influence the worldInfluence and intentions. Power. Leadership. Choice. Character.

That’s some pretty potent stuff.

Stuff that’s inextricably linked for leaders who want to play positive office politics. Not sure you want to play? Read on!

Office Politics Research

In 2005, Gerald R. Ferris, Sherry L. Davidson, and Pamela L. Perrewe co-authored Political Skills at Work: Impact on Work Effectiveness, a book which was the culmination of more than 15 years of research into office politics.

According to Gerald Ferris,

Politically skilled managers are masters of four behaviors: social astuteness, interpersonal influence, networking ability and apparent sincerity.

Influence impacts both our professional and personal relationships. When used on the win-win “light side of the force” (as opposed to I win-you lose manipulation), having influence can distinguish you as a great formal or informal leader. Influence is determined by one’s ability to make an appeal for action based on logic, emotion or a sense of cooperation, or some combination of all three.

Do You Have What It Takes

Positive influence, i.e., the ability to get work  done with and through other people, is a critical skill for leaders to have in their toolkit.Some outcomes fall within your realm of direct control, others won’t.  For those outcomes for which you don’t have total responsibility, a leader’s power influence can be invaluable to shaping results.

As a manager who empowers others, you will act as a colleague more than a boss, relying on influence, respect and relationships  to work with employees. ~Jamieson and O’Mara (1991).

Influence and Intentions

To assess your influence skills, do a little self-audit:

• Can I get people to move, to act, to get things done?
• Am I capable of gaining support from others to drive outcomes?
• Can I inspire others to act?
• Do I have the ability to create meaningful and mutually beneficial relationships?
• Can I persuade other people to become my champion?
• Can I engage someone’s imagination?
• Do I get results through and with people?
• Is my word and/or my involvement sufficient to make something happen?
• Do I have the personal power to shape outcomes and cause things to happen?
• Do others actively seek out my counsel?

Truly excellent influencing skills require a healthy combination of interpersonal, communication, presentation and assertiveness techniques. It’s about adapting and modifying your personal style when you become aware of the affect you are having on other people, while still being true to yourself — and without manipulating others. Behavior and attitude change are what’s important, not changing who you are, how you feel and think, or what you do.

Amping Up Your Win-Win Influence

1) Be a perceptive observer.

Know what is going on by watching, asking and validating your observations. Tune into the cultural dynamics. Learn how to comprehend social situations, e.g. what nonverbal communication is telling you or what elephant remains in the room.

2) Be a broker of ideas and information.

Know your job, your organization and its culture inside and out — and educate others, share what you know. Establish allies and stakeholders who share a win-win interest in mutual outcomes.

3) Engage, involve and communicate.

Freely share data and information. Invite and encourage participation. Actively listen to what people are saying. Pull people to your ideas then push those ideas through to other people.

4) Be self-aware.

Understand how others perceive you. Know your strengths, your limitations and play to what you do best. Be there when people need you. Be persistent (in a good kind of way!). Say thank you. Help BEFORE someone asks (use those actively listening skills!)

5) Give, give, GIVE!

Never estimate someone’s desire to leave a mark — and help them to do so.

6) Let go.

If you have a hidden agenda for I win-you lose, influence is impossible. You must sincerely have the other’s best interest at heart if you hope to interact with them and affect their behaviors. As John Maxwell says, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

7) Don’t be a conversation or credit hog.

Don’t force your ideas on people. Know what they want, watch their reactions and support them through conversation so they see the issue, the answer, the outcome, etc. for themselves. If they end up thinking it’s their idea, so much the better. Don’t let your ego stand in the way of positive win-win outcomes.

As you consider building positive win-win influence expertise, what other behaviors would you add to this list?

This is the fourth and final post in the Playing Office Politics series – a collaborative endeavor between Jennifer V. Miller, Mike Henry Sr., Susan Mazza and myself. We hope you’ve enjoyed it!