How do you Influence People?

How often have you thought about your own personal influencing style?  And, has it changed over the course of time?  If it has changed, has that been as a result of your own careful thought-out intervention and change, or has it happened subconsciously, so that you are only aware of the change as a result of reflection?  I suspect that, like most of us, you have not often given it too much thought, especially when in the thick of the action, when deadlines are looming, and decisions just have to be made.

Influencing others is at the very core of Leadership. While that has always been the case, in today’s complex, inter-connected world, it is even more true. To be successful in a world where a leader had direct control over their troops, in an environment where command-and-control was all that was needed, where the tasks expected of people were simply expressed (basically “do-it”, or the slightly more persuasive JFDI), influence was probably less important than straightforward authoritarian directorship.

Effective leaders in today’s business world, recognise that what may have worked in the industrial and traditional corporate environment of the past, is no longer going to make the difference required to be successful in today’s market-place. Increasingly we operate in a global, culturally diverse, often ‘virtual’ world, and in one where the complexity of the problems we are trying to solve are such that leaders must rely on others, including those over whom they have no direct authority, to question, challenge and provide answers.  The days of the charismatic leader, the leader to whom everyone looked to for the answer, have gone. Yes, we still need leaders with vision, and who are worth following, but we also need those leaders to be humble, to seek answers (not provide them) from the wider community, to place responsibility back on to the people and not take problems away from them.

Influencing styles were examined and discussed in a recent Harvard Business Review Blog by C. Musselwhite & T.Plouffe, and five distinct styles were identified:

  • Rationalizing   (using logic, facts & reasoning to persuade)
  • Asserting  (using personal confidence & authority, insisting on being heard, debate with pressure)
  • Negotiating   (look for compromise & concessions, make exchanges)
  • Inspiring  (communicate shared sense of mission, use stories, metaphors)
  • Bridging  (uniting, connecting and building coalitions. Consulting and using personal relationships)

Do you recognise your own preferred influencing style?  Does one jump right out at you as “you”?

Do you typically revert to  the same one in all situations, or do you consciously and successfully adapt your style for different situations?

People who can and do successfully adapt their style are much more effective at influencing others and having their ideas heard, and ultimately implemented.

It’s not an easy thing to do however, and, in most cases, people are not even aware what style they are adopting (almost certainly their one preferred style that has become ‘hard-wired’).

Coaching can help greatly with this area.  If you want to discuss how you can become a more effective leader, a leader prepared for the complexity and challenges of our rapidly changing world, get in touch through the Contact Us page.

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2 thoughts on “How do you Influence People?

  1. A thoughtful and informative piece. I particularly like the idea that you are more likely to be successful if you have the flexibility to adapt your style. This is analagous to excellent trainers for whom this quality of flexibility is regularly identified as an important characteristic of excellent trainers.

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