John Maxwell says leadership is influence. If that’s true, then how does a leader develop that influence with the people he or she leads?
I have had the opportunity to build my own team — that’s easier — and to inherit a team I was supposed to lead. That’s hard. But, either requires intentional effort on the part of the leader. Influence is never gained simply by holding a position.
I’ll never forget the first week in my current position. We have a large staff and it seemed everyone was on edge around me. It was awkward. I’m a pretty easy-going guy. I can appear intense at times, because I’m very driven, but I genuinely like people. My door is always open. But, it was tense. Eerily tense. The church had experienced a couple difficult years and they were obviously resistant to give immediate trust. I would have to earn it.
If John Maxwell is correct that leadership is influence — and he certainly is at some level — I knew I had to gain influence with my team. I can’t lead people if I can’t influence them.
Influence is always based on trust. So, ultimately, that’s what we are discussing in this post. Building trust that gains influence.
Here’s are 7 ways I attempt to gain influence with my team:
Treat people with respect. I expect to be respected as a leader. Most leaders have that expectation. I know, however, that I can’t demand or even expect respect without displaying it. If I disrespect people it doesn’t build influence, it fosters control. People need to know they are valued members on the team and that they will be treated fairly, professionally — with grace and truth.
Take risks on people and give opportunities to fail — or succeed. I like placing faith in people. I love to recruit people who start their ministry career with us. And, if a team member comes to me with a dream, I’ll try to help them attain it. The risk is almost always worth the return. People need to know they are free to explore — even if it’s into unknown territory. More importantly, they need to know you’ll back them up if it doesn’t work. Team members need to be able to learn from mistakes — and success — and continue to grow and develop.
Recognize and reward efforts. I’m not afraid to single out exceptional work for individual recognition. Texting or emailing everyone to compliment one should not be forbidden. Yes, you may miss someone — and I try to discipline myself to look broadly for areas to applaud — but individuals need recognition just as he collective team does. What I’ve learned is a culture which recognizes achievements of others is contagious. As you do, so will the team.
Allow the team to know me personally. This is huge. I’m very transparent. In fact, with my entire church. I try to be clear about my weaknesses and own my mistakes. I’m also not afraid to be the brunt of the jokes. The fact is I miss details. I see only the big picture sometimes. I need people around me who can cover-up for my short-comings — and ground me. They need to know they serve a role on our team — to make me and the team better.
Be responsive and approachable. I return phone calls and emails to our team quickly. It’s part of building trust which leads to influence. They can get in touch with me and on my schedule before anyone other than my family. I keep the door open when I’m in the office and welcome walk-ins. I don’t make them wait long for an answer and follow through on requests.
Be consistent and reliable – I keep lots of lists so I don’t forget things I’ve committed to do. I have an Evernote folder with different teams and member’s name in it. It helps me keep up with things relative to them specifically. I want to always do what I commit to do, so I don’t make many promises. If I tell a team member I’ll do something, I make it a priority in my schedule until it’s accomplished.
Help others achieve personal success. I love to learn a team member’s goals and help them achieve it. Recently we had a staff member who felt God was leading them to another position — one we couldn’t accommodate at our church. I actually served as a sounding board for him, a personal reference for the new job, and coached him through the interview process.
I think it’s vital to a healthy team that the leader be continually conscious of his or her need for influence and ways to improve upon it. Most of what I’ve learned in leadership came from doing the wrong things first.
Keep in mind, I’m not perfect and this is not an attempt to brag about my performance. As with all my posts, I’m trying to be helpful in developing good leadership. I continue to ask my team how I can improve. Frankly, three years into a new position, I probably have influence with some of our team more than others. It’s a work in progress — always.