Two recent Australian studies asked thousands of managers to identify the one leadership skill they most wanted to develop. The consistent response across both studies was clear – leaders in every sector, at every stage of career, said they wanted to improve their ability to influence.
Within a complex business environment, the need to influence others is evident. People need to achieve more with less, under greater time pressure and without resorting to the ‘command and control’ style of management that no longer seems to work. Whether it is managing up, convincing your stakeholders or gaining buy-in from your team, the ability to influence is critical to your success as a leader.
Fortunately, the world of psychology can tell us a lot about what actually makes someone influential and how we are motivated as people. Grasping ‘what makes us tick’ can be a great starting point for understanding the processes behind effective influence. Read on for three ways to boost your influence at work…
1. Show your emotional intelligence (EQ)
When you break it down, influence between people is really someone’s ability to impact the way the other person thinks and behaves. Without a decent amount of EQ, this becomes a really hard thing to do. In particular, you can show good EQ by dialling up your empathy, asking more open questions, avoid making assumptions and getting your head into the other person’s way of thinking.
2. The other person’s perception of you counts
And remember, perception is reality. Do you know how the other person sees you? Will this hinder or help your attempt to influence them? People will respond better to you if you can show them that you are competent and that you don’t just care about your own agenda, all the time. Demonstrate your knowledge, establish your credibility but let them see you are genuine and not out to take them for a ride. Find ways to enter into reciprocity, if possible. A bit of give-and-take goes a long way.
3. Align your approach with the situation
There’s a big difference between compliance and sometimes you just need the person to get on with the task at hand. If you just need them to comply, without needing them to feel particularly enthused about it, then you could possibly get away with using a harder approach – such as emphasising the potential negative consequences if they don’t (described as pressure). Often though, we need people to genuinely buy in to our proposal. In these situations, you’ll be better off investing more time, asking more questions to understand their position and selling the benefits in a way that makes sense to them (described as consultation and inspiration).
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to influencing those around us, but by pausing to consider the fundamentals of how we behave, leaders will be far more effective at winning the support they need to achieve their desired outcomes.
Rearn Norman is a Senior Psychologist at The Centre for Leadership Advantage (CLA), she’s also a facilitator for our LEAD programs. If you are interested in finding out more about LEAD, click here.