In the previous edition of School Leadership Insights, I highlighted that the ability to INFLUENCE is likely to be the domain that your leadership team need to focus on.
Gallup align each of the 34 strengths identified through their Strengths Finder instrument to one of four domains
- Executing – getting tasks completed
- Influencing – communicating and advocating both within and outside the school
- Relationship Building – people skills
- Strategic Thinking – focusing on the future and what could be
Whilst it is NOT necessary for individual leaders to have strengths in all four domains, coverage of the four domains by the leadership team is important and has an impact on effectiveness.
However, in the hundreds of school leadership teams I have worked with, ONE domain is almost always under represented – INFLUENCING. This appears to be the blindside for school leadership teams and is probably that your leadership team would benefit most from focusing on.
The Gallup strengths that align with the INFLUENCING domain are:-
Communicator, Significance, Activator, Self-Assurance, Maximiser, Command, Competition and Woo
No matter what role the leader has, influence is important in solving problems and making things happen. In schools, this means persuading people to help you affect change, implementing key decisions and creating buy-in around your ideas and priorities.
It is vital that leadership teams focus on the important skills of influencing. For each priority area of school improvement, the leadership team need to first gain absolute clarity about WHY that area has been identified.
If the leadership team can not get absolute clarity on why the change is a priority, they have very limited chance of successful implementation. One approach can be to present what is wrong with what is currently happening and why that needs to change. The alternative is to paint a very clear picture of how good it is going to be AFTER the change or improvement has been implemented. Get clear about what you want and why you want it. Be able to clearly articulate your reasoning.
Successful INFLUENCING requires a clear, concise and consistent message that is OVER-communicated. It is vital that all leaders are on the same page and are consistent with this message.
In Forbes magazine, Amy Glass identifies five principles to follow if you want to have influence.
1. Influence is a persuasive process. It doesn’t happen all at once.
According to Glass, “Influence is much more than giving a persuasive presentation. The process includes building relationships, understanding the perspectives of others and having clarity about what you want and what they want. It is important to take time to really get to know people. Pay attention to what they care about.
Before suggesting a change, consider the different points of view of those who will be affected. Consider the likely perspectives, especially objections and how you will respond.
2. Influence is a product of trust
This requires building relationships, your credibility and your reputation. Why should people trust you? What have you done to earn their trust?
3. When people feel heard, they are more open to being influenced.
Take time to understand where others are coming from, both in what they are feeling and thinking. When you understand where people are coming from, you know what information will resonate with them.
Leadership guru Ken Blanchard has identified stages of concern that people progress through when a change is announced. Until their initial concerns are addressed, they are not ready to talk about higher level concerns about implementation.
Initially, staff want to hear information about the proposed change. What is being proposed and why is it important?
The next phase are their personal concerns. What does the change mean for me personally? Will I still have a job? Will my role change? Will my skills still be relevant? Will I require additional training? Will that training be provided? Can I still use the resources that I have collected and developed?
Once they have had their personal concerns addressed they are then ready to talk about implementation concerns. How much time is this going to take? Are we phasing this in? What are we stopping doing? What resources and training are required?
The impact concerns are the issues that arise once you actually start doing the new approach. If you have planned the implementation well, you will not have too many impact concerns. However, there are often factors that we hadn’t considered.
Providing opportunities for people to raise their concerns and have them addressed is a powerful strategy to influence.
4. Influence requires persuasively communicating
There are a variety of frameworks that help you get your message across to internal and external stakeholders in a clear, credible and compelling way.
Here’s one communication framework:
- Describe the current state. What is going on now?
- Establish a need/problem. What is the problem with the current state? What needs to change?
- Describe the desired state. What does “good” look like? Why is it important to make the change or do what is suggested?
- Satisfy or solve. What needs to be done? What steps need to be taken to solve the problem or make things happen? Lead with a mutual perspective or their perspective.
- Visualize. Picture the benefits when the problem is solved. Why is this better?
- Call to action. Get commitment and/or agreement.
5. Influence isn’t about winning: it’s about solving problems.
As much as you would like to get what you want, you always want to think about the long-term impact. If you are viewed as a problem-solver and solution provider, you will build your credibility in the long run, which will make the next time you want to influence much easier.
Remember that all five of these principles work together as part of an ongoing process of influence.
You can read more from Amy Glass in Forbes magazine HERE.
If you’d like me to work with your leadership team or staff to help them identify the strengths they bring to their team. Contact me here