Do you know why you buy a certain newspaper, vote a certain way or buy a certain product or brand? Most of us don’t pay attention to why we hold certain beliefs or behave a certain way – we go about our day completely unaware of why we do what we do.
Daniel Pink is the author of several New York Times bestselling books on business, creativity, and behavioural science. In his book ‘To Sell is Human’ he suggests that regardless of what people do and what their job title is, people are fundamentally selling and influencing every day. His research shows that we spend 40% of every hour, day, week, and month on selling and influencing someone – that’s a good chunk of our time.
But in the workplace, your title alone may not be enough to persuade others. To be effective in business you must be able to influence those around you. Whether you are the founder, CEO, board member or an employee, influence is the key to solving problems.
With constant distraction and information overload, the ability to influence is harder than ever, so how can we break through the noise?
Our ability to influence and consequently be influenced both in and out of the workplace is happening all the time. Every connection and interaction we make has an influence on us, but getting someone to do something because they choose to do so, vs them doing it through control or manipulation is very different. This is where authentic leadership comes in as a valuable tool in building healthy sustainable businesses of all size and industry. Authentic leaders demonstrate self-awareness, transparency and integrity – they build trust that inspires and motivates collaboration and inclusion.
Given their family system, family-owned businesses are distinctly different from other organisations. Whilst public companies are largely owned by its investors, family businesses are owned by people who are related to each other. Issues that exist in the workplace aren’t left in the workplace, but instead bleed into the family home too. The shaping of the company is therefore largely influenced by the relationships members have with each other, and is why adopting a governance model that prioritises relational safety through authentic leadership is so valuable. Authentic leadership is especially helpful in family firms where familial relationships and business relationships are intertwined, and can build a fair and trusting environment for a smooth succession process. Successful leaders are highly effective influencers – they have the ability to motivate, energise teams and are the definition of authentic leadership.
Here are some key principles that family business leaders can cultivate their ability to influence.
1. Adopting an authentic leadership approach that focuses on people, values and ethics instead of traditional leadership styles that focus on profits and productivity. Authentic leaders demonstrate transparency, self-awareness, empathy, and emotional intelligence. The nuances that are specific to family firms are delicate which is why authentic leadership provides a pathway for successful succession and longevity.
2. Embrace the duality of influence through a combination of Transactional and Transformational leadership. Transactional leadership is a direct authority led style based on reinforcement and rewards to motivate and direct followers, whereas transformational leadership inspires and motivates others by paying close attention to individual needs. When used in combination, both styles can engage and influence others positively.
3. We are all familiar with ‘The honeymoon phase’ in the early stages of a relationship. It feels carefree and joyous and is a useful analogy when describing the early stages of building a team. In this early phase and especially in family businesses, a premature kind of trust dominates as an informal governance structure, yet overtime families suffer from weakened emotional bonds as different working styles, beliefs, and values begin to surface. Including an emotional governance framework in the firm provides a solid foundation for lasting trust to be built.
4. Show, don’t tell. Influence is about leading by example and by modeling the behaviour you want to see in others. Transparency, morality and integrity are powerful influencers for both family and non-family employees in navigating tough processes such as succession.
5. Start with you. Ask yourself why…not how. Just because you always did something one way, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t an alternative perspective. Get to know your own strengths and weaknesses and identify how you cope with success, failure, and setbacks. Once you know yourself, you have the capacity to show compassion and empathy towards others. Respecting the thoughts views and opinions of those around you are fundamental qualities of influential leaders, Founders and NextGens.
Influence is complex – its long history has evolved over time to become big business only adding to the complications. But to influence authentically, you need to become curious about yourself – about who and what you are, and how you want to show up in the world. Above all though remember – what influences you, also influences the family and the firm, so make your influence be a positive one that lasts for generations to come.