The ability to influence others through words or behavior is an incredibly valuable tool in your relationship toolbox. After all, building a business is more than creating a new product — it’s about building relationships.
“Opportunities are tied to people and people like to work with others that share common interests that they can trust,” says Olivia Gamber, a talent manager and founder of OccupationalOlivia, a website that explores innovative ways to build career success. “Being good at your job isn’t enough in today’s highly competitive environment. You also have to build relationships [and] be able to navigate complex corporate matrices.”
If you don’t think relationships or influencing power are important, ask yourself when was the last time that a salesperson forced you to buy something you didn’t intent to buy, or the last time your friends or parents coerced you into choosing X when you really wanted Y.
The answer is never. Nobody forces you to do anything. Even in the military, there are ranks and orders but, again, there is also choice. Of course, along with choice comes consequence, so if you prefer not to be incarcerated for insubordination then making the “right” choice is definitely preferable.
Think of your circle of influence as the range in which opportunity lies. You can locate the opportunity, build upon it and make connections between different ones the larger your circle expands. If you want to expand your circle of entrepreneurial influence (or any influence, for that matter), try these four strategies:
1. Do what you say.
Nothing erodes personal credibility faster than a lack of trust. Building trust is fundamental to increasing your circle of influence. If you possess the skill to execute project A and the will to do so ethically, then others’ trust in you will increase. Just be consistent because once you break that trust it’s like taking a piece of paper, wrinkling it up and then trying to flatten it out again — it never actually returns to its original state.
2. Choose your battles.
Some fights are worth fighting. Others aren’t. Choosing the ones that serve a purpose higher than yourself builds your influencing power in two ways. First, nobody likes hearing the same voice complain over and over again. Second, if you fight only when it’s your self-interest at stake, then the message people really hear is that you only care about one thing (hint: not them). So the question then becomes, why should they listen to you?
3. Be present.
There’s nothing worse than being in a conversation with somebody who is checking his or her watch or email. When you’re engaged in conversation, put away the laptop and turn off the TV. If you have an appointment and are worried about missing it, set an alarm on your phone or ask to schedule another time to talk. The takeaway is when you make time for people, they’ll make time for you. When people make time for you, it means they’re listening — and you’re influencing.
4. Grow yourself.
Personal development is a building block for extending your influential reach. After all, you can only lead or influence others to the extent you can lead yourself.
The credibility that accompanies positive intent and demonstrable behavior is irrefutable. If you want to extend your circle of influence and get the best out of people, start by getting the best out of yourself. People follow others whom they trust, like and respect, so to the extent to which you align your intentions with communication and behavior, the more your circle will grow.