The power of influence – how to get what you want in the workplace

Julia Nickless

By Julia Nickless

09 Jan 2015

No matter which position you hold within your organisation, the need to influence others is a daily occurrence for us all. Many of us have experienced the frustration of having our ideas shot down or a request refused by our key stakeholders; whether this is by our manager, a potential client to whom we are pitching our products or services, by another internal department, or for managers and business leaders, by 'the powers that be.'

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So how can we reduce the likelihood of our ideas being met with a 'no?' In order to answer this lets first consider why it is influencing is so important and why we need to be good at it:

  • If you work for a large organisation, this means lots of relationships with lots of departments. Success in your role often relies on the activities and delivery of others, so getting their buy in will mean the difference between a bumpy road or a soft landing.
  • Do you manage a team of people? Times are changing – you will have noticed that it’s not enough anymore to simply instruct your team to perform a task; it requires a skilled influencer and leader to persuade their team members to be committed and motivated not only to perform the tasks, but to do it to the best of their ability. With this comes flexibility within your approach to get the best out of each individual.
  • Do you work within a volatile environment where conflicts have the ability to escalate? A skilled influencer will be able to manage situations to prevent escalations of conflict using a balance of both empathy and assertiveness to maintain the peace.
  • Are you an executive who requires buy in on a senior level to drive for results? Successfully influencing your senior contacts will keep them on side to support your ideas as well as maintain your reputation.
  • Does your life revolve around meeting after meeting? Influencing your audience will allow your messages to be well received and bought into to achieve success. Without this your messages may get lost in translation.

The examples above show that our ability to influence affects the whole spectrum of the organisation; so how do we effectively influence these people to increase the likelihood of our requests and ideas being bought into and met with a 'yes?'

We are providing you with the top ten things skilled influencers actually do – try it for yourself.

1. They don't use irriators

Certain words and phrases irritate other people such as "we've always done it this way," "it's up to the powers that be," or "at the end of the day."

2. They don't use counter proposals

Introducing these too early when the original idea has not been discussed - these complicate and confuse the other party.

3. They don't use defend and attack spirals

Emotional behaviour such as, "you cannot be serious," or attacks others, "you really are being very petty about this."

4. They use argument dilution

The smart influencer thinks of one single persuasive reason whereas the poor influencer chooses three to five giving the other person the opportunity to dispute the weakest of the many reasons.

5. They avoid surprises

People don't like surprises. Skilled influencers give advance warning of what they are about to say, "I know that you are busy at the moment but we need to talk about deadlines, is now a good time to do so?"

6. They use testing, understanding and summarising

Testing checks to establish whether a previous statement has been understood. Summarising is a compact re-statement of several previous points.

7. They seek information

Skilled influencers seek out more information than the average influencer by asking more quality questions.

8. They are touch on tasks, soft on people

This means adopting rigorous problem solving techniques whilst being very supportive of the person’s feelings. Separate the people from the problem.

9. They use objective criteria

Skilled influencers when they have agreed a way forward agree on a small number of success criteria that will measure the idea that you have both agreed.

10. They include feelings commentary

Research shows that skilled influencers are more likely to give information about their feelings than average influencers. For example, "I accept your information in good faith, but I feel uncomfortable about one or two aspects. Can I share these with you?" The work of psychologists such as Carl Rogers has shown that the expression of feelings is directly linked to the establishment of trust.

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