk.”

3. Adapt to their way of working – some leaders like detailed reports to pore over, others like high level plans on a few slides. Leaders won’t adapt to you, so make it easy for them to make decisions and get on board with what you need to do to get the outcome you want.

4. Check your language is jargon free – all organisations are guilty of this, and we do have a lot of jargon in the communication industry. Use plain, simple language that doesn’t hinder understanding. Remember that phrases like “employee voice” can be lost on leaders, so think about the practicalities of what you are actually discussing.

5. Embrace Disney’s customer principles – we can apply these principles to every relationship internally: make them feel special, treat them as individuals, have knowledgeable staff who will help me, show respect no matter what. This is deeply ingrained in Disney’s culture of delivering superb guest experiences and there’s a lot we can learn from this.

6. Work on your influencing skills – if you can’t influence without a seat at the table you won’t influence with one. I talk about this in one of our most popular blogs – how to master internal communication when you’re not a communications professional – and it’s linked to something I was recently asked at one of our Ask Me Anything sessions around where communication should sit (essentially it should sit where the strategy is set).

7. Help leaders build credibility – help leaders to understand the traits that make someone credible: empathy, trustworthiness, decisiveness, psychological safety, vulnerability, likability, integrity, and flexibility. Depending on the situation and the leader, it’s important to recognise when they should dial up some of these traits, and when to dial them down. A big part of this is understanding the dynamics of trust in the workplace – everyone benefits when there’s a feeling of trust. Equally, work on your own credibility; demonstrate that you learn outside of the workplace, and reference how others do it to show your advice is more than opinion. I talk about this in an episode of the Calm Edged Rebels podcast, which I co-host with Advita Patel and Trudy Lewis – What makes us credible?

Further insights

ICology Presents – in this one-hour webinar you’ll find out more about how to build relationships with leaders in your organisation and the biggest challenges people have in connecting with leadership teams.

Redefining Communications with Jenni Field – in this podcast episode Chaos to calm: Influence and persuasion S2 E10, I talk about five things to consider when it comes to influencing. And in this episode, Chaos to calm: Building trust and credibility S2 E7, I define trust and credibility and ask if you can have one without the other.

If you’d like some support in growing influence with your leadership team, please get in touch to arrange a free 15-minute call. And if you’re interested in joining our next free Ask Me Anything session, subscribe to our community for exclusive invites.

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