There are many skills that will serve you well in life. The ability to make a great latte, seal the bath or sink without smearing sealant up the wall, and having influence and impact surely must rate up with the best of them.
You only have to take a cursory glance around google to be inundated with a plethora of tips and hints, psychological studies and research on precisely this topic (influencing, not bath sealing).
So why am I wading in? I’ve done my research over the last 25 years in Development and Coaching roles, AND I’ve had the privilege of seeing and hearing first hand:
- what works and what doesn’t in organisations
- how careers are impacted when people don’t have influence with stakeholders
- the frustration of senior leaders when their teams haven’t quite grasped the importance of developing personal impact
What is influencing anyway?
To be clear, when I’m talking about influencing, I’m not talking about manipulation: getting your own way at a cost to others. Let’s use this definition for clarity:
“The capacity to have an effect the character, behaviour or development of something or someone”
So what does this actually mean?
- Getting buy in to your recommendations
- Encouraging a team member to perform differently
- Being sought out to shape a new product, policy or way of working
And when you look at it like this, you can see why it’s such a fundamental skillset to have if you want to make real progress in your career. With the advances in AI, we know that in years to come, the work many of us do as humans will be replaced by automation. Whether that’s diagnosis of illness, accountancy or basic coaching and development. However, all of the research points to an increased need for us to focus on our innately human ability to develop what has long been called ‘soft skills’.
Is it more influential to be considered warm or competent?
Well, both! It depends on the context. In a more urgent time scale, or periods of conflict/uncertainty where an outcome or decision is needed quickly, we look to an expert to guide us through. When we want and need to be seen as a partner to stakeholders across the business (whether that’s in a Finance, Risk, HR or IT role for example), although it’s often our professional competence that is sought, we often deliver the most benefit through building highly effective relationships over the longer term.
As a leader, our teams will expect both warmth and competence. Someone who they respect, understands the role they’re undertaking, the business landscape, strategic direction AND someone who is interested in us personally, supporting our longer-term development.
In my experience, the perception is often that competence top trumps relationships – and this is backed up by ‘evidence’ of feedback over the years that people have gathered on their technical abilities. Gaining competence in our roles is often the first career focus for us, and when we’re repeatedly asked to input our recommendation, or praised in Performance Reviews for meeting targets based on our professional capability, it’s no wonder we start to view competence as influential.
However, often when we unpick the root of issues with influencing effectively, we see that considerably less time and attention has been focussed on building and maintaining the relationships with others. Or the barriers we put in our own way … more on that later.
Our advantage here as humans, is that with raised awareness and finely honed skills, we can be both warm AND competent. And these are both key components of the toolkit.
Key tools to sharpen
3 key influencing approaches will be enough to truly up your game. Knowing which to use and when is another skill to add in and will depend on whether your influence goal is to get compliance, commitment or engagement from others. To keep it simple, we use our own ABC methodology:
ASSERT approaches are used to persuade, to get compliance. When you want, need or expect specific action.
- Be clear, brief, impactful
- Use the rule of 3
- Focus on the rationale
It becomes unproductive as an influencing style if you’re perceived as aggressive or manipulative
BUILD approaches are more responsive. When you are focussed on creating a long-term partnership
- Be generous with your time and knowledge
- Know what’s on the other person’s agenda
- Thank and praise
It becomes unproductive as an influencing style if you’re perceived as passive or underwhelming
CREATE approaches engage others through your own capability and impact. When you want to draw people to you.
- Share your views and opinions in public
- Use engaging language and tone when you present
- Keep energy levels raised
It becomes unproductive as an influencing style if you’re not well informed or you appear arrogant
In our workshops, we drill down into all 3 approaches, giving you 2 styles to use for each. We share how, where and when to use them, and get molecular with the Words to use, along with the tone of voice and the body language which will have the most impact.
Your next steps
Presence – Amy Cuddy. Builds on her research of the 2nd most watched TED talk of all time “Your body shapes who you are”
Trusted advisor – Green, Maister & Galford. An informative 6-minute video on why we need to focus on more than competence and capability.
Have a go! Start with trying out some of the techniques in a lower risk situation. Perhaps with friends or family, or in a team meeting. If you don’t get a great outcome, reflect back on what you were doing, saying and thinking. What could you change for next time?
And if you:
- Want to know more about and practise some of those influencing techniques
- Need support and guidance to deal with the specific challenge that you’re having right now
- Want to make sure that you’re prepared for when the influencing stakes are high
Our Influencing and Impact Masterclass might be just the thing for you. Next cohort will be running in March 2021.
Alternatively, our coaches are skilled at working with people who find it challenging to influence for whatever reason and can work with you 1-1 to overcome your barriers or boost your skill levels