How good are you at influencing others? In this episode of Making Sense of Work, we'll explore the fundamental principles of influence and why it's essential in various aspects of life, from personal relationships to professional success. We'll discuss a three step strategy and seven ways you can influence effectively.
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Hi, everyone, and welcome to Making Sense of Work. How good are you at influencing others? Without even noticing it, we are influencing people all the time at many different points in our day. We are influencing. I mean, if you think about it, every time you want your two year old to go to bed, you're influencing or asking a colleague to work with you on a project. You're influencing, leading a team and you want them to work on a new system, you are influencing. And the thing is that most of us are not that great at it. We come to influencing knowing what we want and we simply try to convince the other person of that without really stopping to think about what they might want, their position in the situation and whether or not they are open to being influenced. And we're influencing at home, and we're influencing at work, and the landscape at work has changed. We've come over the last few decades from command and control organizations, where we believe that we could just tell people what to do, and that they would do it. Although, I would still argue that even in those situations we needed to influence, but now we're in a time of dispersed leadership, flat organizations, younger people wanting a different approach to leadership, and more and more people in positions where influencing is the main way to get things done. We have less position authority. and more need to draw people in to what we want to happen. The thing is, this isn't really new. Dale Carnegie wrote his very famous book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, in 1936. In this podcast, I'm going to share practical ways to approaching influencing others and offer you a three step process to help you plan for this, and particularly a process that respects the people we're influencing. So what do we mean by influencing? For me, it's about the ability to affect someone. the way others are behaving or to affect an outcome, but without using force or formal authority. We're not there to make people do things. We're there to find a way to help them to see why and how they could do it. And if you think about the people you know, who are influential. Think about how they go about it. What, what do they do? How do they exert influence in situations? Maybe think about their behaviours, their attitude that they come with, how they treat people, and just jot a couple of those things down. What is it that you see them doing that helps them to be successful influencers? I'm going to come back to that later and share a little bit about. First, I'm going to share a three step approach to influencing others to a point of view or an action. And I'm going to share a way of doing this that I think fundamentally respects the other, respects their views and their perspective. I'm going to briefly share the stages and then I'll go into them in depth. The three stages are number one, getting really clear about your goal or your desired outcome. This sounds pretty straightforward, but I've learned that we often start with a goal focused on us and not on the bigger picture or on the people we're influencing. Step two is identify your current state. What's happening at the moment and what are the things that might help or hinder you achieving your goal? This is also where we get really granular in understanding the individual or the group we're seeking to influence. And step three is all about action, but it's about which action, which of the influencing strategies are going to be most effective, which will fit the person we're influencing and the situation that we're influencing in and what's the best approach. So let's start with setting the outcome. As I said, we often approach setting the outcome by considering where we are, what we want to get out of the situation, rather than stepping back and looking at a broader picture. the context, the people we're influencing, and even thinking about what is the vision we're trying to achieve. And let me give you an example of this. A few years ago, I was teaching influencing in an engineering organization, and I was working with the marketing team. They had an issue with the bidding process for new projects. Their experience was that the engineers brought them in to help them with the bid, but right at the last minute, And in their view, they could add a lot more value if they were brought into the bidding process earlier, even when the organization was invited for bidding. And when I asked them about their influencing goal, they said their goal was to be invited earlier into the bidding process. The problem is that this goal is really lacking a why, why is it important for the engineers to invite marketing in earlier? And there wasn't a hook, I think, to convince the engineers that it was a good idea. It was a process goal. We want to be invited, not an outcome goal. What are we trying to achieve from that? And engineers usually are very practical people. They want to see reasons for doing things. They want to know the why. They also often have a different style to marketing. There might be very different styles between marketing and engineering. So they may be worried about bringing marketing in earlier, the impact. on the progress of the bid and they don't want to risk slowing it down. They want to win this bid and they maybe don't want to have more and very different people in the room. So with this team, with this marketing team, I invited them to step back to think about the vision. for being involved earlier. And it became very clear for them. They actually thought that if they could help the engineering team, the organization would win more bids, be more successful. And so that became their goal to help the organization win more bids. But we kept pushing and saying, is that far enough? And they went further. They actually believed that if they were involved earlier, they could help the engineering team. support the idea that they were the best engineering organization in the world. And many people believe they were, so they dug deeper into their goal. They thought about what a difference it would make to the teams, the engineering teams, the organization, when they won more bids, what a difference it would make if people really knew how good they are. And they also thought about what would happen if they didn't get involved. They thought that maybe the organization wouldn't win more work and wouldn't be seen as this amazing organization, this amazing engineering organization. So now they had a very clear goal, one that was hard to disagree with. It was about being the best engineering organization in the world, being seen as that and winning more bids. So step one, creating a clear vision and picture of your goal, one that will inspire others so that they will see the difference they'll make. They'll see what will happen if they're involved and they'll also understand the consequences of not doing that. So they'll see that wider context themselves. Step two is identifying your current state. Where are you at the moment? What are the things that might help or hinder you with your goal? So often we are influencing from ourselves. We think about what we want to get out of the situation and where we want people to be. But I believe we're standing in the wrong place. It's much more important for us to stand in the shoes of the other person or the other groups of people to really think about what matters for them, what's going on for them and what they might need in order to move towards you willingly Without this, we're pushing them in a direction that we want so we can start by thinking about how they might be feeling or thinking about the situation. And if we go back to our engineers, we can think about what might be going on for them and not wanting marketing anywhere near their bid. which seem to be the case. We can think about the areas which might work for the person, and the areas that might be challenging. If I'm influencing somebody to work with me on a project, for example, their workload might already be tight, so I need to be thinking about that. as I consider the situation. Dale Carnegie said, there's only one way under high heaven to get anybody to do anything, just one way, and that's by making the other person want to do it. So, unless we stand in their shoes and think about them, we're going to find it very hard to get them to a place where they might want to be involved. In going further in this, I believe that understanding the other person really helps. Getting to know them, getting to understand what it is that's important to them. We can think about things like their career, their current work experience, their relationship with their boss, their beliefs and values about work, their situations and their concerns. We can stand in their shoes. We can work out what makes them tick, what keeps them awake at night. How can our situation help them? And if our situation is going to make their situation worse, what can we do about it? We want to think about what's in it for them of going with us, of being influenced. And if there's nothing, and sometimes there is, we want to know this as well and we want to be able to acknowledge it. and honor it so that we are respecting the other person. And if we go back to our engineers, here's a couple of ways of thinking about this in relation to them. As I said earlier, engineers are very practical people. They're often data and science and logic focused people who want things done in a very structured and specific way. And I'm really happy that they work like that because I want my bridges and buildings. to be structured and specific. They're often focused on getting things done in a timely manner, so time is important. And if we want to influence them to bring in marketing earlier, we have to think about this. Marketing people are often in the data. And they're often a bit more creative. They don't mind working to the last minute. Time maybe has less constraints, and they enjoy trying out new ideas to see what happens, which could cause a bit of tension for the engineers who want things to be done systematically and want it done in a timely manner. If marketing then want to influence engineering, they're going to have to present their case. for inclusion in these meetings in a structured way with timelines and include their commitments to meeting the deadlines. They can talk about how they're open to flexing their style to support the successful bid. It's about reassuring people that we're not in this case going to come in and disrespect who they are and how they work. There we are. Step one, create a clear goal. Step two is to get clear about the current situation and really build rapport. And step three is to take action to influence. And to do this, as I've been saying, in a way that fits the person we're influencing and the approach that's most likely to be helpful. I'm going to share with you now seven different influencing strategies that we could try. These are Not exhaustive, you may have other strategies that work for you, but here are the seven for me. So the first strategy is we could use logic and data, and I've already talked about that. It might seem obvious to some of you, and you may be surprised that I'm bringing this up even because it seems logical that we should be using logic and data. But you might be surprised how often we don't start there. And it's really important that we think about this. Particularly if we're influencing somebody who values data and who will need the data and the logical approach to move. So this is the starting point for the engineers, as I said, taking a logical structured approach would help. The second strategy we can use as a coaching approach, we can Get to know the person. We can understand them and we can do a lot of listening, curiosity, asking questions, be answering, asking them about the resistance. Why might they not want to be involved? Invite them to talk about it. I've seen situations where people have used a coaching approach. And they have discovered really good reasons why they shouldn't be doing what they were trying to influence them to do. It helps them bring all of the information into the situation. And it also helps the other person we're influencing to feel very heard. We can create a common vision. In this, we work together with the person or the people we're influencing to identify what's possible. Where do we want to be? So with our engineers, we're focusing on this common vision of being the best engineering. And so we would work together to create that vision and then think about how do we bring that into the bidding process? Strategy four is to use a relational approach, and this is where we start to go back to think about the best influences, you know, because I imagine that one of the things that you think about them is that they're very relational, that they build good relationships with people in the organization. People are keen to get to know them and they are keen to get to know others. They like people, they respect people. Being relational in itself can be a powerful influencing strategy. Strategy five is bargaining. And I think that if you have children, you'll already know that you're pretty good at bargaining because... There's a lot of bargaining that goes on in the home. And we can do more of this at work. If you do this for me, I'm really willing to do this for you. I can do something in return for you to help you with it. Strategy six is impact. This is about using some shocking data, maybe, or visual images. or a story that can really have a kind of emotional impact that can trigger something powerful for the people we're influencing. And I have a just a sweet personal story about this. A long while ago, I got a job that I was really happy to get. I was head of organization development and a large health service. Organization. I was really pleased to get that job. And soon after I started, the CEO invited me to go out on his monthly visits to the teams. He was great. He would, he really went out and met as many people as he could every month. So I showed up in the car park and then he just couldn't stop laughing consciously or not. I still, to this day, don't know. I'd worn a suit in corporate colors. Our corporate colors were purple and I had a kind of bright purple suit on. It sounds hideous. It was fun. And he just, he just thought this was hilarious. That the first time he would go out with me to meet people, I was in the corporate colors. And it became a bit of a standing joke. Of course, it made it around the organization. Uh, we talked about me being the organizational mascot and so it became a joke. Now the thing about that joke is that I made an impact and there were times where I needed to go places, come into a meeting, maybe go to the board. I wore that suit because it helped with my brand. It made an impact. Nobody forgot me because of that suit. The final strategy. You might be surprised to hear me mention, actually, is coercion. This is where we tell people, and it's not a great influencing strategy, but it is one. We tell people what to do. Now, clearly, we want to avoid this strategy at all costs. It's last ditch. But we can remember that it's there. It doesn't mean, of course, if we tell people that they will do it, and we may lose the relationship if we tell people what to do. So it really is only there for emergencies or critical situations. And it's a valid strategy. You can have your own strategies. I'd be curious to hear about whether what other influencing strategies you have and when you're going into an influencing situation as you're thinking about it, you might want to go planning to do two or three of those approaches. You might want to do data and vision, for example, I would. Suggest always using a relational approach. Test them out. Try it out with others who are not involved before you move to the situation and see what they think will be helpful. There we have the three steps. Creating a clear vision, identify your current state and use an appropriate strategy. I asked you earlier to think about the people you see influencing effectively and how they behave. And as we follow this three step strategy, it is good for us to think about our own behaviors. And here are some of the behaviors that I see from people who are influencing effectively and that we can adopt. We can. Be listening and curious. So important. Adopting a coaching approach if you want to call it that here or just a human approach. Really learning to listen, show empathy, help other people feel that they are understood. And we can do that by also being confident. So if we're confident and we believe in the thing that we're influencing people about, that also helps people to trust us. And in that listening and curiosity, we're also open to being flexible and adaptable. So we come into a situation, we know we need to influence people, and we're open to moving and shifting if we hear reasons why that really matters. Another behavior is learning to create a clear argument and to build the case for the area we're influencing in. And I think being willing to spend some time on that because that supports us in achieving our goal. And in all of this, it's worth thinking about. Where we influence. So thinking about what behaviors we want to do and where and how. So are we gonna do it on a call or via an email? It's pretty tricky to influence via an email, but we can, we can put the data in that, in the email or in the chat, or are we gonna wait to bump into the person in the pantry and do it in a very informal way, or are we gonna do a formal presentation and again, matching our behavior. And our timing to the situation will help enormously in moving towards our desired outcome. And if all of this doesn't work, don't despair. Try different strategies. Go in on another day, get feedback, talk to others about the best approach. See what you can do to keep moving towards your outcome. And as a few final thoughts, always, always hold and see the other person as a full human. Someone to be respected. and trusted. Even if they're very resistant to what you're trying to influence them on, don't lose sight of who they are. They are resistant because of things that are important to them. Appreciate people. Thank them. Share what you see are the attributes that are really powerful and impactful for them. And be kind and generous. And as I've said, willing to change and flex. I wish you well as you go into thinking about developing your influencing skill. It's one of those skills that we can keep learning and keep growing and it is possible for us to become better influencers and for us to be a very human influencer.