Leadership is more than just remaining in an ivory tower of your own. As a leader, it is important to reach out to all employees across the organisation to get the job done well. This is where scaling your influence comes in.
To scale your influence across teams is to be able to share the vision that you have as a leader of an organisation with many. This means that your ideas should not just be circulated amongst those that you have direct control over, but also teams that you need to collaborate with. This will allow you to ensure that their actions and behaviour are well-aligned with the culture and objectives of the organisation.
As a leader of leaders, I sometimes feel it is easy for me to keep to my comfort zone and gravitate towards team members that reflect my personality and working style. However, leaders should be aware of their own personality style, as well as the styles of others. Following this, they must then find a mechanism to ensure that the working relationship is driven by the overall vision at hand and larger organisation objectives, rather than personality preferences. As troublesome as it may seem, the best ideas tend to come from having fierce debates that bring in diverse perspectives.
Here is an analogy to help illustrate the importance of being able to scale your influence. Try to picture yourself standing in a national park in Kenya or Tanzania, and pay attention to how the animals are behaving. Every animal, big or small, perceives the environment with their senses, like sound and sight. What they interpret from their surroundings is then immediately translated to a corresponding action by various parts of their body, be it their neck, backbone, or limbs. In order to survive, each of their actions need to be in perfect alignment with how their brains process these opportunities or threats around them.
This idea of effective information transmission can be related back to the workplace. The topmost leaders may devise an action plan every quarter based on a variety of information collected, such as customer needs, threats in the marketplace or potential partners. However, even after it is synthesised, analysed and perfected as an action plan, it will only be effective when every part of the organisation is capable of acting in perfect alignment with the plan itself. Therefore, as a leader, it is important to be able to share that vision and plan across the organisation, be it in a small business with only 50 to 100 employees, or a large multinational corporation with thousands of employees.
Learning to reach out to more individuals within the company is no easy feat. You should always keep the importance of communication in mind. Ensure employees are well-informed about any plans, strategies or significant opportunities and challenges that are coming their way.
And as you go along, remember that your vision should be centred upon ‘what’, ‘how’ and ‘why’. While the ‘what’ and ‘how’ may allow your employees to have a better understanding of how things should be carried out, the ‘why’ will appeal to their hearts instead. When they understand why there is a certain action or plan being disseminated, motivation will increase and that will then make the difference in bringing about the desired behavioural and cultural changes within the organisation.
As a leader, try to be in direct communication with all the employees of the organisation. When you directly communicate the plan, the risk of miscommunication or misinterpretation is reduced. In addition, it gives you the opportunity to emotionally connect and engage with your employees, and provides a platform for you to showcase your passion and enthusiasm.
Another way in which you might reach out would be to regularly meet with your team members. Do not just content yourself with a meeting once every six months. Instead, meet monthly or weekly with as many team members as possible, to open up a two-way communication channel.
Beyond just getting ground level input on what is happening, you can also gain insight on what challenges the teams are facing so that solutions can be offered to enable and empower employees to work towards their goal. These meetings can be with those who are in charge of the direct report, or can be a skipped-level meeting with those that speak to your direct report.
Moreover, it is important for you to establish a metric by which you can measure the success of any role or function that your employee performs. This framework is not set in stone and can be tweaked to match your organisation’s objectives when necessary.
Beyond these practical steps that you can take towards increasing your reach, as a leader, you need to have the right mindset and attitude as well to scale your influence further. Recognise that you are not just responsible for management of assets, finances or products. The singular, most important thing that you manage as a leader is your people. Each individual is unique, complex, driven and motivated by an idea or factor. As such, the better handle you have over the diversity of your employees, the greater your ability to ignite the spirit and motivation in them for the work that they do.
Authenticity is also something that cannot be overlooked. While it might seem counterintuitive to present your frailty before your employees, when they are able to see you in both your moments of strength and weakness, it builds trust and allows them to feel more at ease with you.
I personally feel that authenticity is to say what you mean, and mean what you say. When something goes well, share the credit by attributing it to every member. Conversely, in moments of failure, share the responsibility and reassure them that you are in it with them. Developing trust is key to achieving great interpersonal relationships.
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Nitty (Nithyanand) Rao
Global Competency Head, Digital Transformation