A key skill relevant to leaders at all levels is the ability to positively influence people in such a way that others seek to follow you and act willingly —as opposed to complying with your orders because of the “authority” you hold from the organisation. We discussed this last week as we reviewed how we could build personal credibility and encourage others to influence change positively through letting others talk.
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. This time, taking on a more marketing skill style of approach I’d like to focus on the role of emotional appeal.
Yes, you need to Appeal to emotion
Logical types often forget that influencing requires more than just a facts marshalled into a good argument. I believe you need to appeal to a person’s emotions when attempting to influence them, especially if you are trying to trigger awareness of deep seated issues. This is not to endorse a strictly emotional appeal, but to encourage a balanced approach that brings genuine connectivity to the conversation. So how can i assist you to build a more emotional connection?
Be authentic: Speak from your heart (don’t read from a script) and don’t hide your agenda (they will “smell” that something is hidden).
Use effective body language: Effective eye contact, appropriate facial expressions, posture and even dress can convey more than you think and encourage people to appraise your views positively.
Share compelling stories: Facts and figures aside, stories are what people remember most and they create a closer connection in any conversation—especially those in which you are seeking to build support. While emotions are vital, avoid relying on emotional layered generalizations such “customers are complaining” or “employees are unhappy” and tell a real story with real characters to build real support.
Stress benefits over features
Again, from a marketing perspective, we need to think of our audience as buying our ideas. And to be sold effectively, go beyond explaining the ‘what’ of your wants and focus on the ‘why’—and the benefits to your audience. The language you use is key to your results.
Don’t re-iterate the features of your plan and expect people to change their opinion. Instead, keep speaking to “why is that important?” and the core benefits revealed will prove more persuasive.
Be sure to convey benefits that are meaningful to the other party and how your idea will create more value than it costs them in time and effort to change their behaviour. If your idea links to a key organizational strategy (for example “improving customer service”), then make the link explicit using a compelling story—don’t assume others will make the link themselves- they won’t.
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 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.