Michael climbed the ranks to become CMO at his company because of his intuition of market trends and his creative, quick development of innovative ideas that kept his company ahead of the curve. His creativity, though, is also his weakness; Michael often becomes so fixated on an idea that everything else grows irrelevant. He also struggles to communicate his ideas clearly, assuming certain aspects are obvious to others when they aren’t. Recently, he pitched a costly marketing campaign leveraging new AI tech to his CEO, who gave him the green light to implement it. He quickly scheduled a meeting with numerous revenue owners: the VP of product marketing, the VP of marketing and ops, the VP of field marketing, the creative services manager, and the VP of sales.
At the start of the meeting, excited about the CEO’s support, Michael launched into explaining the idea, its target dates, and the role each person and his or her team would play. He quickly finished by stating, “The CEO has given her approval, so I need everyone’s help to make sure this succeeds. This depends on each of you and your teams’ cooperation.” To signal the meeting’s end, Michael gave a thumbs up and asked, “We good?” Had he paid more attention, he would’ve discerned his audience’s lackluster affirmation. After the conference room door closed behind Michael, the VP of sales, Danielle, turned to her left and remarked, “I hate to break it to him, but I have numbers to hit this month. I’m not even sure how this involves me.” It would be weeks before Michael would begin to wonder why he hadn’t heard from anyone in the meeting.
The lack of buy-in and unwillingness of others to pursue clarity and collaborate should signal red flags to Michael. But his lack of awareness—personally and socially—has led him down a road deprived of quality interactions and relationships with his colleagues. The challenge for Michael, and leaders like him, begins not with a lack of technical skills or know-how but with a lack of influence, a core competency of the fourth domain of emotional intelligence (EQ): relationship management.
Relationship Management: Hitting the Gas Pedal for Business Impact
Like the previously covered EQ domains, relationship management is essential for leadership impact. And leaders who successfully practice it haven’t left behind the other domains. Rather, they’ve connected the dots between their self-awareness, self-management, and social awareness to foster greater buy-in and mobilization behind an idea through an intuition for the needs of peers and colleagues.
These leaders don’t rely on a higher position on an org chart to elicit collaboration and accomplish their goals. Instead, they use the key competency of influence to reach beyond their teams and create connections and collaboration with others.
If self-awareness is a personal GPS and social awareness is a social GPS on the road toward effective leadership, relationship management is a leader’s gas pedal, and influence is the fuel.
Influence: Invest in Your Relationships for Company Success
Leaders with influence competency employ their self- and social awareness to emotionally connect with others, resulting in persuasion across teams to pursue a vision or accomplish a goal. Without this emotional connection, a leader may clearly articulate a company vision or goal but fail to generate engagement.
And this emotional connection is key, especially for today’s technologically connected teams. Productivity apps, high-def video conferencing, and advancements in AI have all allowed company teams to work on the same project with hundreds of thousands of miles between them. This means that leaders can’t rely on any sort of “control and command” method of leadership to create impact. The indelible shape of technology in today’s workforce hasn’t stifled the leader’s need to connect and understand others; if anything, it’s enhanced it. As one PROMARK coach shared:
“Given the increase of global teams, flatter organizations, and virtual project teams, the days of command and control leadership are gone. To lead, one must connect emotionally with a person or team first to then get buy-in and leave the interaction with the desired emotion to drive action.”
Leaders with influence know that what drives company success is not maintaining hands-on control over their colleagues. Rather, it’s the capacity to be a catalyst of productivity by connecting and communicating with others in mind. Leaders who strive to accomplish goals through hands-on control will find it difficult to persuade those they don’t have direct authority over to collaborate and work toward a defined objective. Leaders with the skill of influence, however, are more sought out by peers, see higher engagement scores, and are more likely to have their projects funded.
As Daniel Goleman writes, concerning influence and effective leadership:
“Influence has a strongly positive impact in the success of any executive. This may be particularly true for leaders who, for example, have many different groups reporting to them. Remember, leadership is the art of getting work done well through other people. And influence is the most powerful way to do that.”
Leaders who practice influence recognize how central trusting relationships are to optimizing productivity. They also recognize that building trust is a long-game effort. And this is good news because it means any leader, no matter where he or she is in the EQ journey, can strengthen their influence and anticipate its results. Here are four practices you can begin today to increase your influence.
Make Relationships Part of Your Job
For some leaders, the idea of working on emotionally connecting with colleagues may not seem like true work or can feel a tad “touchy feely.” It may seem counterintuitive to invest time in others when you or they could use it to be productive on a project. But as one PROMARK coach shared, “Relationship management may not feel like it, but it should be on a leader’s task list.” To foster this, it may be worth it to add it to your formal job description and schedule time in your calendar to grow in your understanding of what others need in your company. And be patient. It’ll take a little bit of time for it to become part of a mindset. But, at a minimum, it’ll be in writing to hold yourself accountable.
Be Open and Curious
Harnessing influence comes from not only understanding your own needs, behaviors, and pursuits but also being willing to be curious about and committed to others’. For example, a leader who practices influence may have previously voiced how the success of her goals is connected to others’ success and the success of the company. And the best way to know how to cast a clear, connected vision is to be open and curious with others. Leaders who practice influence have a rhythm of asking questions and listening to others, so they know how to connect the success of their goals to the success of their peers and other departments.
Acknowledge Others’ Goals
Trust develops when others feel heard and seen. And others feel heard and seen when their needs are acknowledged. When executive leaders remember that others have goals to meet, scorecards to maintain, and quotas to satisfy, and they infuse their communication with these reminders, the return from others is often greater trust and engagement. Leaders practicing this wait to push a particular objective until they’ve addressed things from the perspective of others involved. If an executive leader pursues a goal or objective without any acknowledgment of others’ needs, it’s more difficult to encourage them to willingly participate in hitting that goal.
Maintain an “Open Door” Policy
Leaders who say they want to be open with others but stay behind closed doors send mixed signals. A door that’s always closed—because a constantly unavailable leader is behind it—becomes a physical symbol for what that leader functionally believes: better to stay closed-off than accessible. This doesn’t mean that leaders must drop what they’re doing every time someone knocks on the door. But it does mean that occasionally setting a task aside or offering someone a better time for him or her to return is a valuable experience for others that reinforces the notion of being open to others’ needs. The combination of proximity and accessibility produces productive outcomes. Practice this with your immediate team members and watch it work with peers and other colleagues.
A leader using influence can empower and amplify his or her impact in second-to-none ways. By connecting the other EQ competencies, executive leaders can use their influence to create persuasion, engagement, and momentum across multiple teams and departments, producing results that lift the entire company. We know the EQ journey takes time, and every leader can begin that journey today. Don’t go it alone.
At PROMARK, we have a framework to help organizations and your leaders grow and harness influence. Whether it’s one-on-one or in teams, our coaches will help any leader develop and apply the skills and tools of EQ to bring about its exciting changes and results.
For leaders ready to begin the conversation about increasing their emotional intelligence, we’re ready to help. Contact us today.