3 Mistakes Leaders Make When Trying to Influence Others

When it comes to influencing others, leaders often make mistakes unknowingly.

We will always default to how we've influenced in the past and repeat what may have worked previously, even if it didn't work as successfully or as fully as we anticipated. 

This happens because our approach to influencing is familiar. In fact, it's wired into us at a neurobiological level. 

It’s helpful to identify mistakes you may be making as a leader to then determine new approaches in the future and begin “re-wiring” your approach to influencing.

Here are three common mistakes leaders make when trying to influence others: 

Mistake #1 - Assume people are approaching things the same way we are.

The first mistake we see in terms of being able to influence other people, is that we assume people are approaching things the same way that we are. 

This is not unique to leaders yet, I often hear that the level of assumption that they've made going into a meeting or a conversation is actually quite high and can limit them. Assumptions might include: people want to have a positive outcome, or that everybody has read the material that we provided, or that people are as committed to collaboration as we are.

Even though we may want to maintain a positive and hopeful perspective, it's important to be aware of the working assumptions we are bringing into a situation. Once we know what they are, we can test them. There are different ways to test our assumptions and make sure that people are in fact on the same page. 

Knowing and then testing our assumptions will help us have a better understanding of the situation and be more influential as a result. 

Mistake #2 - Assume we understand the needs and issues of others.

Related to the first mistake but notably different is that we assume we fully understand the needs and issues of others. We can fall into the habit of making certain recommendations, thinking we understand what others’ needs are when, in fact, things haven't been fully discussed.

Many leaders tap into their gut or intuition when seeking to influence others.  This means that we may quickly make assumptions without testing them. We want to be sure to ask clarifying questions about the situation, people, challenges and potential solutions to get a better understanding (even when it “feels right” to go one direction rather than another).

We want to be sure to “unpack” the issues and uncover things before proposing a solution and influencing towards an outcome. 

Mistake #3 - Lack the confidence required to truly be influential.

The third mistake is that we don't bring enough confidence to our influencing. We may hesitate,  position recommendations as questions or wait to speak in a meeting. Each of these actions diminish our overall effectiveness - we end up coming across as less confident, less credible, and less trustworthy as leaders and when we're trying to influence, we really need all of those things.

Of course, it's not that leaders ever set out to lack confidence. It is simply that these unconscious signals we send out either say “I got this. I know what I'm doing” or conversely “I think I got this. I think I know what I'm doing.” 

It’s important to monitor your own confidence level and ask yourself “what do I need to know or do to bring the highest level of confidence to this situation so I can influence a good outcome?”

Next Steps

Now that you’re aware of three of the common mistakes leaders make when influencing others, take time for your own self-reflection: 

  • Journal about how you have influenced others in the past then identify what’s worked and what has not worked.

  • Review the list above and determine when/if you make any of the mistakes then pick one to do differently in the upcoming week.

  • Become more aware of what influences you, what do others do that is influential.

If you would like to increase your influencing skills, join one of our upcoming webinars or our program on September 13-15, 2019 in Newport Beach.

About Athena

Athena Williams, Founder and CEO of Uplevel DNA, has been facilitating leadership programs for individuals and organizations for over 18 years.  Her powerful, impactful approach creates deep and sustainable transformation within a short time. She is currently working with leading companies to uplevel their leadership and accelerate business results.  Athena is the author of the upcoming book, The Uplevel Code, to be released in late 2019.