How to increase your
influence at work

Often when we think of influencing our peers or leaders, we visualise being more vocal with a dash of bravado and sass. Contrary to what you might assume, being influential in the workplace isn’t reliant on an extroverted or dominant personality. Your impact on your workplace can come in many forms and in fact, more than likely you’re underestimating the persuasiveness of your actions at any given time.

Of course, all emerging leaders want to be seen by their employers so how can you become more visible to those in your workplace?

It all starts with empathy and authenticity. We often feel somewhat invisible as we go about our day-to-day, yet by simply being proactively social we can have a far greater impact on others. A study published in Sage Journals found that people underestimate their compliments’ value to others, and so they refrain from engaging in this prosocial behavior.

This applies to the workplace too, often when aiming for progression we forget that part of being a team player is simply showing kindness to others. A lot of this stems from our assumption that our impact on those around us isn’t significant if it’s not obvious to everyone.

In a study Journal of Personality and Social psychology, researchers dispelled the myth that in order to get someone to pay attention to you, you have to be the loudest in the room. Researchers found that all we need to do is remember that we are human beings, meaning we are wired to notice others much the same as they are to notice us.

This means our influence whether intentional or not, needn’t come in the form of drawing all the attention in the room to you. In its simplest form, influence can come from kindness and empathy. With this in mind, it’s important to maintain self awareness and understand that at any given moment you could be influencing another person whether positively or negatively. So take responsibility for your influence and use it mindfully.

Peer persuasion

Influence, at its core, is essentially persuasion in the most genuine form. It involves inspiring others by how you show up and how you make them feel. And the good new is, influence can be achieved in the most simple ways.

My advice to emerging leaders who want to find ways to influence others in the workplace is:

Body language and tone of voice – People are constantly assessing whether to trust others or not. So when it comes to your workplace, of course you want your team to have confidence in you. Your body language is critical to conveying the right message. Standing up straight with your shoulders back and arms uncrossed helps you come across as confident, whereas slouching or looking down has the opposite effect.

Your tone also conveys how confident you are (we’ve all had that little nervous inflection pop up in a meeting at some point in our lives). Pitching your voice a little lower than you normally do can add a hint of power to what you’re saying.

Listen before you try to persuade – If you’re wanting support from your colleagues, start by supporting them first. By giving your colleagues your undivided attention, you’re making them feel respected and valued. So often employees feel resentful towards those who don’t show them respect. Instead of being preoccupied and fidgety, focus your attention when a colleague is talking. In return, they will show you the same level of respect.

While you’re focusing your attention on your colleague, remember to pay attention to what they are actually saying and not what you want to say. Just listen.

If you do want to contribute to the conversation, reference something that your colleague brought up in that conversation to demonstrate that you care about understanding what they were trying to convey. Being listened to is rare enough that doing so genuinely is likely to raise your influence with the person you listen to.

Give others a voice – In addition to listening to others, proactively making space for others to share their ideas is an easy way to build trust and influence.

As much as you’d like to share your ideas, pause and ask for someone else to share a suggestion. Making sure those around you are heard and understood gives them the freedom and confidence to share their thoughts. By empowering others you are building trust and influencing the conversation at your workplace.

Build meaningful relationships – Positive relationships that are beneficial to everyone involved are the foundation of successful networking. That’s because people naturally gravitate to people they feel they are connected to. So if you want people to take interest in where you are heading in your career take the time to build an authentic connection with them. Find ways to bring the best out of your colleagues, tackling the obstacles together, celebrating the wins, and advocating for each other.

Remember, influence doesn’t always mean dominating a space. It’s more than likely you’ll be more persuasive when you think nobody is looking. Which is usually when you’re building genuine relationships.

Act with integrity – Acting with integrity builds trust and respect. However, if there’s a disconnect between your ‘say’ and ‘do’ ratio, it only harms the influence you’re trying to establish.

Influencing through acting with integrity is all about the follow-through. If you consistently work hard and demonstrate that you can get results, you’re far more likely to be influential.

The power casual wardrobe

Power dressing was once a sign of confidence, authority and professionalism. Yet in a mid-pandemic era, it’s easy to assume that power dressing isn’t relevant. Or the meaning of power dressing is being redefined. 

In a traditional sense, this style will be taking a backseat for a while. So when we’re living in a hybrid office environment mixing working from home and at the office – how do we blend our two wardrobes professionally?

According to research by Dynata, a leading data and insights platform, Australian workers are some of the most reluctant in the world to dust off their corporate clothing. Of the Australians who wore business attire pre- pandemic, nearly a third (29 %) said they were not at all excited about the prospect of wearing formal clothing again. That figure is far higher than the global average (16%) and of the nations surveyed, only workers in the UK are less reluctant to dig out their workwear.

Although many of us have enjoyed the luxury of comfortable clothing while WFH, there is still a place for smarter workwear that enables employees to feel confident without sacrificing comfort.

It comes in the form of Power Casual style. Although office wear trends were generally heading in that direction prior to the pandemic, relaxed dressing is becoming more appropriate in an office environment. That’s where Power Casual comes in, essentially pieces that provide practicality and functionality, without compromising on style.

My tips for following this trend while still shaping your professional image are:

  • Choose comfortable footwear like loafers, slingbacks or even sneakers and pair these with tailored pants.
  • Dress in clothes that give you room to move. Consider pairing a sports jacket with a nice pair of trousers in stretchier fabrics. For women, consider flowing skirts or dresses which might feel more comfortable than a form-fitting pair of pants. 
  • Incorporate a broader range of colours into your wardrobe. Tones such as soft-washed navy  alongside sand paired with brighter hues such as khaki or light blues balances symbols of strength, power, confidence and happiness.
  • Accessorise! Just because you’re not wearing a tie as often doesn’t mean accessories can’t lift your game. Accessories are an easy way to add some fun and class to your outfit. Think jewels,pendants or belts, pocket squares or even your watch.
  • Remember going back to the office is an opportunity to fall back in love with what you have in your wardrobe. Perhaps you lean towards a more casual look now, but you can absolutely mix and match your pre-pandemic style with your current pieces to really nail that Power Casual look.
  • Don’t like the idea of falling back in love with your workwear wardrobe? Now is also the perfect time to reflect and re-look at your personal image. If you don’t like the result your feeling internally or the impression you’re giving externally – now is the time to strategically think about it.

You are what you wear

Your workplace attire and presentation communicate volumes about you as a person. So whether you’re aware of your influence or not, your outfit is a form of non-verbal communication.

You’re telling a story to those around you, so when you’re getting dressed for work consider what it says about you and if that’s an authentic message you want to communicate.

We process visual details instantaneously through a process called thin-slicing. That’s when the brain makes millisecond judgments based on new stimuli. And it happens without us even noticing. This gut feeling we’re all too familiar with is more commonly called a first impression. So when looking to influence your workplace, choose how you present yourself with care.

And remember, presentation isn’t limited to only your clothes, but your accessories, hairstyle, fragrance, posture, body language, tone of voice, and the level of energy with which you move and speak. Think of the person that you need to be in any particular situation and present yourself in a way that helps you mentally step into that personality.

Clinical psychologist Dr. Jennifer Baumgartner wrote a book on the phenomenon she calls the psychology of dress. In her book, You Are What You Wear: What Your Clothes Reveal About You she explains how psychology determines our clothing choices and what messages your outfit might be sending.

Once again, this all comes down to authenticity. To have influence and dress for who you want to be, you need to be authentic in every aspect of your presentation. There is power in how you present yourself to others. If authenticity is lacking you’ll be less likely to effect how your co-workers perceive your ability to make strong decisions.

Leading with positive influence

As a leader, the way you act, speak and make decisions has a profound impact on your organisation’s culture. A positive workplace culture improves teamwork, increases productivity and efficiency, and enhances retention of the workforce. Job satisfaction, collaboration, and work performance are all enhanced. And, most importantly, a positive workplace environment reduces stress in employees.

So how can leaders positively influence their workplace culture?

It’s all about the energy you bring to your workplace. No, I’m not suggesting you bring the pep of a gameshow host. Rather, having a positive attitude with everyone you interact with in the workplace, will improve your relationship with your team, their productivity, and your company’s overall success.

And it’s not as complicated as it may seem, in fact the simplest acts can foster a positive work environment. My advice for employers is to follow these simple steps:

Acknowledge you’re not perfect – Positive influencers aren’t afraid to admit that they don’t know the answer to something. Claiming that you’re perfect and don’t make mistakes isn’t likely to give your team a positive impression of you. When team members see a colleague that isn’t afraid to ask questions, and continues to try and learn and grow, it enables them to consistently strive to learn and improve themselves.

Build authentic relationships – Positive relationships are just as important within a team as they are between leaders and their team. Leaders shouldn’t try to use their influence to get people to just do what they want – instead, they should focus on building collaborative relationships that are win-win for all. Building authentic, supportive relationships can help every team member succeed in their objectives.

Actively listen – It’s amazing what instilling a little confidence in your team can do. So often leaders assume their employees feel heard, but in reality many simply forget to regularly provide constructive, honest and encouraging feedback. Leaders need to be diligent in this space, especially when you consider a report by Salesforce found when employees feel like their employer is listening to them, they are 4.6 times more likely to perform their best work.

Leading with positive influence isn’t complicated, simple changes to your leadership style will ensure that your authority and position are used for the greatest good of the company. Simple demonstrations of placing your employee’s needs above your own will inevitably build positive and trusting relationships which of course benefit everyone.