Do people listen when you speak, and take your advice when you offer it? Part of growing, as a Project Manager, is becoming more influential. Here are seven of my top tips.
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Raising your level of influence is often a matter of changing perceptions about yourself. How can you grow in workplace stature and become more influential, to get ahead of your peers?
A confident posture is the starting place for becoming influential. Stand or sit upright and face the person you are talking with, so they know they have your attention. Practice controlling all of those little actions, called “tells”, that signal a lack of confidence. These include all types of fidgeting or shifting on your feet or chair. All forms of self-contact, like adjusting your collar, jewelry, cuffs, or hair indicate nervousness.
This is not quite the same as being an expert. An expert knows more than other people about something. As an authority, you will be the person people go to for answers and recommendations – maybe because you are an expert, or maybe because you can evaluate what experts say or interpret it for the rest of us. Cultivate the ability to see through to the marrow of a topic and ask incisive questions.
Avoid spreading yourself too thinly. Have the confidence to know what your niche is and get yourself known for that. Ironically, the narrower your focus, the more credible, and therefore influential, you become. If you want to spread yourself more widely, find a unifying theme.
Cultivate the art of powerful silence. When they stop speaking, take time to think through your response. Your silence says “I was listening, now I am thinking”. Make them wait for you. If they feel nervous and fill the gap, then your stature will grow. When you finish speaking, stop and wait. The more deliberately you speak, the more influential you sound.
When everyone gets hooked up on a problem, a dispute, or a tricky decision, focus on finding a process that will deliver the answer. Leadership is controlling the process. Set the emotional tone and establish a structure, and let the others follow your process to the answer. They will sense you knew all along where they were headed, but were too generous to leap in and tell them.
Take nothing at face value. Use your silences to evaluate what you see and hear and offer insightful feedback that says “I’m thinking ahead, I see further, I see deeper”. Congratulate people when they get it right and ask careful questions that probe gaps in their thinking when they don’t.
Learn to say “NO” to requests. This is difficult: you got where you are by saying “yes” and delivering. Now there are too many calls on your time, and saying yes to all of them makes you a doormat, not a hero. So practice making a Noble Objection and stay strategic in your choices about when to say “yes”.
I’ve drawn these tips from my book ‘How to Influence in any Situation’ – the second edition of my best-selling book, Brilliant Influence.
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Dr Mike Clayton is one of the most successful and in-demand project management trainers in the UK. He is author of 14 best-selling books, including four about project management. He is also a prolific blogger and contributor to ProjectManager.com and Project, the journal of the Association for Project Management. Between 1990 and 2002, Mike was a successful project manager, leading large project teams and delivering complex projects. In 2016, Mike launched OnlinePMCourses.
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