I’m working more and more on assisting companies improve their skills of persuasion, inside their organisations.
This is definitely a key skill relevant to leaders at all levels. 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- is more and more sought after. In this new series of the forth coming weeks i’ll introduce a series of concepts to assist you influence others.
I have taken a surprisingly commercial approach to this topic. I approach this as a marketer and thinking about marketing ideas inside an organisation, rather than as an organisational psychologist.
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 week, as its the start we’ll explore how individuals are influenced, the journey they take as they start to understand the implications of change.
Take people on an educational, emotional journey
In the most direct link between the psychology of change and marketing skills; the process or journey people take as you influence them is very similar to the journey people go on as they buy anything, a car, an ice cream or an idea… the idea of change. We change companies one person at a time, and all people have to go through a process of being “sold” the idea of change. We have to ensure they are aware of their own need for change. That the idea we are promoting can address this need and make them and the business better.
Typically people start out in an unaware state. They are unaware of both the need for change and their role in that change. With whom we start the influence and persuasion should mirror the informal networks within the organisation. You should initiate your persuasion amongst those people closest to you who are most receptive to your ideas and then use their social networks to persuade others. From here, consider working upwards and outwards inside the organisational hierarchy again using personal networks to encourage people to be more receptive to change ideas.
As we approach these unaware colleagues, its best to assume that they are all potential allies, see them in a potentially positive light. At no stage should you prejudge your views or feelings of them. To trigger their awareness you need to create a strong reason for them to take notice. A way that identifies the solid reasons in support of change as well as signalling the positive motivations to accepting the change. Its not a whim; its a business necessity.
Having triggered this awareness, our role in the journey is to provide the logical reasoning and psychological support to enable people to come round to your way of thinking.
We need to ensure these reasons are couched in the style behaviours of the recipient (as mentioned elsewhere). We do this by diagnosing their world- to find out what their worries and fears and motivations are and by identifying credible ways we can influence their views. What currencies can we trade to persuade the person to accept these views and come on board in favour of the change. We do this by providing strong and credible data in a style way appreciated by our individual target audience.
Then as people move towards taking interest in the change movement and in the arguments in its favour we reinforce that the decision they are making is a right one. We do this by linking well within the organisations informal networks to get the right people aligned. They are not alone in making this decision and that the people they admire or are allied with or who work for all support these views (or at least are not against them). We influence these views by give and take using available and appreciated currencies.
Lastly, as people make their minds up we try to make the new changed behaviour natural by gaining a long term commitment to the new behaviour, the new thinking.
So as we take one person though this journey
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.