Several years ago, a Fortune 100 company asked us to develop a program on how to be more effective at influencing skills. It is a competency we should acquire at any stage of life, since we’re often put in situations where we need to get something done, but we have no authority over those people who can help us meet the goal.
The definition of influencing is “getting others to do something, say something, or give you something while maintaining the relationship. It’s accomplishing your end result while building and enhancing the relationship.” Both are important.
How can you improve your influencing skills?
1. Maintain/build positive relationships
Think about those who you consider to be good influencers. They don’t rely on their position or title. They know how to build relationships by earning respect, not just respect because of a title. Respect is earned by focusing on improving and supporting the relationship while accomplishing your goals. Be honest and open about what you’re trying to achieve. Agree on a common goal and the roles each of you will play. Seek to understand and respect each other, really listen, and act with integrity. A positive relationship based on trust along with effective influencing skills will get you closer to achieving goals that are important for both parties.
2. Don’t demand
Get people in the same boat with you paddling in the same direction by explaining the “why” when you are asking someone to do something. Why should they be in your boat? Why should they comply with your request?
For example, if you’re working on a project and things are not moving along as quickly as you would like, you may want to take the lead to get it going. Taking the lead is one thing, but barking orders is another.
Demands cause friction! Instead, give people your reason for asking for that report, important information, or status of a project. By doing this, you’re leading them toward accomplishing the common goal without telling them what to do. Remind them of the vision and goal — that’s what both of you should be working toward.
3. Make them like you
People respond positively to people they know, like and trust. When you have no authority over someone and need their help, it’s particularly challenging to accomplish a goal. Have a conversation with the person to find out what is on their plate, what you can do to support them in getting what you want, and sincerely listening to their point of view. Without meaningful dialogue, there is no influencing. There may be awareness, but there will be no commitment.
4. Know your peers
The more you know about someone, the more likely you are to have a relationship where asking for something is usually well received. Think ahead before you ask. What might be assumptions you are making about that person and what is important to him or her? In other words, be willing to step into their shoes and think like they think. It’s amazing the power of this simple consideration.
5. Communicate clearly
Achieving good influencing skills requires effective communication. This doesn’t require any authority, but it does require being flexible in your approach. Encourage two-way communication. Understand that everyone responds differently to what is presented to them. Make use of convenient methods to keep information flowing including emails, phone calls, face-to-face meetings, and even group messaging apps. Have fun with it! Technology has made it easy to communicate and be appropriately persistent. When there are multiple people handling bits of information, communication is key! Practice effective communication, you’ll influence others to do the same.