The 4 key principles of influencing others and how to own them

It’s a skill we’d all love to have and often don’t realise we already possess: the ability to influence. Being able to positively influence colleagues, your bosses, friends and family all comes down to having strong interpersonal and communication skills and it doesn’t matter what our line of work, or which position we hold, management or otherwise, either. According to management coach and ‘Building Your Influencing Skills‘ webinar speaker Sara Parsons, the key is to harness and really own the power of each of the four Key principles of influence. They are defined as follows: Communication: this is all about knowing what to say and how to say it, along with having the capacity to build, deliver, receive and push back on messages successfully. Emotional Intelligence: also referred to as EQ. This boils down to being self-aware, knowing yourself and knowing how you relate to others. Assertiveness: this is about having the confidence to stand out, stick to your guns and use your authority and power base positively. Visioning: this is knowing where you want to go with your idea/project/company and having the skills to influence others to help you all get there. Do any of these four key skills strike a particular chord with you? Interestingly and based on the results of a polls during the ‘Building Your Influencing Skills‘ webinar, most everywoman subscribers feel a lot more confident in their ability to communicate and show emotional intelligence than they do with being assertive. Here are some great tips from Sara to help you build your skills in each of those four areas: Something many of us don’t often think to question is: do I like the person I’m trying to influence? So be honest and ask yourself. ‘Mindset is crucial when it comes to communication,’ says Sara. ‘When you like someone, you really want to build influence and relationships with them.’ Think about a time you worked with someone you liked and a time you worked with someone you didn’t like so much – chances are things went more successfully with the former. Unfortunately, we’re not always going to be lucky enough to work with pleasing people – the key with trickier types is to find something you like about them. So make an effort, ask those people open-ended questions to find a point of similarity. And listen – if people feel they’re being listened to they feel more important. Make a real effort to engage and pay attention – try not to interrupt and don’t get distracted by your Twitter feed while you’re talking! Be aware of your verbal signals, too, which means your tone and general attitude. When you’re speaking to someone you don’t connect with it can be easy to sound insincere, condescending and to even sound as if you’re talking down to them, which is never a good thing. It’s also important be aware of how you talk about people who aren’t there in the room with you – for example talking to your team about a ‘nightmare’ external client. If your colleagues hear you talking negatively about a business partner or client you will probably find they don’t exactly leap on board to work that late night on said client’s project! Sara recalls a time she was asked to offer advice on a business’s pitch to an external client: ‘Two minutes in, I said, “Do you guys like this client?” Despite the professionalism of their pitch, everything else was shouting out that they didn’t like the client. It’s not just your verbal signals you have to be conscious of; you have to be aware of the non-verbal signals you give off to. Being aware of your body language and how you come across is so important in moving onto the next stage with people.’ ‘It’s not enough to say, “People tell me I’m aggressive/sarcastic/etc but that’s just how I am.” After all, behaviour breeds behaviour,’ says Sara. ‘So think about what you’ve heard about yourself and how to work on it.’ Try casting your mind back to people who’ve influenced you in the past and how/why they managed to do that. What cues can you take from them? There are two sides to EQ: personal and social and we have a workbook on EQ that you can download to find out even more. In the meantime, asking questions and really listening to people is a good way to start developing your social EQ. The one many of us struggle with – and not to be confused with demanding, bossy or pushy. Assertiveness is about persistence, understanding there’s going to be obstacles in your way to reaching your goal but being tenacious enough to pursue it. It’s being confident enough to really walk the talk in order to get people to buy into your message. Sara recounts a story about the CEO of DHL. ‘He wanted to improve the business and learn how it could really serve the client better, so he threw himself into it – he worked in the hangars and did the flights, sleeping on express planes built for cargo. He didn’t make a big fanfare about it but people gradually heard about it and saw how much importance he placed on every aspect of the business. It was his way of saying “I’m so confident I’m going to live everything I talk about.” This in turn got everyone else in the business questioning their roles and exploring what more they could do.’ Assertiveness is also about how you use your power base. So lead by reward instead of punishment. Try telling a team member you’re grateful for all the hard work they put into a project and that they can take a longer lunch as a reward. After all, people like doing things for people they like. Also think about the power you have that you’re not yet tapping into. What’s your title? Are you using it? Could you speak up for your team more than you do, for example? Don’t be afraid to exhibit ‘expert power’ either – e.g. say to people, “I know this will work because I trained in this area/did this before in a previous job.” Think about skills you have that perhaps you haven’t used for a while, too – tap into them and re-make that emotional connection. Visioning is people-oriented and not ego-driven, and it’s all about the big picture and being able to keep our perspective. Think about how you can you share your vision for the future and include people in it. For example, tell your team the story of how you see this project successfully coming to fruition and the role you envisage each member playing in that. Collaboration is key to getting people to buy into your ideas, so set aside what you think and want and explore what might be best for them. Build credibility in relationships by being open minded – ask people what’s important to them and what they like. ‘You have to be interested in to be interesting,’ says Sara. Use creative thinking – which means taking time out to explore what else you could do to bring your vision to fruition. Connect with people in your network you’ve not connected with before, talk to and glean tips from other people who’ve had a similar vision. Another important skill to bring to the table is ‘being the bridge’. You know where you want to go but working with others to get there is vital – and when it comes to others, things aren’t always plain sailing. You might find you have to mediate between different clients and teams, or people within your own team – you have to ‘be the bridge’. Even if you feel like knocking people’s heads together, it’s important to be neutral and look at things from each perspective. In order to facilitate resolutions and conflictions, find and point out the mutually beneficial goals and targets. Influencing people is really very doable when we’re family with the core principles. Ready to put the above into practice? First things first: make a plan. Reflect on the times you’ve been successful in each of these four areas and identify the areas, on which you can build, get it all written down if it helps and work on it every day. Finally, getting feedback on your ever-developing skills from a trusted mentor should see you well on your way to be an expert influencer in no time.

Want more? Access the Extending your influence skills workbook.


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