It is all very well saying that to be more influential you have to do this or do that; but what if you don’t have time to do any more? If so, becoming more influential isn’t going anywhere. Time pressure comes from many directions. Bosses want you to do more with less. Peers and colleagues want you to work on and support their initiatives; and they are perhaps, a little less interested in what you have on your plate. People in your team often seem to have unrealistic expectations of the help and support you will give them.
And then of course there is the pressure you put on yourself. If you are ambitious, you want to make things happen. You have big visions and plans to get results and assure the upwards momentum of your career continues.
We know from our research that one of the more important skills of the ambitious (and successful) is influence. More effective influence is often the route to solving many of the other challenges, including time. And to become more influential, you need to invest some time in making it happen because – “If you do what you’ve always done…”
Understanding This Challenge
The first thing to recognise is that if you do not have time to become more influential, what it really means is that you have not yet given it the right priority. While intellectually you may have bought into the idea, practically everything else you are spending your time on is still being given precedence. The only alternative to this cause is that you are not in control of your time. Either way, you need to do something different if you want to alleviate the problem.
Once you have re-evaluated where you should be spending your time and energy, you will probably need to start managing the expectations of those who are currently relying on you. Some will win, some will lose, and certainly, anyone who is important should be engaged. Don’t just focus on those who will be losing out. Engaging with the beneficiaries can also be useful in building a stronger relationship and alerting them to the fact that you have recognised how important their work is. Indeed, they could become useful Advocates to help you manage the others who are about to lose out!
If you are struggling with control, the re-evaluation will be useful in helping to build your case to start taking more of the decisions, and pushing back when you are asked to do something which doesn’t fit with your priorities. This quite often occurs with bosses who keep asking for more. When you have set out everything you are focusing on, you can always ask, “What do you want me to stop doing?” When you have a solid explanation, regaining control can remain objective rather than become emotional.
The bottom line here is that if you are struggling to find the time to become more influential, nothing is going to change until you take responsibility for making some changes.
After considering the ideas above, select the programme resources below which appear to have the most value in helping you to move forward on this challenge.
- Start Small. Don’t think that developing greater influence requires a big investment of time. Often it is more a question of determining your focus and shining the light on the things you need to influence to make things easier, or more controlled.
- Develop Your Focus. Two questions spring to mind – What do you need to influence to get more control over how you are spending your time? What are the most important things you can influence to dramatically improve your work schedule? Start with How to Develop Influencing Goals.
- Stakeholder Influence Process. For each of your priority Influencing Goals, develop a map of stakeholders who can help or hinder. Look for practical action you can take to move things forward. See How to Manage Your Stakeholders.
- Become Ruthless. If it’s not contributing to your objectives, challenge yourself (and others) hard about any time spent – particularly meeting invites.
- Build Motivation. Unless you make it a priority to spend time influencing, you are unlikely to do as much as you should. Take a look at these questions to help build more motivation.
- Manage Expectations. Getting others to buy-in to the way you are shifting priorities, taking more control and, consequently, delivering greater value, not only help prevent problems in the future, but also can build greater self-commitment by the public declaration. See How to Engage Your Stakeholders..
- If you do what you’ve always done…
- Influence is a key part of your job which if well focused can make everything much easier – so developing influence should be a top priority for most people.
- Just because someone invites you to a meeting doesn’t mean you should automatically agree. Challenge them to figure out the best way of using your time.
- Becoming more strategic about your influence also builds self-confidence, which contributes greatly to your effectiveness.
- Everyone is busy, but not everyone is focused and in control. This could give you a competitive advantage too!