A few weeks ago, I had an interesting conversation with a new colleague when we met for the first time. As we discussed my role as the vice president of business planning, he asked how many people report to me. He was a bit surprised when I replied, “None.” In my position, I work with the leadership of each division and corporate team to help them create plans to meet their financial and strategic goals. But, none of them report to me.
That conversation made me think: Most of us lead people we don’t supervise every day, both in our jobs as marketers and as leaders of our SMPS chapters. In our day jobs, we work on proposal and business development teams that include staff from other departments. In our chapters, we lead volunteer teams that do the work to keep our chapters strong.
Often, people without staff can display leadership skills better than many who are managers or supervisors. Leadership is not about a title or how many people report to you. Leadership is about influence. So, what can we do to influence others at work and in our chapters and become better leaders?
Build a relationship. Take the time to build a personal relationship with your team. It’s hard to influence people if you don’t have a connection to them. Understanding their objectives and work styles will make communication easier. Sometimes people prioritize certain activities because of who’s involved instead of what’s involved.
Ask the right questions and embrace feedback. Asking clarifying questions is an effective technique for building consensus. Leaders can use questions to get others to change or come around to a different point of view. Asking questions is also a great way to get feedback. It gives your team members the chance to share their thoughts, ideas, and perspectives. It’s then up to you to listen and then act on those great ideas.
Share and teach then delegate and empower. When you’re helping others, it can be easier to do it yourself rather than show them how to do it. Instead, take the time to train them on how to do the task. Then hand that job over to them. Resist the urge to jump in and take over if something goes wrong. Problems can be good opportunities to continue to teach and support your team.
Stay positive, encourage others, and say thank you. Keep your focus on what can be done and not on what can’t. When you don’t like something, don’t complain about it. Instead, think of how you can fix it. Use your positivity to increase your influence. Lift the rest of your team members up and share the credit for great work. Remember to thank others for the good work they’re doing.
Each of us can make a difference in our firms and chapters even with people we don’t manage. Spend some time thinking about how you can exhibit some of these leadership traits and take your teams to the next level.
Barbara Stiles, FSMPS, CPSM, sits on the SMPS board of directors as secretary-treasurer and is vice president of business planning at WGI. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.