Speak Up to Build Your Influence at Work

Personal Influence

If you were king or queen how would you change the way things run where you work? Seriously, what’s on your list?

8 Useful Actions

Now that you have ideas, what will you do with them? Here are some viable options:

  1. Offer them up if someone asks you for your opinion.
  2. Toss them into the comments section on the engagement survey.
  3. Discuss them with your manager during your annual review or a regular check-in meeting.
  4. Stuff them into whatever version of a “suggestion box” your company uses.
  5. Bring them up whenever you see an opportunity during a meeting.
  6. Think about who has the power to do something with your ideas, and tell those people.
  7. Build a plan for sharing your ideas and gaining support.
  8. Initiate a committee or task force to explore your ideas.

Perhaps you can identify some other options. You might even want to pursue several of these at once. You’re smart, you can figure out something that could work.

Change Management for restructuring

Note that these actions all have one common element: You speaking up.

Fear and Frustration Lead to Actions That Don’t Help

What won’t work is keeping ideas to yourself and hoping they magically come to life on their own. It also won’t help if you start showing your frustration that nobody seems to care what you think, especially when you don’t do your part and speak up.

On almost every list of factors that drive employee engagement, you’ll find some version of “Ability to influence my work environment.” Let’s go with the idea that you too want to have some influence.

But what if you’re not that comfortable sharing your ideas? Then it’s time to build your confidence, and confidence comes from competence. Build skill through practice.

7 Practice Opportunities

There are opportunities inside and outside of work for you to practice sharing your ideas and opinions. Some are super-easy and quite safe. Others will present a bit more challenge. Start small and work your way towards the more difficult.

1. Have Candid Conversations

Share more when talking with coworkers. Have real conversations that will help you spread your ideas while building relationships. Do your coworkers know what you think about how things should work? Maybe it’s time that they do.

2. Vote

Vote in every election. This couldn’t be easier, and yet more than 40% of eligible voters don’t cast a ballot in presidential years. For smaller races in non-presidential years that number skyrockets. If your argument against voting is that your one vote doesn’t matter, then do it to simply for the practice of sharing an opinion.

3. Complete Surveys

Your employer, government bodies, service providers, coworkers, project teams, product managers, and community groups all want to know what you think. I understand that you can’t do them all. Some are too long. Some are for products/services you don’t care that much about. The point is that when you do care, and someone is asking, make the time to share your opinion.

4. Engage with Government Leaders

There are well-established methods to let your government leaders know what you think. Write letters. Call them. Show up at public meetings. In my city, there are always interesting ways to offer an opinion. Just this last week I participated in two meetings for the purpose of providing input into a 10-year plan. Few take the opportunity.

5. Participate in Meetings

When you are invited to a meeting about a topic that matters to you, accept the invitation. Do your homework. Think about what you’d like to accomplish during the meeting. Come ready to speak and when the opportunity presents itself, take it.

6. Tell Your Manager What You Think

Do you and your manager have regular one-on-ones? If so, chances are that he or she will ask you for feedback and improvement ideas. Be ready for the question and be smart about offering your suggestions.

7. Comment Online

There are plenty of people who use Facebook and newspaper online comment sections to promote their agenda. Some are more effective than others. Maybe your workplace uses some sort of collaborative app to keep people informed and provide a method to share ideas. If it’s there, you should consider using it. Wade in slowly and learn how to do it well.

Actions May Speak Louder Than Words, But…

These days there are lots of powerful voices getting what they want, probably because they say or write what they think and are able to skillfully support their messages with actions.

To exert influence at work and home, your voice needs to be in mix. Advocate for your ideas. Be persistent. Be a decent human being.

Speak up more often and with greater skill to watch your influence grow.

By Tom LaForce

Tom LaForce helps companies change by creating stronger teams, more effective leaders, and better processes. To discuss a challenge you're facing, use this link to schedule a free discovery call.