We’ve all been in those meetings where after lengthy discussion, it is decision time. The Boss looks past everyone else at the table, singles out “Joe” and says, “What do you think we should do?” Oftentimes, “Joe” isn’t the guy with the biggest title or the gal with the longest tenure. However, almost always, “Joe” has earned the privilege of having significant influence.
My next two posts will focus on developing trust with peers and subordinates, but in this first post of the series, we’ll discuss perhaps the most critical business relationship – the one with your boss!
What is the Secret to Influence?
Think for a moment about the 2 or 3 people that influence you the most. Typically, while these people might hold positions over you such as parent, pastor, coach, or teacher, their position is not the basis of their influence. In fact, many times, those who influence most don’t have any position over us at all, such as our friends. True influence is based on relationship and relationship is based on trust. You will never be able to influence your superiors until they trust you. The more they trust your decision making, follow through, and attention to detail, the more they will allow you to influence them.
Asking the right question:
We began by asking how you can increase your influence. However, since influence is ultimately based on trust, the real question is “How can I build trust with those I am seeking to influence?” There are many facets to building trust with the big man, but I’ve narrowed it down to the 5 most critical below.
Here are 5 practical ways to build trust with your boss:
1. Come with Solutions – Next time you encounter a problem, don’t rush to your boss’s office and unload it on his desk. Take a few minutes to think through and even research a possible solution. Don’t take too long (See #3 below) but mentally take responsibility for the problem and be prepared when he asks, “What do you think we should do?” Of course, he’ll never ask that question if he doesn’t trust you to have an answer.The conversation should sound something like this: “I just discovered problem X, and it seems there are 2 possible solutions which are Y and Z. I would recommend we do Z because of A. What would you like me to do?”
2. Fess Up – When – not if, but when – you make a mistake, don’t try to cover it up or blame someone else. We all make mistakes and any good boss understands this fact. It’s your response to mistakes that will either make or break trust. Resist the temptation to blame a co-worker, a customer, or your boss (for not providing proper training). Fess up, find a solution, communicate, and fix the root problem so you don’t make the same mistake again!
3. Communicate good news fast and bad news even faster: Did you just close a major sale? Tell the boss fast, let him enjoy the moment with you. Are you going to miss a deadline? Tell him faster! If you know you’re going to miss the deadline a week before, communicate now. Don’t wait until after the deadline is missed, until he asks, or for someone else to tell him. Communicate early and often. The earlier he knows, the more he can do to help you affect the outcome and/or adjust other dependent projects that you may know nothing about.
4. Follow Through - Be dependable. If you have a meeting at 3, show up a few minutes early EVERY TIME. If you promise a follow-up email by Thursday, make sure you send it by Thursday without prompting. If unforeseen circumstances prevent you from having everything ready on Thursday, send a progress update outlining the problem and your updated timeline. Don’t make your boss come digging for an update.
5. Underpromise/Overdeliver - One of the biggest mistakes employees make is raising expectations that are impossible to meet, setting themselves up for failure. Before agreeing to deadlines and deliverables, make sure you have thoroughly thought through what its going to take and build in a little bit of cushion for the unexpected. If your boss asks you when you will have that report ready, tell her you will have it Friday by end of business and then deliver it Friday morning. Soon, you’ll have a reputation for delivering ahead of schedule and under budget and your boss’s trust in you will have skyrocketed!
Remember, influence is not about position, it is about trust! Next time we’ll discuss strategies for building trust with subordinates. Subscribe above to make sure you don’t miss it.
In the meantime, what do you see as critical to gaining trust and influence with superiors? Join the discussion below.
By the way, Seth Godin recently did a great piece on this topic called Lead Up.