Project Practitioners > Wake up! Three ways to improve your influence as a (project) leader.

Wake up! Three ways to improve your influence as a (project) leader.

By Sinikka Waugh

When was the last time you thought about your influence? Has anyone made any comments lately about your ability to influence others or move others to action? What did they say? Were they compliments…or not so much? Would it be handy to have a greater ability to influence others, regardless of the authority vested in you by your current role?

Here are three quick ways to improve your influence.

  1. Consider your wake – For your role as a leader, others look to you for direction, vision, and forward movement. For your role as a project manager, others look to you for accountability, measurement, and action. As a team member, others look to you as a model, a comfort, and a cheer leader. Simply by virtue of the role you’re in, you influence people to take action on or draw conclusions about what’s going on, who’s who, and what’s next.

    Early on in my career, I heard a leader refer to this as one’s “wake” – the ripples of action, decision, and discussion that are created when an influencer says or does something. A PM makes an off-handed disparaging remark about another person – that PM has just caused some of those listening to draw negative conclusions about that other person. A PM says something like “against my recommendation…” – that PM has just created mistrust in the decision makers. You get the idea…

    Stop for a moment and take inventory of your wake. Make sure you are aware of who is listening to you and who is watching you, and how they might perceive your words and actions.

  2. Add what’s missing – We often get frustrated by the things that are going on around us. We say things like “no one is being completely honest” or “no one is taking accountability” or “the morale is lousy” or “no one will talk about the elephant in the room” or “no one will make a decision.” Over and over I keep finding that the easiest way to fix what’s missing is to add it yourself.

    Instead of idly listening to others complain about the situation – or worse yet, joining in with their complaints – be the one to do what no one else is doing. Be the one to bring it to the table. I don’t mean, say “Hey guys, we should all be more accountable.” I mean, say “Hey guys, I said I would be more accountable, and I see where I let us down. I’m sorry. I commit to following through on this by noon today"…and then do it!

    Stop for a moment and think of a situation that’s frustrating to you. What’s missing from the situation that would move it forward in a productive way? Model what’s missing, and see what kind of momentum you can create.

  3. Clean the lenses – whether we like it or not, people form opinions about others very quickly based on the patterns they see. This has two important ramifications within the domain of influence.

    • First, our ability to influence others is directly impacted by the way they perceive us.
      Regardless of how great your work is and has been for years, or how brilliant you are at any given skill in your mind, what counts is how those who are important to the task at hand perceive you. If you’ve made a habit of being prompt, considerate, accountable, responsible, thorough, careful, and positive, then you likely have better influence with people who value these things. But if the last three times you delivered something, it was late; if more than two times in the recent past, you’ve said you’d do something but you didn’t; if you've been the dissenting voice in the last several topics; and if the people who see those behaviors haven’t known you for all the years of your brilliance, then the lens they see you through will be colored by the recent patterns. Their perception of you will be clouded by those recent encounters. And your ability to influence them will be hindered.

      Stop for a moment
      and look around. Who are you actively working with right now, and what patterns have you created for them to see? If it’s not a pattern that drives influence, then take accountability and fix it. Apologize for the anomaly, and behave differently from now on.
    • Second, our ability to influence others is also impacted by the way we perceive them.
      We use different influencing tools and techniques for different people, depending on how they fit into our perceptions of who’s who and what’s what. Maybe you’ve formed an opinion of someone based on what you may think is a pattern. But what if what you’re seeing is the exception, and not the rule. Have you unfairly or unreasonably reached conclusions? Is it possible that you are still living with conclusions drawn from behaviors that no longer apply? Do a little critical thinking to make sure that your impressions are valid and current.

      Stop for a moment and think about your perceptions of those around you. Are your lenses clear when you look at them? If you’re not sure, then take a moment to get to know them now, clean the lenses with a little bit of grace and forgiveness, and see what happens when you co-create an environment of looking at others through clearer lenses.
  4. Three quick tools...consider your wake, add what's missing, clean the lenses. Put these into practice - try them out and see how your influence improves! Find out more at

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Good article, sharp clear and straightforward, gets directly to critical and fundamental issues

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