One of the most important aspects of being an effective leader is the ability to influence others to believe in the mission and the results you want to achieve. In the SEAL teams, when we were down range on deployments to some of the most dangerous places on Earth we had some tough missions to accomplish. Success required the leaders to truly believe we could succeed and then clearly communicate that belief to the team.
Influencing others to take collective action towards common goals isn't about manipulating facts or sugar-coating reality. It's quite the opposite. A team can't win unless there is buy-in on the strategic plan, and it's the leader's job to ensure this happens.
Here are the seven I's for influencing others and building a winning team.
Identify the results you want. No team or organization can develop a great plan without first defining the results they need to achieve. When planning missions in the SEAL teams we would first identify the main objective, then create a plan for executing that objective, add in contingencies and then communicate the plan to the team. Define the result and work backwards from there.
Illustrate your credibility. This can be accomplished in many ways. In order to truly influence others you must demonstrate some level of credibility so the team is more likely to believe in what you are saying. Whether it's demonstrating consistency in performance, the ability to stay calm under pressure, a track record for making good decisions, or just good old fashion accountability, credibility is crucial for obtaining the buy-in needed for success.
Invest the time in getting to know the people you wish to influence. Also known as your team. Making personal connections with team members is imperative for developing a high-performance team designed to win. There is of course a fine line here that shouldn't be crossed. But having empathy as a leadership trait goes a long way because it ensures that your team members know you care about their contributions and development.
Invite them to share their ideas. Without a team there can be no leadership. Part of the culture of any high-performing team is trust and transparent internal communication. After every training scenario or real-world mission we would always perform after-action reviews. This was a time to leave rank and emotion at the door and speak openly and honestly with one another. Mistakes would be put on the table and plans for improvement implemented. The team's voice must be heard in order to create a learning culture and continually improve overall performance.
Investigate options that lead you to common ground. Similar to the above concept, good leaders always find ways to achieve common ground between team members. Great teams will always have different ideas about how they can collectively accomplish a specific mission or achieve a goal. Taking the best concepts from all ideas and assembling them into a strategy with the highest potential for success is the key.
Intend an outcome that meets everyone's needs. Defining the results and developing the plan for achieving those results is only part of leading a high-performance team. Defining what winning looks like it also an important aspect of creating a team driven to succeed. What does the win mean for the team moving forward? What will come next? Helping the team visualize the win gives them the ability to start developing a path to get there.
Improvise as needed. Adaptation is an inevitable part of moving towards the achievement of any goals. One of my favorite quotes that applies to both combat and business is "No plan survives first contact with the enemy." Planning is important but preparation and adaptation are even more important. When a plan and the contingencies are properly communicated and the team has the tools and autonomy to make adjustments, success is highly probable.
Apply these seven I's and drive your team towards a winning record!