There’s no denying that influence and power are hallmarks of success. You see it in any profession, in any line of work. It’s well worth learning how to become powerful and influential at work. It will make you more well-liked, respected, and valuable in meetings, on work teams, and in supervisory and management roles.
Experts agree that having influence at work is clearly valuable. “Entrepreneurial You” author Dorie Clark says you achieve more faster with influence in the workplace, and that gets noticed and leads to advancement. And it’s more difficult than ever to be able to influence others because screens and devices have shortened attention spans and created constant background noise. But that makes it even more important to learn how to be influential and gain the power you need for success.
The advantages of power and influence are obvious, but gaining power and influence is not as obvious to many people. There are effective strategies to build power and become influential that anyone can (and should) use for career success and development. They fall within three broad categories of trust, dependability, and likeability, but also include physical attributes such as good posture and positive body language.
The following 10 tips are essential to gaining power and being influential at work. Make them a part of your daily habits for career success.
1. Build Trust
It’s easier to influence others who trust you than those who have no idea of your intentions or who do not trust you. Nan S. Russell, author of Trust, Inc. and The Titleless Leader, says trust isn’t automatic for leaders, executives, and others with top titles. It is built through what is said and done. That means being open and honest at work, with your opinions and your doubts, and encouraging the same from those around you.
Build trust to have healthy working relationships and be able to influence people. When people trust you, they will more readily listen to you and accept your ideas and suggestions and direction. When you want to know how to become powerful and influential at work, try being transparent and show co-workers that you are trustworthy. Make them feel comfortable around you, and let them know you trust them too.
2. Be Reliable and Consistent
When you are reliable and predictable, meeting deadlines, showing up on time, and being available when you’re needed, you build a good reputation. Consistency lets people around you know they can rely on you and understand your motivations, making it easier for them to be on your side. It also models the behavior you want to see in people you work with, subtly influencing people to do the same and making them more open to your other habits.
3. Use Confidence, Not Aggression
When you want to be heard and get attention for your ideas, use confidence instead of aggression to compete. Be assertive in a friendly and open way, rather than pushy or obnoxious. Display your confidence and convictions without being arrogant or overbearing. Being well prepared and checking with colleagues and your manager before presenting your case will ensure a level of credibility and authority to help others feel comfortable accepting your point of view.
4. Be Flexible
You can show your dependability by being flexible, even when you are being assertive. While you can express your strong opinions and ideas confidently, it’s important to still be flexible and not stubborn or immovable. Show you understand other points of view and see their value, while being open to reasonable compromise and negotiation for the best outcomes.
Be careful with flexibility though, as you don’t want to appear uncertain, or as though you don’t believe your own stance isn’t strong and beneficial. You want to make people feel comfortable with your competency and advocacy with openness to effective alternatives. You don’t want to appear confused or like you are flip-flopping on issues.
5. Use Actions Not Arguments
Talking to people about your ideas and suggestions for solutions is important when thinking about how to be influential to others. But just as important is letting your actions show people your character and your intentions. Actions create a persuasive backdrop for how you influence others, and actions at work with the people you see on a daily basis will speak louder than words in many cases. Arguments will have the opposite effect, not influencing anyone to your side but more likely alienating people against you.
So while a persuasive argument may be a good debate tactic, it isn’t the best strategy for gaining influence and power at work. A better way to get co-workers and leaders on your side is to show how your ideas are beneficial and effective.
6. Get Personal
When you want to understand how to become powerful and influential at work, don’t overlook the power of getting personal with people. Engage with people around you, taking a sincere interest in their interests, abilities, and achievements, and in things that are important to them outside of work, like family, school, pets, and hobbies. Get to know them on a personal level, and let them get to know you, and you build likeability into the relationship.
Work to build camaraderie and sense of teamwork, and people will be more receptive to your ideas, opinions, and initiatives. Greet people in the morning, say good-bye in the evening, ask how they are doing, and share how your day is going. Invite them for coffee, ask for their input on work issues, and share ideas. If you are introverted, this may take some practice to feel comfortable doing, but will be worth the effort.
7. Listen to Others
Listening skills are important at work, but genuinely listening to others is important for gaining power and being influential. If you want people to listen to you and take your side, you have to also listen to them and engage in meaningful give and take discussion. Respecting and acknowledging other opinions, ideas, and viewpoints makes valuable connections, and opens people to working together.
When you really listen to others, you’ll expand your own understanding of mutual work issues, better enabling everyone to work successfully together on projects and teams. And when you listen to others, you expand your influence because they will be more open to listening to you. Practice your active listening skills and make sure you are truly letting others talk and understanding their views.
8. Build Good Posture
If you are prone to slouching, leaning, or hunching over at your desk, take steps to build good posture. Walking tall, sitting up straight, and keeping your head and chin up all convey a sense of confidence and competence, as well as good health and vigor. Good posture has far reaching benefits that include pain relief, stress reduction, relief from depression, and career success.
Walking with head up and shoulders back or sitting up straight are welcoming, open stances, whereas slouching and hunching close you off to interactions with others. Psychologist Amy Cuddy describes standing up straight as a “power posture” which boosts your chances for success.
9. Use Positive Body Language
Nonverbal cues in body language can make either good or bad impressions, and affect how you are perceived by others, affecting your ability to influence them. You want to use positive body language at work to let others know you are trustworthy and confident and make them feel comfortable with you. One of the simplest positive body language tactics is a genuine smile.
Positive body language can help you influence others. Smiling, nodding, using open gestures, and making eye contact encourage others to feel good about dealing with you, and they will be more apt to accept what you’re talking about. If you are confused about how to use positive body language, consider getting some training to improve.
10. Put Others First
Practice putting others first, as influence is not a one-way street. Look for opportunities to help co-workers and superiors, following the lead of servant leadership. Servant leadership starts with an unselfish mindset, so always approach interactions with how you can help rather than what you can get out of it.
Take time with the people you work with, give direction when it looks like someone is stressed, do favors like bringing coffee on a busy morning, and connect people to resources within the company. Appreciate hard work and a job well done, and encourage people to learn and grow in the workplace. Suggest people for teams and projects you think they’d like and do well on, and help their career advancement.