As a manager, are you leading a team or people in a team? Many managers view the people in their team as merely resources to get the job done. When asked to describe their teams, they rattle off job functions instead of names.

When you rely primarily on your authority as a manager to lead your team, you may realise that more effort is required to monitor and follow up on your team to ensure that results are achieved.

The authoritarian style of management requires you to constantly exert pressure with your presence, or your commanding drive.

There is an easier, and more effective way of leadership — using your influence. And in the process, you will earn your team’s respect. 

An influential leader invests time to discover his team members’ motivations and challenges. By understanding what is important to a person, the leader adds value by helping that person overcome his obstacles.

This can be in the form of giving advice, sharing resources or connecting him with relevant people. The leader will be perceived as one who cares about his team members’ personal goals as much as the organisation’s goals.

When you align the priorities of your team member’s personal goals with organisational targets, you set the foundation for a motivated, high-performing team.

The power of respect

Therefore, it is not authority, but the respect you earn that makes you an influential leader. People buy you first, before they buy your ideas and propositions.

Understand your team’s priorities and motivations. When you focus on helping people to achieve their goals, they will help you achieve yours. Your sphere of influence will expand naturally and powerfully.

You may wonder how you will find the time to get to know everyone in your team, especially when you are managing tens, hundreds or even thousands of people.

No matter how many people you manage in totality, there will be a smaller group of people who report directly to you, whom you need to influence most.

The key is to focus on these people first. Ensure that you invest time to get to know them, and they will in turn do the same for their teams.

Also, it is not how long you have known a person but the quality of conversation that determines the depth of the relationship. By investing a few minutes to regularly touch base with each of your key team members, you are well on your way to nurturing a deeper relationship with them.

Here’s how to enhance the quality of your conversations with your team:

* Work. Go beyond conversations focusing on work matters or problems at work. Expand your conversation to appreciate the relationship this person has with his work. For example, “How did you get started in this industry?”, “What motivated you to join this company?” or “What is the best thing about what you do?”

* Thoughts. Uncovering people’s thoughts involves asking open-ended questions to learn what makes them tick. You can ask, “What do you think about…?”, “I’d love to hear what you feel about…?”, or “Tell me….”

You will discover their interests, passions, priorities, life history, achievements and issues that they are for or against. This shows you are genuinely interested in them.

* Family. There is more to a person than his job and profession. When you take time to understand a team member’s background and family, you will uncover the underlying drivers that motivate him.

In the process, you may even discover you share a lot in common. This reinforces the feeling of kinship and trust. Realising that your colleague is also a caregiver to elderly parents or a mother with school-going children helps you better empathise with her.

People first

End with the influential question: “How can I help you?” In short, you need to make it about them first. People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.

Your key role as a leader is to break down obstacles that lower performance and motivation, so that your team members are free to be fully engaged. What is the end result? A highly motivated team, striving to perform at their best.