Expanding Your Influence


How do you expand your influence in today’s climate? It seems everywhere we turn we are confronted with contradictory information and opinions set in stone. We can even have a few of our own. It’s a challenge to feel connected as we tiptoe around potentially volatile subjects. And, if we aren’t connected, we have little influence over what is happening around us.

Emma Seppälä, PhD* writes “Studies show [that people who feel more connected to others] have higher self-esteem, greater empathy for others, and are more trusting and cooperative and, as a consequence, others are more open to trusting and cooperating with them.” Think back to times when you were able to influence events around you, and you will find this was true.

I remember one particularly challenging period with a boss we named “Make it Happen Jim”. Whatever the latest trend recommended to him, he would turn to my team and say, “Make it happen.” Budgets and regulations guaranteed that we couldn’t comply in a timeframe that would satisfy him. Instead, we talked about what he wanted to achieve and came up with other solutions that met all of our goals. By being open to exploring what was driving the command to “make it happen”, we were able to connect with him. There was a reason he saw us as the go-to team.

In leadership, it’s important to connect with those we work. Look for common ground and shared experiences. Be curious as to why something is needed. Be open to views other than your own. We can have respect for one another without having to agree. Diversity of ideas is what makes things interesting and lays a creative foundation for innovation. Once those trusted connections are made, you will be amazed at what you can accomplish.

This Week’s Challenge: Think about connections that have been lost or put on hold this past year. Make a list of those with whom you want to reconnect and reach out to them. Don’t let the length of time be a deterrent. We have all found it difficult to stay in touch. Welcome reconnection.

* Lecturer at Yale School of Management, Faculty Director of Yale School of Management’s Women Leadership Program, Science Director of Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, author of The Happiness Track.

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