“They do that by helping executives and managers navigate and thrive in this complex, ambiguous and ever-shifting environment,” said Michelle Gibbings, founder and director of consultancy Change Meridian.
“This means they are immersed in designing and executing the organisation’s strategic agenda. They have a seat at the decision making table as they are involved early in the strategic planning process.”
However, the ability to be influential is not a skill that most HR practitioners exhibit, she said. The good news is this is a talent which can be built up, rather than something innate within us.
“It is a skill that is learned. However, it takes effort, practice and a willingness to change.”
Firstly, it is important to focus internally, she said.
“If a person wants influence they need to take the time to understand themselves. This is because being more influential is less about other people and more about the individual.”
She suggested examining the mindset you apply to your work and relationships and taking time to understand the triggers behind certain thoughts and behaviours. Your mindset will ultimately shape how you think, react and act.
“If a person lets pre-conceived ideas and assumptions drive their thought process it easily leads to poor decision making and ineffective interactions with colleagues and stakeholders,” she said. “Influential people understand this, are aware of their triggers and reactions (at any given moment), so they can consciously reflect and respond wisely.”
Overall, influential leaders know that the way they treat people – regardless of hierarchy – affects how they are noticed within the organisation and how their leadership brand is defined.
“They act with integrity and build collaborative partnerships with the people around them. They understand that organisational dynamics are different today (and into the future) and that to be successful it is less about hierarchy and more about building constructive networks.”
Since hierarchies can quickly shift, influential leaders will also be aware that the individuals they work with and rely on can change in a heartbeat.
“Consequently, they take a long term view of relationships. A manager who ignores and mistreats people who are currently in less powerful or important positions does so at their longer-term peril,” Gibbings said.
Instead, it is better to develop relationships built on trust and mutual respect, she added. These types of relationships will be enduring, purposeful and successful – and will be relationships which can ultimately propel the HR professional’s career forward.
If conversations or interactions go astray while cultivating these relationships, it is usually because the other person feels they haven’t been heard or their needs haven’t been met.
“Taking the time to really listen to the other person makes them feel valued, and ultimately heard,” Gibbings said. “Taking this approach makes it much easier to build strong and long-lasting relationships with a wide variety of people – and this is crucial for influence.”
By deftly adapting to the evolving nature of work, HR professionals who are truly influential play a critical role in shaping how these trends impact the organisation.