It’s easy to feel that if you had more responsibility or were more senior, you’d be able to achieve more in your role. Fortunately, most of the limitations on a person’s professional influence are self-imposed. This means there’s a lot you can do to increase your value and influence within your current role and build your reputation to help you achieve your long-term professional goals.
Here are five ways to start increasing your influence at work:
1. Get out of the weeds
Being busy at work can feel comfortingly productive. An afternoon spent ticking easy jobs off the to-do list can feel far more valuable than one spent wrestling fruitlessly with a bigger problem. However, it’s not necessarily the case, particularly if you’re trying to deliver more value and get noticed at work.
Often, the tasks that feel so good to blast through are low importance and high urgency, which means that completing them feels like an achievement at the time, it’s unlikely to generate a lot of impact in the long term. It’s also likely that the reason you like these jobs are that they’re within your comfort zone, which isn’t good if you want to grow in your role. Battling your way through a huge list of emails can make you feel like a superhero, but in fact you’re not learning anything new or progressing.
Pushing yourself to tackle the scary parts of your job is the only way to grow in your role and achieve more. Unfortunately, spending less time in your comfort zone and more time at the edge of your abilities can feel like you’re making less progress. It’s quite the opposite, though – delegating or outsourcing “busywork” can give you time to make a bigger impact. Even spending just a few hours per week on a bigger project, like your long-term recruitment strategy, can help you improve your skills, deliver far more value and get you noticed.
2. Don’t listen to your lizard brain
The human brain is wired to crave security and predictability. This process is controlled by the amygdala – the “lizard brain”. This is one of the oldest and most primitive parts of the human brain, and it’s designed to provoke a “fight or flight” response to either stop you doing something stupid, or help you get out of a tough situation.
Without wild animals or Viking invasions to worry about, today there are far fewer opportunities to die horribly than there used to be, but your amygdala is still on the lookout for risks. This means it can misfire and see danger where there is none. Your lizard brain can go crazy at the thought of having that slightly awkward chat with Deborah from accounting, or pitching that new idea to your boss, to the point where you’ll procrastinate to avoid it.
Instead of protecting you, this irrational fear response can hold you back, and prevent you from making the progress you’d like to at work. Learning to push past the “lizard brain” fear response and do things that scare you is vitally important. This isn’t to say you should barge into every situation without forethought but understanding the difference between a “bad idea” and a “good idea” that’s a bit scary can be the difference between success and mediocrity at work.
3. Learn how to be lazy
Bill Gates famously said “I choose a lazy person to do a hard job. Because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it.” If you want to get noticed at work, the right kind of laziness can help you do just that.
The type of lazy that impresses billionaires isn’t run-of-the-mill, long lunch and afternoon Facebook-break type of laziness. It’s about understanding that in a professional position, hard graft can only get you so far, and that you must regularly take a step back to understand why you’re doing something.
Working late to manually compile data for reports feels like the sort of diligence that should get you noticed by senior management, but sadly, it’s not. Management is unlikely to give much thought to who pulled the data in a report unless it’s late or incorrect, so your long hours are unlikely to impress them. Instead, finding a tool to automate your reporting will take the job off your plate entirely, freeing you to focus on something which has a more noticeable impact on the business’s performance. Lazy, but also completely worth it.
Also, understand that going home at a reasonable hour and taking your holiday allowance so you can have some down-time is not lazy! Since the pandemic, there has been greater value placed on work/life balance. Putting in the hours is necessary sometimes, but people cannot give their all indefinitely, and if you are burned-out, you’re very unlikely to be delivering as much value as you could. Working more “lazily” (efficiently) can make it far easier for you to achieve what you need to at work within reasonable timeframes, so you can take care of yourself, too.
Health and wellbeing is a priority for many since the pandemic. According to an Indeed study, 52% of the people surveyed experienced burnout in 2021. 53% of millennials were already experiencing burnout pre-pandemic. Burnout for all generations is at an all-time high, in many ways worsened by the changes brought forth by the pandemic. Employers must assess what is best for their workers and lead by example, encouraging breaks and open discussions about mental health.
To increase employee wellbeing, Portugal has banned employers from contacting employees outside of their working hours as part of new laws brought in to promote a healthier work/life balance amid a rise in remote working.
4. Make it your problem
It’s easy to brush off difficult tasks as being somebody else’s problem. The critical issues in a business often aren’t included in anybody’s job description, and there’s a tendency to write off passing thoughts like “I think our company culture could use some work”, or “our attrition level is increasing” as “above my pay grade”.
The real problem is, few people like to ask tough questions, and this can often include senior management! Most people are happy in their comfort zones at work (see the power of the “lizard brain”, above), and will be quick to classify anything that seems too risky as “not my problem”, even if it’s seriously affecting company performance.
If you really want to grow your influence in any workplace, you’ll get good at seeking out these issues and making them your problem. By being brave, giving a name to the issues nobody else wants to address, then putting forward suggestions for how to tackle them, you will quickly develop a reputation for being somebody who punches above their weight.
Obviously, there is a balance to strike here, and you’ll need to be strategic about the battles you choose and the challenges you take on. However, you might be surprised how receptive people are to somebody addressing the elephant in the room constructively and positively.
5. Learn how change happens within your company
Your influence and the value you’re able to deliver at work – particularly on the big problems above – will rely on your ability to influence others. As a people manager, you should already have a good grasp of what makes your team tick but expanding your influence further can mean a different approach to leadership.
It can be much harder to influence somebody who is not directly within your sphere of authority, but if you have ambitious ideas,you’ll need to spread these everywhere. Stakeholder engagement is one such route. It’s easy to write off this sort of work as “office politics” and get discouraged when you’re not able to build support outside of your own team. However, change management is a discipline, and well worth learning about of if you want to build influence at a department or even a company-wide level.In this situation, managing up - being the best employee you can be and striving to make your manager’s life easier – is a way to get positively noticed.
Every company dynamic is different, but the basic principle centres on finding the “early adopters” within your organisation. These are the people who are most likely to be enthusiastic about latest ideas, and who can help yours build momentum. Finding these people and getting them on board can help your idea spread much more quickly and help you to convince the more conservative figures within your company.
For more information, pick up Jurgen Appelo’s “How to Change the World” – this book introduces a range of different tools, techniques, and approaches to making change happen, even if you don’t have direct management authority to implement it.
The bottom line: to be influential, get out there and influence!
It’s surprising how many of the factors controlling our professional influence are things we can directly control. What is also surprising is just how often most people can self-sabotage, either by procrastinating, or by playing it safe.
Having confidence in the quality of your ideas, then getting out there and making them happen, is the single easiest way to increase your level of influence and move from reviewing applications all day to tackling the big issues of your company’s overall recruitment strategy. It is easy to assume that there’s a reason your idea hasn’t already been implemented, or to believe you don’t have what it takes to make it happen. You might be right, but you will never know until you put yourself out there.
Free up more time for the big projects with greenbean.
At greenbean, we help HR and Talent Acquisition teams get out of the weeds and focus on the work that really makes a difference.
Our bespoke Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO) solutions can help take the day-to-day administrative tasks of recruitment off your plate and free up your time to work on bigger projects such as diversity and Inclusion, internal mobility, and early years talent.
To find out more about how greenbean could help your business, contact us today