Wherever you go, whoever you’re with, there’s always a need to influence
There’s no getting away from it…influencing other people is an essential part of organisational life. And of life life. Sometimes, it feels like we’re in one long negotiation for pretty much everything we want to get done. So how best to influence? Spoiler alert, you definitely don’t need a Persuasiveness strength (although if you have one, there are of course ways to put it to work). In today’s podcast, I want to propose 6 clear steps for upping your influence game, with strengths, of course, woven through.
Step 1. Build genuine long-lasting relationships
The closer you are to people, the easier it is to have a straightforward and honest conversation with them and ultimately to be influential. So that you are able to put your point of view or proposal across in a way that lands well when you need their support. Influence is a long game, based on the reputation you create, your behaviour over time and the work that you put in to your stakeholder relationships. My podcast at Season 10, episode 7 – Building your stakeholder engagement strategy, gives lots more on this. There’s also some wider advice on building out your support network at Season 8, episode 4. So building genuine, long-standing relationships based on understanding and trust, is my first step. We’ll come back to trust in Step 4 on consistency. For now, let’s go to Step 2, which is all about understanding…
Step 2. Understand the other party
What I mean by this is to understand the wants and needs and motivations of the person or group you’re trying to influence. Ask yourself, and them, and others, What makes them tick? What do they value? And if you’re in a specific negotiation or influencing situation, what do you know about their wants and needs right now? Whatever you find out, make sure that you do you best to help them get their wants and needs met. This second step involves effective question-asking and listening so that you can truly get under the skin of what matters to someone else.
As part of your discovery, it’s also useful to establish whether they are more open to being influenced by passion, values and emotion, or whether they’re more likely to support positions and decisions based on rational, logical fact. Bear in mind that you’ll need to tailor your influencing strategy to your audience by understanding what will land best with your audience…logic or emotion.
Step 3. Focus on the issue, not on the people
When trying to influence, we often bring with us a lot of assumptions about the person or people we’re trying to influence. So rather than doing the deep discovery and really understanding what’s important to a person or group at a particular point in time or in a certain context, we tend to use shortcuts and biases and jump to conclusions. Which may well not be accurate. And that can lead to us missing the mark. So instead of making assumptions about who you’re trying to influence, and in addition to asking good questions and listening carefully to establish their wants and needs, it’s also important to focus on the issue that you both have a stake in. When a negotiation or influence situation switches more to a collaborative problem-solving exercise, rather than a personality- and position-driven debate, your influence will be that much greater, as you’re indirectly inviting the other party to co-create a solution, so they become more invested in the outcome.
Step 4. Be consistent in your demonstration of values and behaviour
As I mentioned, influencing effectively is a long game. By showing consistency between what you say and what you do, by behaving consistently with your values and by behaving consistently in different situations, people will come to trust you. They will be able to anticipate and have a sense of certainty about how you will show up and respond to given situations and that creates psychological safety for them. Over time, this creates trust and that increases your level of influence.
Step 5. Use your strengths and those of others
Never forget your strengths. In the case of influencing, your strengths are very powerful tools. They can also carry risk, if you’re not managing any overdrive triggers you may have. Because often, trying to influence can create a more high-stakes environment, and that additional pressure can tip our strengths into overdrive, which can have unintended consequences. Let me give you an example at random.
Say you have a Critical thinking strength…in influencing situations this can be beneficial because you’ll be able to break down complex issues into their component parts for closer examination and that way, get closer to the truth, or to an optimal solution. But put too much pressure or rely too heavily on that strength and it may go into overdrive, which can show up as you being overly critical of other people’s perspectives too early in discussions.
Another one…let’s take Efficiency…super useful for setting up systems to record and track key aspects of negotiations/discussions when you bring this strength to an influencing setting. But in overdrive, it may lead you to act in a way that appears inflexible or suggest that you’re unwilling to deviate from your plan.
I could go through all the strengths here. But instead, what I’m going to do is to point you towards the Strengthscope website where if you head to the Resources section, you’ll be able to find a handy guide on using your strengths to influence for all 24 of the Strengthscope strengths. Including what the strength can be most useful for and but also how it may look if left unmanaged and going into overdrive. So nip over to the Strengthscope website now and check it out – search for ‘How to use strengths in influencing’ in the resources section.
Step 6. Appreciate others’ strengths and contributions and tell them that you do.
When people feel heard and seen, they will be more open to influence. By noticing, acknowledging and appreciating other people’s strengths, and vocally valuing their contributions, they will be much more likely to ‘return the favour’ when you come to ask for their support or input on a proposal or issue.
There’s a second part to this – as you’ll see from the guide to using your Significant 7 strengths to influence that I just mentioned over on the Strengthscope website…there are a lot of ways that strengths can be useful and you don’t need to be the one to do it all. In times of influencing need, why not call on those in your growing support network to provide the strengths that you don’t have? If you need a touch of Empathy to understand someone else’s motives or agenda, or maybe a Relationship building strength to get an introduction to someone, or perhaps a Results focus strength to consider how you can bring an issue to a close.
Conclusion – whatever your strengths and whatever your style, effective influencing is possible
Whoever you are and whatever strengths and preferences you bring to a situation where you need to influence, you can be effective by following these practical steps: putting the effort in, doing your homework, playing a long game, bringing in others when you need and focusing on the problem to solve, not the people to persuade. You definitely don’t need a Persuasiveness strength to influence effectively, so whatever strengths you can bring, it’s time to sharpen them up and get them influencing. Till next time, stay strong.