Having influence is one of the keys to a successful career for anyone. In business, you've got to be able to convince others that your ideas or point of view make sense and are worth pursuing. As psychology and marketing professor Robert Cialdini points out, "People will do business with people they know, like and trust based on your knowledge, your creativity, and your credibility."
However, is there a difference in the influence that men and women have in the workplace? According to new research conducted by the bestselling authors of the new book, The Influence Effect, there is a difference. In fact, according to lead author Kathryn Heath, founding partner of leadership firm Flynn Heath Holt (FHH), "Studies show that imitating male behavior doesn't translate to professional advancement for women. We women do not like unbridled competition, backroom deals, or trading favors. We favor collaboration, inclusion, and win-win outcomes. The distinctive missing link is influence."
So, what can women do to have more influence in the workplace, and better their career prospects as a result?
According to the authors of The Influence Effect, these 5 strategies will increase your influence, and get your career on the right path.
1. Think bigger and aim higher
You are better than you know! It is easy to stay in your day-to-day activities because you "already have more than enough to do." Reflect! If you knew you could not fail what is it you truly want to do? Write it down and act accordingly! Say "Yes!" when a scary opportunity comes your way. Raise your hand even if you are not sure you know exactly how you will do it. Explore new areas of your company. Take on tasks or projects that are completely outside your comfort zone.
2. Develop your executive presence
This is much more than a great wardrobe (although looking sharp and put together is important!). How do you "show up" in your daily interactions? Do you respond confidently...concise and to the point? Do you carry yourself with great posture and an appropriate demeanor? Do you keep your cool in demanding situations? Do you use a firm handshake? Executive presence is vital and requires focused attention!
3. Create your career scaffolding
No one can go it alone these days. Do you have mentors to teach and guide you? Do you have sponsors to help you navigate leadership and look out for career opportunities? Do you have a personal network to rely on when times get tough? Do you have a truth teller who will "give it to straight?" Be strategic and think about your career as building a skyscraper. You need a solid foundation to get you started, but then you need champions, advocates, friends, and family to build a successful, long term career. Relationships are as critical (if not more) than just being smart and working hard! Work smart!
4. Seek feedback
Research tells us the higher you go the less feedback you receive. Seek feedback early and often in your career. You don't know what you don't know and we all have "blind spots." On a related note, be sure you ask for strengths. Most of us focus on what is wrong and try to fix it! Do it, but also use your strengths and leverage these more effectively to overcome development areas. For example, one woman we coached was super task-oriented and terrible at developing her network. We created a task list of who she needed to meet and set targeted deadlines. Her network grew exponentially and quickly. She always thought "getting the work done" was more important than creating connections. Soon, her work became easier (and more rewarding) as she leveraged her newfound network!
5. Develop or refine your professional brand
We all think we know our brand; but often this is our resume, or "what we do every day!" Brand needs to focus on who you are; how you differentiate yourself; and most important, how do you add value to your team, your practice and your clients. You have strengths. You have a personality. You have accomplishments. You have passions. Reflect, again! What do others say about you (colleagues, clients AND friends?) Why do people choose you? Create brand bites or themes that describe you and then share stories. For example, say "I love to try new things" or said differently, "I take calculated risks!"