Things for teams to try: Improving Influence Decisions

Autonomy is about balance. We do better at work when we can influence those things that form the core of our day-to-day work experience - without needing to be present and involved in every single decision. Take a look at how others have explored and supported work to find that balance and influence decisions in their teams.

9 Influence decisions - team

1. Prioritise conversation over communication

Communication is one-way; conversation is two-way.

A rewarding conversation is one where we have both given and received. And when people learn how to talk things through constructively, their sense of influence goes up! We often find that team leaders spend more time worrying about how to communicate something, rather than how to facilitate a good quality, time-bound conversation about the issue at hand.

Try framing your team challenges as conversations so that everyone can be involved in solving them. This approach will capture the different knowledge and approaches held within the team to shape the direction of travel you take.

2. Work out what you can influence

In his book on the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey distinguishes between your:

  • “Circle of Concern” - all the things you care about
  • “Circle of Influence” - all the things you can have an influence over

Typically, we’d like to change some things that are out of our control, but spending too much time thinking about things outside of our Circle of Influence is a waste of energy. It will drain us.

So, next time you're talking around an issue in your team, start listing all the factors relating to it that concern you. One concern; one sticky note. Draw one large circle around all the things that concern you.

Next, collect together all the sticky notes that speak to concerns your team can influence. Draw a smaller circle around the things you can do something about.

Now steer your energy and the conversation towards those things you can influence - as individuals and as a team.

In the short-term, you'll find this a more rewarding space to work within. In the medium to long-term it'll enhance your performance. This is because a focus on what you can change will mean:

  1. You'll make effective changes so other people will begin to view you and your team as effective, which will increase your influence
  2. You'll learn more about how far your circle of influence extends, which will shape how you form partnerships and alliances with people who have the power to influence more of what concerns you

With time, your Circle of Influence will grow.

3. Distribute leadership in the team

Leadership is an activity; not a role or position. It's not about a corner office, a fancy chair at the table, or even a title. It's about energising and motivating people; it's about building capacitities for change and improvement.

One we recognise this about leadership, we are freer to explore who is going to envision, motivate and steward a particular team goal. It doesn't need to be the case that the team leader leads everything; instead we can create opportunities for each other to lead, so leadership is shared and more collaborative.

To begin work distributing leadership within the team, begin asking each other about where and how they lead in other areas of their life (e.g., in the family, in the community, with friend groups).

  • Where have you exercised your leadership muscles lately?
  • How do you lead? What works? What feels comfortable? What doesn't?
  • What strategies have you found helpful when leading from below?
  • What new things have you learned about each other which you can apply to share leadership responsibilities across the team?
  • When you think about the culture of the organization as a whole, which responsibilities should your team leader retain?

Once you get distributed leadership working, you'll notice greater energy in the team. You'll reduce decision-making bottlenecks and raise levels of competency within and between people. These capactities will reduce frustrations and enhance team performance.

4. Craft your job

Researchers at Yale University have found that those who craft their jobs report higher levels of work satisfaction. Those who job craft typically tweak three things:

  • They craft the tasks that comprise a job – e.g. how they order the tasks they have to do
  • They craft the relationships and interactions of the job – e.g. investing in the people that bring them joy while helping execute their work
  • They craft how they think about the job – e.g. writing inspirational job titles which goes on to affect what they get out of their work

Most of us have the freedom to do one or more of the above. To a certain extent the scope of our role is defined by our own interests and energies. Whether we think of ourselves in the same role as a ""housekeeper in a hospital"" or a ""healer in the house of hope"" can make all the difference to how we go about our work. Who we build relationships with affects how inspired we feel and the level of support we receive.

Think of job crafting as a gentle bending of the rules and subtle changes to what we emphasise and incorporate into our day to day working lives. The important thing is to remember that these changes elevate the meaning we derive from work, and this sense of meaning energises us to do the core of our work with greater commitment.

5. Start with trust

If your score is lower than you'd like for Influence Decisions it may be worth taking a step back to consider how trust is experienced within the team. To raise the level of influence experienced over work is a form of trust.

We often think about people needing to build trust or earn it before we grant them more influence, when oftentimes it's the leap of faith that is the real hallmark of trust. Rachel Botsman describes trust as a confident engagement with the unknown. If we always have to know how things will work out, then we're not trusting.

It's also true that psychological safety helps us to trust. In the workplace, expectations provide that safety. They help us understand what our working relationships are about. They let us know how to show up for others. They guide our behaviour when trust is breached. And they help us rebuild trust by providing a framework through which we can acknowledge the impact a breach of trust has had.

The more explicit you can be about the expectations you have of one another, the more you can protect and nuture trust.

As a team, consider:

  • What expectations do we have of one another, which we talk about?
  • What expectations do we have of one another, which we don't talk about?

Then think about whether you can use your expectations as a framework for gifting each other more influence over what is done and the way it is done.