From the top Fortune 500 CEO, to the part-time intern, everyone in an office has a circle of influence.
We may feel our ideas are dismissed or not valued. Maybe our boss doesn’t seem to listen when we offer suggestions. Perhaps you think if you wait for a promotion, hoping your ship comes in, you’ll find your voice.
So, what do you do? You go along with the status quo. You exist but you’re not really thriving.
I’m here to tell you—putting your head down and refusing to rock the boat is no way to get ahead.
You have profound influence. More than you may even realize. You don’t need to be the smartest guy in the boardroom or even the hardest working. You need to be the one who’s not afraid to tap into your personal power and exert your influence.
Our ability to influence those around us is directly tied to our emotional intelligence. If we pick up on social cues, understand what people need—not on a surface level, but on an emotional level—we will discover we have an incredible ability to influence those around us. More than we even realize.
So, how do you tap into that influence? What steps should you take if you want to stand out (whether you’re in the mailroom or the corner office)?
If you want to get more out of those around you, learn to ask! Many of us tiptoe around issues and hem-and-haw our way toward requests. There’s a scene in the movie Office Space, where an employee is fired but doesn’t realize it. He keeps coming into work because he’s too indirect to ask where his paycheck is or ask about the status of his job.
While this scene is farcical, it’s not far off for some of us. We often avoid asking for feedback and direction because we fear we’ll appear weak, incompetent, or worse—get an answer we don’t want to hear about our job status. Instead, speak up and ask for the time, supplies, information, and other items you need to be successful. Most importantly, ask for support and feedback.
When you make a mistake, step up to the plate and take responsibility. We all screw up. It’s part of learning. Celebrate your mistakes and missteps. Mistakes don’t mean incompetence—they mean we’re taking risks!
At the same time, if you want to get ahead, take responsibility for meetings. When you’re in a space, make it your own. We’ve all been in situations where everyone stood around and waited for someone else to jump in and take the reins. Don’t be afraid to be the leader in any situation.
Great leaders have vision. They’re often proud to share that vision with others. BUT, great leaders also know that people respond best when they’re invested. That’s why they listen to the visions of those around them as well. They don’t simply dictate what needs to be done. They listen to ideas and find a way to get everyone on the same page.
While having your own vision is a powerful step to success, being able to lay that vision over the top of another’s and find congruencies is even more critical. If you find connections and common ground, you aren’t simply persuading others, you’re creating invested allies.
We all possess different personality traits. While there are many tools to assess these traits, the research-based C.A.R.E. profile helps us understand the engagement strategies of various types. Are you a Cooperator, Analyzer, Regulator, or Energizer? Most of us lean toward one distinct personality trait in our interactions.
Understanding your own personality profile will help you engage with others in a clear and mutually beneficial way. If you’re an Energizer, your boisterous enthusiasm might intimidate a stalwart Analyzer who carefully plots out their next move and response. Knowing which personalities work best together will help you create and build a team that plays on everyone’s strengths.
Stinking thinking is when we veer toward negativity. We may think, “this is so unfair,” or “why does this always happen to me?” We may shift the blame, make excuses, or pass the buck on to someone else. Stinking thinking leads us toward blame, shame, and justification—traits of victimhood.
Instead of putting ourselves in the position of victim, work toward the position of leader. Leaders don’t cave to the drama triangle with victims, rescuers, and bullies. Leaders don’t get bogged down with negativity and naysaying. They deal with situations and move forward.
How many of us think confrontation is something that should be avoided? Depending on how you were raised, you may view confrontation as negative and even frightening. Conflict and confrontation are powerful means to extracting what you want in a situation. Many employees sit there holding the answers, while the walls burn down around them because they’re avoiding conflict and were afraid to speak up.
You see, honest, responsible conflict is a communication tool. No one is going to be on the same page all the time. We each want differently. We aim for different outcomes and hold different visions. Conflict is a natural, healthy part of growth. If you’re avoiding conflict and holding back on confrontation, you’re not being authentic. Leaders are honest about what they want and aren’t afraid to speak up when they disagree.
Leaders lead wherever they are. If it’s a volunteer position. If you’re sitting on a board or you’re deciding what movie to see with friends, leaders take the lead. Not every leadership position will come with the title of manager or supervisor. That doesn’t mean you aren’t a leader.
Remember, leading is not dictating. A leader doesn’t just boss everyone around. They engage in productive conversation (and even conflict) to achieve a desired outcome. Leaders listen to others. They empathize. They work to align a vision. A great leader leads from their part-time barista gig or their role as CEO.
Leaders stand out because they value themselves. They care for themselves because they understand their worth. Strong leaders possess a growth mindset. They invest in education. They extract the lessons from mistakes and view every challenge as an opportunity for learning.
You’ve heard the saying, dress for the job you want not the job you have? By taking time and pride in yourself, you’ll feel more confident and professional. It’s not about looking good, it’s about valuing yourself and caring about yourself enough to know you’re worth the effort.
If you want to get ahead at the office, hone your leadership skills. Don’t wait for a promotion or sit around wishing for your ship to come in. Go out and ask for what you want!
For more ways to increase your leadership skills, please visit our new course store online! We’re offering some great deals on our coursework and recordings—available to download for the first time ever! We also invite you to join us in person for a networking event, where you’ll meet great allies who are working toward similar goals!
The Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential is a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Living performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.