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How to influence senior leaders when working remotely


 — April 6th, 2021

How to influence senior leaders when working remotely

In an era of remote working, there’s a perception that influencing senior leaders has become more difficult than ever. But is that really true? 

And what are the golden rules to getting decisions made and buy-in established when we’re all working remotely?

Let’s imagine going back just a year ago, and IF you were co-located with the senior leaders you worked for and with I can make a guess that they weren’t sitting around waiting for you to pop by their desk with a calendar fully available to you when you needed it.

The changed workplace 2021: How employees feel and what leaders and communicators need to do about it

Leaders are incredibly busy people no matter where they’re located.  Their time is precious.  They’ve got a million and one people vying for their time, attention, and signature.  The new Covid-world hasn’t changed any of that.

Locations don’t matter when it comes to influencing other people, relationships do.

Being able to influence another person begins with building and maintaining a strong relationship.

Assuming you already have the connection with the stakeholders you need to influence or gain buy-in from, your efforts need to be all about understanding them.

What are their challenges, their pressures, their goals?  What’s going on in their world?  What’s important to them both professionally and personally?

This year has enormously helped colleagues connect on a more personal level and leaders themselves have been much more open, vulnerable and forthcoming about their home lives, mental health, and family pressures too.  We are all human at the end of the day.

Leadership can be an incredibly lonely place, so having colleagues who understand and care for them as human beings will go a long way to establishing mutual respect and a solid relationship.

Relationship means ‘the way in which two or more people or things are connected’, so how can you strengthen the connections between the two of you?

This means stepping back from influencing or pushing your agenda and brainstorming how you can get to know each other properly and work effectively together.

It’s in both of your interests to build trust and mutual understanding, not just yours, so do this together so you can work efficiently and effectively in partnership going forwards.

The physical distance between colleagues needs never be an issue if you’re open and honest with your communications, working styles, and expectations of one another.

Then when it comes to influencing, making decisions,and getting sign-off it will happen with ease because you’re both aligned and invested in delivering what’s needed for the business and not caught up in unnecessary frustrations or misunderstandings.

A much-overlooked sub-skill of being able to influence effectively is the capacity to truly listen to what the other person is saying. 

What others say and how they say it leaves a trail of clues that give away their preferred communication and influencing styles. 

Notice what excites them and the language they use when this happens.  Are they data-driven, visionary, or people-centric, for example?  Mirror their natural style by providing them with what they need.

For example, people who are more practical, systematic, prefer facts, and trust experience over inspiring ideas will be more easily influenced by, you guessed, facts, data, details, and experience. 

Use this approach to influence them, building rapport and boosting your credibility at the same time.

If, on the other hand, you notice that your senior leader shares innovative ideas or talks of more abstract concepts, or they look for themes and patterns, they are likely more intuitive, tending to be quick decision-makers who trust their gut.

The changed workplace 2021 – How employees feel and what leaders and communicators need to do about it

They’re going to love hearing stories, visionary concepts, and ideas, the longer-term impact, or being inspired by best-in-class examples.  Stay out of the weeds and details with these types of people though and speak with passion and energy to get them onboard.

Influencing aside, feeling truly listened to deepens the bond and respect between two people, so honor this time to make them feel heard.

Sometimes pushing your own agenda can wait!  Video calls can be your ally when it comes to deepening your listening skills because they allow the whole range of bodily communication to be transmitted for you to decipher - language, tone, energy, body language, facial expressions.

And not to get too distracted, but you can also see how your own subliminal signals come across on-screen too.  Are they conveying your openness, interest, and engagement while they talk?

All of these approaches will help ensure your relationship soon moves to a more aligned level where you will trust each other, know what’s going on and be able to communicate effectively.

Not being co-located with someone you need to influence is only a problem if you let it be.  It’s just a matter of building a relationship and an understanding between the two of you and learning what works for you both.

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