A person can command with authority, but you lead with influence. Whether it’s the chief, a sergeant, a fellow officer or support staff, you can influence people without being in a position of command. Here are some tips how.
I know what you’re thinking. How do I empathize with a chief or supervisor who is:
This isn’t my idea. It’s the idea of Stephen Covey, who wrote 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and is one of Time Magazine’s 25 most influential Americans.
We’re not talking about sympathizing--being in harmony or agreement with the chief’s feelings or views. Empathy is being able to visualize the chief’s challenges, concerns and future plans--as she sees them.
This may be even more challenging when you don’t sympathize with the chief, but I have confidence you can accomplish this mental exercise. Once you do and you anticipate those challenges, concerns and plans, you can act and be influential.
Covey gives an example: He once worked for an extremely controlling, micromanaging boss. He observed two different responses to this boss. Most of the employees stood around griping about the boss’s micromanaging. Covey observed that wasn’t very productive.
But one subordinate decided that every time he was asked a question or given an assignment he would ask:
What is it that the boss is really trying to accomplish, and why does he want this information?
This employee delivered not only what was requested, but additional recommendations and analyses that were so well thought out the boss immediately adopted them. As a friend once told me, you can get a lot done if you don’t care who gets the credit. The boss’s confidence in this guy grew to the point that his endorsement on new projects and directions became mandatory. That’s a heap of influence.
Chiefs and supervisors have a full plate. Just ask them. If you press them for a decision on an idea you’ve got, they’re likely to say no.
To Avoid “No”
Influencers Ask the Right Questions
You can lead, regardless of your rank in the department, by keeping everyone on target with the right questions.
Don’t be a Sycophant, Superhero or Chicken Little
I’ve taken some shots here at bosses. But they have their legitimate gripes. Good bosses dislike three kinds of subordinates (at least):
If you’re the first, stop it. If you’re the second, and you’re not fabricating the problem so you can be a hero (if you are, knock it off), just solve it.
If you’re the third, sometimes it’s hard to see the forest or the trees if you’re looking at a plummeting sky. Problems are often as simple as a gap between an objective and a result. Think of options to close the gap--define key tasks, dates, people and resources needed. Ask three people you respect for their opinions and counsel, and consider incorporating them into your solution.
Then decide if you want the chief’s input. Be clear on what input you want when you go to the chief.
You don’t have to be the boss to express appreciation--up, down and across the ranks.
You may be in a position to mentor someone--and not just as an FTO.
You may be in a position to mentor the boss--especially if she’s younger and greener than you.
Next month we’ll look at more tips for leading the boss, including:
Until then, remember what Henry Beecher Ward said: "The humblest individual exerts some influence, either for good or evil, upon others."