What does it mean to have influence?

Influence is one of those underrated business skills that often separates successful leaders from non-successful leaders, but it’s not a skill you can learn in school. Influence is the ability to transform or change the opinion of others. As a business owner, the success of your business relies on a unified team that works together to push your business forward, and without an influential leader to give direction, you risk your team pushing in opposite or opposing directions.

I’ve been very intentional about how I build trust and authority with my peers and team, and I take pride in my ability to influence real change in both my own organization and the organizations of those I’m coaching through Cardone Ventures. But, building influence doesn’t come automatically with a fancy title or promotion — it takes time and a commitment to continued growth.

So, what does it look like to build influence and become an influential leader? There are eight lessons you must learn:

1. Take radical responsibility

When you’re a leader in a business, it’s crucial that you hold yourself accountable for the success of that business and strive to take responsibility for as much as you can. Your employees are doing a job that has been outlined by you and your leadership team, and if they aren’t succeeding in that role, responsibility from leadership is the only way performance can improve. 

Now, I’m not saying you should own every single thing that may go wrong in your business — it’s more about recognizing the unique role you play in the organization and how your reception of problems affects your team. Never place blame on others if the responsibility is truly yours to fix an issue or respond to a challenge. Instead, acknowledge responsibility and lean on your team to execute the response. 

2. Learn all communication styles

Every person communicates in different ways, and every person on your team may not communicate in the same way that you do, which can lead to butting heads and unclear expectations. This is why it’s crucial to not only learn how to engage with various communication styles but speak those communication styles, too. 

When you can effectively communicate with every member of your team, you’ll be able to influence team-wide actions that will have a lasting impact on your business. 

3. Practice positive reinforcement

The carrot-vs-stick mentality is, in my opinion, not effective for a growing business. Instead, all business leaders should lean into positive reinforcement to support their team and organization. 

By positively enforcing behavior or actions you want to see from your team, you’re presenting yourself as a positive leader who appreciates your team and recognizes hard work. This perception will ultimately lead to employees seeking out that positive reinforcement and repeating it down the line, increasing your influence.

4. Be very intentional about every meeting

Death by meeting is alive, even as many businesses have moved to a remote or hybrid workforce. In fact, the remote and hybrid structure of teams may be increasing the number of meetings managers and leaders are holding in order to make up for lost in-person engagement. But, excessive meetings are preventing employees from doing their jobs effectively, and taking away valuable work time can contribute to feelings of frustration. 

If you’re a meeting enthusiast, make sure you’re being incredibly intentional about meetings — who really needs to attend that meeting, what’s the shortest amount of time needed to complete your agenda items, and will this meeting take away from other important projects in progress at that time? Your employees will be thankful for the intentionality and will be more engaged in those shorter, less frequent meetings. 

5. Take a variety of perspectives

Putting yourself in the shoes of others is a lesson you probably learned in childhood, but many adults lose sight of this important lesson as they develop opinions throughout their lives. 

Having strong opinions is probably one of the most important qualities of a successful leader, but forcing those opinions on others or not understanding all angles before forming opinions is a potentially large pitfall. By taking the time to understand different perspectives on an issue or topic before taking a stance is an easy way to gain respect from your employees and build your influence. This shows them that your strong opinion is well-informed and that you’re open to different opinions. Even if your employees don’t agree, they will respect you nonetheless. 

6. Reframe your beliefs

Your beliefs should be one of the guiding principles of your business, but not everyone will automatically buy into your beliefs and direction right away. It takes time — and significant influence — to build that engagement with your employees. 

One way you can get your employees to adopt your beliefs as it relates to the business is to reframe them and meet your employees where they are. Now, this doesn’t mean completely changing your beliefs for your employees — it means adjusting the delivery of beliefs. 

Reframing without losing sight of the core belief can be tricky, though, so as you’re looking for new ways to present your ideas, keep those central beliefs at the center and simply adjust the contextual information or how that information is presented. 

A successful and influential leader will be able to adjust the communication of their beliefs to guide their employees and gain their support. 

7. Everything you say matters

When you’re in a leadership role, your employees, colleagues, and peers are constantly listening to and observing you, so everything you say really matters. Even a small comment can be perceived in several different ways by your employees, so it’s important to truly think before you speak and consider how a comment may be received by others. 

If people are listening and interpreting everything you say, it should be pretty obvious that you have influence, but if you abuse that power, respect and influence will decline, and employees won’t take you seriously. 

8. Avoid perfection 

A common misconception among new business leaders and owners is that they must strive for perfection. Perfect business plan, perfect teams, perfect products, and more. But, constantly looking toward perfection can make it harder to pivot or adjust when needed, and there will always — and I mean always — be something to improve. 

I often tell business owners to not only not strive for perfection but to avoid it actively. This doesn’t mean completely neglecting your business, team, or product, but if there is growth and improvement, perfection doesn’t really matter. 

If you prioritize perfection yourself, that will trickle down to employees and create some potentially negative emotions about their jobs and their experience working for you. Leading by example is key, and aiming to be imperfect is a great way to show your employees that it’s okay to test, try, make mistakes, and learn. 

The most important lessons in business can’t be learned in school

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: you don’t need to be the most highly-educated person in a room to be successful, and most of the lessons you’ll learn in business simply can’t and won’t be taught in a classroom. When it comes to influence, the development of this essential trait comes in all shapes and sizes, and variables like your team, your company, and your personality come into play significantly. 

It takes time to build influence, but with some small adjustments to how you lead and interact with your team, you can steer the ship with ease. 

If you’re ready to increase your influence as a business owner and leader, check out one of Cardone Ventures’ upcoming events. Register today, as spaces are limited!