Influence is the ability to sway opinion and the commensurate behavior towards the results you want. You are looking to be a compelling force on or produce effects on the actions, behavior, opinions, of others. It is a technique with a good motive (vis-à-vis manipulation) and it is used to create commitment, not compliance or conflict.
Why is Influence Important?
Influence is increasingly important. The old “command-and-control” method of leadership is no longer effective. In the current environment of accelerating change, the demands and challengers are too much for individuals and their teams to cope with by themselves. The level of skills, knowledge and expertise required to manage the volatility and complexity of the current business environment are not sufficient. We are increasingly working in situations where we lack formal authority, often having to work with and collaborate with extended and virtual teams both within and outside the business. In these situations, to lead effectively, you need to be able to work through and with others to leverage their expertise and experience. In short, to lead you need to influence not to control. Counter-intuitively, the more power you give away the greater your influence, the more effectively you can work. Even senior leaders have to learn how to lead up, down and sideways.
Real influence isn’t just about getting what you want; it’s also about making sure that the people who matter to you get what they want. In doing this you need to connect with other people. This is where influence differs from power, with power it is just about getting what you want without being concerned with what others want. Power is one-way, influence is two-way; power is short-term, influence is long-term; power looks to get, influence looks to give; power seeks value, influence adds value. Influence creates connections and relationships, and these have a synergistic effect.
To influence you have to be influenceable, you have to have the mindset and attitude that your current position may not be totally or partially right. You are open to the ideas and perspectives of others, and look to build the relationship where you can work with them to achieve what you both want. If people don’t perceive you as influenceable when differences in opinion occur you will lose credibility and connection – and these underpin influence.
7 Key Steps for How to Influence Powerfully
|Step 1:||Determine who you are going to influence. Here you need to be specific as possible, name the names. Also be clear as to how they relate to you. For example, are they a boss, a peer or a subordinate of yours? You need to be aware of this as this affects how you look to influence others, and how they look to influence you.|
|Step 2:||Determine what it is that you are looking to change. Be clear on what the current situation is and what you want it to look like in the future?
The Current Situation
In looking at the current situation ask yourself the following questions:
The Future Situation
Start by asking: In order to improve our existing situation, what must people actually do? Be clear and specific. For example, a behavioural goal of “better communication” is too vague. A better goal is “For people to understand how their work, roles and responsibilities affect others in the team and the flow of work”.
|Step 3:||What are the few key vital behaviors which, if you focus on, will drive significant change? You will identify a number of behaviors, however only a few of them can be effectively acted on. What are the key vital behaviors which will have the greatest impact for you? If you try to do too much you will spread your efforts too thinly and will fail, so focus on those few where you can excel and make a positive difference.|
|Step 4:||Look for the “bright spots” – these are examples of how the few key vital behaviors have been successfully applied to produce the desired change. Look out for these and how you can replicate and communicate them so you can leverage them effectively.|
|Step 5:||Help people to choose the vital behaviors for themselves – in doing this you need to consider two factors:
|Step 5:||Demonstrate the behavior – having identified those vital behaviors which are worthwhile to people, and which they can adopt, they now need to understand how to behave if they see someone “doing” the behavior, rather than being told how they are expected to behave which can be open to interpretation. This speeds up the uptake of the right behaviors, and improves understanding of both how to behave and not to behave.|
|Step 6:||Create powerful frames, use strong stories – in doing this you are looking to move them from listening to what is said into the experience itself. You are moving them from thinking about it to evoking feelings in them about it. Logic makes people think, emotions make people act. The stories need to be visual, memorable and easy to repeat without losing the context or the messages. This helps to build empathy which feels as real as enacting the actual behavior itself.|
|Step 7:||Build and adapt the influence strategies you use – the strategies you need to use will vary with your objectives, the context of your situation, who you are trying to influence, and what and how you need emphasize in influencing others over time. As such your blend of influencing strategies will evolve and adapt.|
Next time you are looking to influence people to achieve a certain goal or outcome use this process to help you plan and implement a suitable influence strategy.
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