How to Influence Others at Work: 7 Tips from Paul Saunders, Founder of James River Capital

James River Capital - How to Influence Others

In the workplace, we all start somewhere. And most of us would like to advance to a more prominent, higher-paying position.

To achieve your career goals—whether your goal is recognition, a leadership position, more responsibility, and/or more money—you must begin by influencing those around you. You need other people in your workplace to view you as responsible, motivated, reliable, and skilled.

In this article, we’ll hear from Paul Saunders, the CEO of James River Capital Corp., on his top seven tips for influencing others at work.

7 Tips on Influencing Others at Work

The following seven guidelines have served Paul Saunders well throughout his career, and they can work for you, too.

1. Make connections.

In the race to the top, people often focus on trying to develop close relationships with their managers or higher-ups. There’s nothing wrong with this approach, but it’s important to also connect with your coworkers.

Talk to those around you, treat them with kindness and respect, and find common ground. As you build relationships, others in your office will be more likely to bring you in on a project or listen to your ideas. You’ll create a positive reputation that won’t go unnoticed by those in leadership positions—and that coworkers who get promoted to leadership roles won’t forget.

It sounds simple, but as Paul Saunders says, just making friends can often be a great foundation for your career

2. Demonstrate leadership qualities.

leadership qualities - James River CapitalIf you want to be seen as a future leader at your company, you must demonstrate leadership qualities. Show up on time, meet your deadlines, take notes and be attentive in meetings, dress professionally, and so on. Be confident and decisive, and don’t involve yourself in office gossip or negativity.

Behave as if you’re already a leader who’s looked to as a role model, and you’re more likely to become one.

3. Develop expertise.

Paul Saunders advises that if someone doesn’t already have an official title of influence within their company, they should take the chance to become an expert in a relevant skill.

Get additional credentials and take more classes. Read books, listen to podcasts, and subscribe to blogs related to a skill you’re trying to develop. Attend conferences and enroll in webinars.

This accomplishes a few things: It shows your boss that you take initiative, that you’re passionate about the work you do, and that you’re continuously trying to better your skills. And as you develop expertise, your coworkers will seek you out when they need help. When others are always looking for you, you naturally stand out.

In addition to helping your coworkers, Saunders says, you should teach them. While this may seem counterproductive, it is not because you will be perceived as someone that is always willing to help others and better the organization, as a whole. Being “we” focused instead of “I” focused is a quality that can help you advance in the workplace.

4. Go above and beyond.

Doing the bare minimum, even if you do it well, will not help you gain influence or promotion. Be the first to volunteer for new projects or to take on additional responsibilities. Show up for optional meetings or professional development opportunities and contribute new ideas whenever possible.

Volunteering even without being asked, and even when there’s no immediate expectation of reward or payment, will make a lasting impression. This demonstrates that you want success for your company and your coworkers, not just yourself. By seeking and taking advantage of these opportunities, your name will come to mind when it’s time to promote.

5. Hone your listening kills.

Listening is an extremely helpful tool in learning how to influence others. Not only do people appreciate good listeners, but you can also gather important information when you truly listen to others. As Paul Saunders explains, you’ll discover what others need and value.

You can use this information to present your ideas in a way that makes others more receptive. You’ll also gain a reputation as someone who is helpful, intuitive, and gives good advice.

In addition, developing a genuine interest in other people and what they say is a guaranteed way to make friends and form important connections. As you learn about your coworkers’ interests, ask questions about the topics they’re passionate about and be willing to discuss them. Showing interest in other people is a much faster route to friendship and influence than trying to get people to develop interest in you.

6. Take charge.

If you have an idea that will improve some aspect of the business, don’t wait to get everyone on board. Map it out and volunteer to take on the most challenging parts. This shows that you don’t shy away from the challenges of leadership and, like a true leader, you’re constantly thinking of innovative ways to take your business to the next level.

7. Make people feel important.

make people feel important - James River CapitalIn the classic guide How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie emphasizes treating people well and making them feel important.

This includes remembering names and addressing people by name, which is “to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language,” according to Carnegie. Smile at people, praise them, and be forgiving rather than criticizing or complaining.

Your skills and resume will get you in the door, but charm and social skills will keep you around and help you secure advancement. It’s simple: People want to work with people they like. By the same token, people are more willing to listen to your ideas, help you, and give you opportunities if they feel appreciated by you.


Influencing others sounds like a complex task, but it can be achieved with seven simple strategies:

  • Make connections
  • Demonstrate leadership qualities
  • Develop expertise
  • Go above and beyond
  • Hone your listening skills
  • Take charge
  • Make people feel important

You may have noticed that many of these strategies are connected. Winning influence in the workplace is all about treating others with respect and becoming well-liked, demonstrating dedication and commitment to the well-being of your company, and showing that you have what it takes to be a successful leader.

With help from these strategies, Paul Saunders turned his passion for finance into a position as the successful founder and CEO of James River Capital. If you diligently apply these same strategies, you can influence those around you and rise to prominence in your field too.

Paul Saunders

Paul Saunders is the founder, chairman, and Chief Executive Officer of James River Capital Corp. and affiliated companies. Inspired by his lifelong passion for finance, Saunders graduated from the University of Virginia with a B.A. and from the University of Chicago with an M.B.A.

He began his career in investment banking but soon switched to investment and trading, which he viewed as more merit-based. Saunders’ career started at Warburg Paribas Becker with positions in the Corporate Finance Department, then at A.G. Becker in the Commodity Department.

Later, Saunders was the Director of Managed Accounts and Commodity Funds at Kidder, Peabody, and Co. before becoming President of KP Futures Management Corp. Saunders eventually acquired the firm, changing the name to James River Capital Corp. He has held his current position since 1995.

Saunders and his wife of 39 years, Vicki, are passionate about philanthropy, leading them to regularly support charitable organizations. The couple also recently launched their own charity, the Saunders Family Foundation.

James River Capital

James River Capital Corp. was founded in 1986 as the alternative investment department of Kidder, Peabody, & Co. Less than ten years later, in 1995, Paul Saunders and Kevin Brandt acquired the firm from Kidder, transforming the company into an independent investment firm.

James River Capital is based in Richmond, Virginia. The firm is registered as an Investment Advisor with the SEC and as a Commodity Trading Advisor and Commodity Pool Operator with the CFTC.

The firm provides expertise in corporate credit, equity strategies, global macroeconomic strategies, fixed income arbitrage, multi-strategy investing, managed futures trading, asset-backed securities, and more.


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