Mastering the Art of Influencing
Influencing others is something that you probably do every day, but you may not think that much about it. The simple definition of influence is to move someone to take an action without telling them to do so. Other words often used are aligning, persuading, engaging or inspiring. You are either influencing others or they are influencing you all the time.
There are so many things influencing us on a daily basis. People, places, conversations and information that we hear and see all have the ability to influence us into taking action. Advertisements are an example of influence. They are trying to influence you to buy a product or make a decision about something the advertisers are selling. You will see advertisements everywhere and sometimes multiple times a day. These messages come in and challenge your beliefs, values, experiences and knowledge. You decide if you agree or disagree with the message and if you want to respond or ignore.
Influencing is a more subtle way of getting someone to do what you want vs. forcing them to do it. It isn’t a bad thing. It can be a very effective tool to use. Influencing can help you proactively move things forward that may be stuck.
Characteristics of a Good Influencer
People who are successful in organizations are good influencers. How do you know if you would be good at influencing others? There are certain characteristics that can help you be successful in this area:
- Trust — you need to be someone who has given trust in your relationships, which will encourage others to trust you. Once you have that foundation in place there is a better opportunity to leverage that trust to influence others.
- Credibility — are you someone who has established credibility and knowledge in certain areas? When you are trying to influence others, they will be more open to your suggestions and ideas if they are comfortable that you know your stuff.
- Consistency — do you follow through on things? Do you make decisions that you stick with or do you tend to flip flop? If people align with you on your outcome, then they want to be comfortable that you won’t change your mind.
- Vision — do you know what you want your final outcome to be? Can you address whatever objections that you may get from those that you are going to be influencing? Can you explain why they should be on board with your plan?
Influencing others can help you move forward with your ideas and plans with the support of your peers, management and stakeholders. Your reputation needs to be in a good place and your behavior needs to demonstrate consistency. It is important that you have the above traits and show up with them each and every day, not just on the day of the influencing conversation.
Planning for a Successful Influencing Conversation
Have you ever thought of how many people that you have the opportunity to influence each day? According to the Center for Creative Leadership, the average person could influence over 100 people each day. That may seem like a really high number, but just imagine every person that you come into contact with throughout the day. How will you show up for these interactions?
You could have the opportunity to educate someone on a topic that you are passionate about and will need their support on. Learn more about them during a conversation including their background and experiences which can be useful information to have. All of this can help you understand what the other person’s position is on a situation which helps you plan out how to best influence them.
If you want to have a successful influencing conversation, you need to be intentional about the outcome that you want to achieve and plan for it. This is especially true if you are new to influencing and need some guidance.
Here are 5 things to think about when planning your next influencing conversation and some questions to help you prepare:
What is Your Outcome?
- What do you want to accomplish during this conversation?
Who do you want to influence?
- Who are the people that you need to influence to attain the outcome?
What is important to them?
- What are their priorities and goals?
- Does this fit in with their plans?
- What questions will they raise regarding this topic?
What is your ask from them?
- What do you want them to do to help you?
- Are you looking for their support in a meeting?
- Do you need their feedback?
- Do you need them to make a decision?
How do you want the conversation to go?
- Do you have a way to break the ice and build rapport?
- What questions will you ask?
- Are you prepared to actively listen?
- Do you have answers prepared for the most likely concerns?
There may be multiple people that you need to influence to reach a successful outcome so be proactive to build support for your plans. Practice these conversations so that you are confident and ready when you are in front of the right people. Plan for whatever questions or objections that they may have to your ideas. All of this preparation will set you up for influencing success and help you to achieve your goal.
You will also need to consider what influencing approach will work the best. You could leverage logic, emotion or collaboration to influence the discussion to reach your intended outcome. One thing to keep in mind is that it is important to influence with the larger objective of the company in mind, not just to be the one to win or be right. Present the full picture of pros/cons, cost benefits and why you feel it is beneficial to them to align with you. The goal is to have a win/win outcome for everyone whenever possible.
Influential conversations are happening around you everyday. Influencing is an important skill to master in every area of your life. Pay attention to the people who influence you. What can you learn from them to help you grow?
Sue Barber is the founder of Susan M. Barber Coaching and Consulting. She works with mid to senior level leaders on employee engagement, team development, executive presence and strategic planning. For more information on her coaching and consulting services, visit www.susanmbarber.com.