One of the core skills that leaders need today is the ability to influence. Back in the day, an autocratic style of leadership was the norm; however, no leader who wants to take her or his team forward will get far with this strategy anymore.
Leading teams requires a different skill set with influence at its core. The ability to influence others is a critical competency frequently identified in all top performers; not only the leaders of a team.
Learning to increase your ability to influence others will make a big difference to both your personal career success and the results your team deliver too.
Before we start to share the vital influencing strategies to master, let’s take a step back and view this topic holistically.
Influence as a competency is the ability to affect the character, development, or behaviour of someone or something, and it’s important to remember that influence can be both positive and negative too.
Remember influence has its foundation in communication and no matter what we might think we are always communicating.
In a workplace setting influence and organisational awareness go hand in hand, understanding who the key decision makers are, where the power base sits and, critically who holds it, will allow you to be strategic in your influencing approach.
Seth Godin the New York Times best-selling author and award-winning blogger consistently shares the message that human beings are desperate to be both led and inspired to a cause they can, ‘buy into’.
In a previous post about what our employees truly want, we shared how engaged our teams are, and being inspirational is a positive way to motivate a team towards new behaviours.
Being inspirational is a vehicle to encourage others to accomplish a shared goal by appealing to
their values, beliefs and emotions.
Though being inspirational isn’t the most common influencing strategy, it has incredible power.
Interestingly the more you understand your team’s drivers, the more successful you will be with your inspiration strategy, as they already see you as a trusted advisor, so your suggestions are more likely to be actioned too.
Historically being flexible wasn’t always something leaders embraced! My way or the high way and all that: However, we now live in very different times.
The World Wide Web, availability of anything we want at the click of a mouse, and more choice than we can comprehend, fosters the flexible approach.
I started my career in a scientific organisation, not surprising with a degree in Chemistry. Consequently, over the years I have coached and trained many individuals on the technical spectrum.
I admit it; I am a data freak too, and logic does play a part in many of my decisions. I am also aware that logic and reasoning as an influencing strategy is standard practice too.
Do not limit yourself to your preferred influencing trait. Many leaders rely too much on reasoning, i.e. the use of facts, stats and logical arguments to influence others.
It’s the most frequently used tactic, and it can be useful. However, sometimes it falls short because sometimes rational arguments just ‘ain’t gonna work’ in a situation.
This is especially so when it’s emotionally charged, and the impact of a change might hit your employees at a values level.
Being Consistently Influential
Change rarely happens overnight, and if you think that deploying one influencing strategy a couple of times will deliver what you want, you will be sorely disappointed.
In his book, The Psychology of Influence and Persuasion, Professor Robert Cialdini highlights six specific influencing strategies available to every human being on the planet.
One of the most critical is commitment and consistency; please remember influencing is not a single-point event; its power lies in delivery over time.
If you wait for the point in time where you need to influence someone to start to establish your credibility and build a relationship, you’re a little late. If anything, you risk losing credibility and consequently any influence you might have too.
Being a Fabulous Communicator
Though influence is often identified as one aspect of communication, being a great communicator is a foundational element of any individual who is recognised as being influential.
Let’s face facts: if you don’t ask great questions or listen to the response and alter your response accordingly, you’ll never get off the starting line when it comes to being an influential leader.
Influence is always based on a two-way conversation. It’s not about suggesting a different tack or approach and expecting a team or individual to jump with joy and say; “of course let’s do it, why didn’t I think of that before?”
Considering this two-way approach, it’s essential to:
- Use open and closed questions to gain understanding
- ….. and consult and collaborate.
Influencing should never happen in isolation. As a leadership coach and facilitator, I have learnt over time that successful influence occurs when you also are willing to be influenced too.
This is where a consultative and collaborative approach is vital if you truly want to ‘be influential’.
Asking another person to suggest improvements or help plan a proposed activity can make all the difference between influencing working or not; and after all, we all want the best result possible don’t, we?
Combine this with a collaborative style, and you will take your influencing to a new level.
About blue pea POD
At blue pea POD, we are in the business of enabling leaders and organisations understand who they are, their identity and purpose, creating the profitable future they desire now.
Blue Pea POD works internationally with a client base that includes the FMCG, Retail, and Pharmaceuticals sectors. You can subscribe to our podcast here and then if you would like to find out more about how we can help you get in contact here. Or call +44(0) 845 123 1280