A key skill relevant to leaders at all levels is the ability to positively influence people in such a way that others follow you and act willingly —as opposed to complying because of the “authority” you hold from the organisation. We discussed this last week as we reviewed how we should flex our preferred social style to work with the preferred styles of others to positively influence them towards change.
Although I was not adept at influencing skills, I came to realise that influence without authority is an essential life skill and is constantly at play in the workplace. Let’s look at some of the most important things you can do to build on this core skill set to your business leading advantage. Last we looked at different types of social style this time we’ll look at how to build credibility and influence.
Develop your personal credibility
There are two types of influencing power in business—positional and personal. The first is related to the role you hold within an organisation the second is related to the personal relationships you have with others and how you can use this to influence them. While the use of positional power (and the inherent threat this may pose) is sometimes necessary, an overuse of it will quickly erode your level of personal power, leading to a dictatorial style of leadership.
Greater personal power can be developed by focusing in two areas:
Relationships: People tend to have an easier time adopting ideas of people they like and respect. So look for ways to build relationships at every turn. Use your ability to link with people’s social styles to build credibility with them. Attend to the little things that matter to some people> Apologize to people if you have wronged them. Don’t forget what you have promised and deliver it willingly and un-reminded. Recognise others positively and publicly for what they do and who they are. And do all this in a natural way so as not to call attention to your seeking to influence others. Be mindful that people will always seek to understand what motivates you to build relationships. Ensure this motivation is positive for the individuals and the organisation and not purely about selfish success.
Expertise: Before people will adopt your ideas, they need to believe that you are credible, that you know what you are doing and saying and can be relied on to do the right things in the right way. So do your homework, get the facts, talk to the experts and do whatever you can to learn about all parts of the organization, not just your own. Put together credible presentations highlighting the benefits to the whole organisation about how change is essential for everyones success.
Positive relationships and a reputation for skilled expertise when aligned together will enable you to build long-lasting trusted relationships and facilitate your ability to influence others.
Learn to Pass the microphone
We are born with one mouth and two ears – a good influencer uses them in that proportion. If you are do all the talking, do not be surprised if people do not adopt your ideas. So what should you do?
Use more active listening skills. Don’t assume that you know where people are coming from (and even if you do know what their ideas are encourage them to share these ideas) – make it your job to find out and show them explicitly that you understand them (even if you do not agree), which leads on to the next point…
Speak to what you hear not what you assume you hear. Unless you are a brilliantly insightful and persuasive influencer, your persuasion will typically require a number of different occasions to persuade each individual, and each persuasion needs to be both better aimed and have more and more appropriate information than the last engagement to move people through their journey to accept change. You do this by adapting your pitch according to what you hear. For example, if they are worried about the investment required, then show how it will lead to a greater return, or find a way that costs less.
You may not think of yourself as a salesperson. However, if your role is to influence others in a significant way you need to employ many of the same sales skills. It is not complicated, but takes mindfulness and careful thought, particularly when under stress and pressure. This approach can greatly increase the odds of getting your good ideas adopted.