Boost your influence – here’s powerful approaches to consider

by Mar 5, 2020Articles, Leadership

Do you ever wonder if you are as influential as you could be?

We all constantly face high-stakes conversations and many struggles with powerful approaches to really make an impact. Some of us are tempted to rely on one specific approach with every situation, simply because it was effective before.

Managing stakeholders and influencing others have been identified as a key skill for the future of work. There is a clear indication that being effective in these two skills is very important to be a successful HR professional in 2019. Read the full report here.

We see an increase in the adoption of an agile-minded approach – thus, the focus on teamwork, collaboration and team accountability become increasingly important. To effectively influence others is relevant to all team members (not only leaders or managers).

Trust is the foundation of any relationship; the same counts for influence.

One of the steps in building trust is the ability to connect with others. This is similar with influence. I recall one of my first leadership lessons, a talk by John C Maxwell about influencing others. I can’t recall the exact words but in principle it was “The best way to influence others are to meet them at their level”. My interpretation was this: It is vital to find something in common with a colleague as that instantly builds a connection. I’ve learned the importance of being intentional and that simple, high-level shared interests can open deeper conversations.

To build a strong connection, authenticity is key. You must have a genuine interest in what the other person is sharing.

‘Surely, it is more than just finding a connection? ‘

True, there is an art and a science to influence. It is about knowing what the right approach is for a certain situation to get results, while keeping the relationship strong. How do you know which approach is the right one to use?

An easy assessment, to help you decide, is to associate different parts of the body with different influence styles. Let me elaborate:

Brain:  Based on the work done by Dr Kobus Neethling we can increase our influence (communication hit rate) if we’re aware and adjust our thinking styles to the thinking preference of the other individual. We tend to communicate from our own thinking preference, forgetting that for real impact, we should approach the conversation from the other’s preference.

Dr Neethling’s research has found that the brain is divided into 8 dimensions namely:  Realist, Analyst, Organiser, Preserver, Empathiser, Socialiser, Strategist, Imagineer (see image).

The left brain is the seat of facts, logic, analysis, information, and data. Relying on the left brain can help you convince someone that an idea makes sense. However, most leaders overuse the left brain.

The right brain is where we process images, stories, metaphors, and pictures. It is the gateway to the subconscious. This is where empathy also lives.  By using more stories and images, leaders can reach people at a different level than with the left brain alone. Storytelling is a great mechanic to use to influence others.

Vision: Individuals seek meaningful purpose in their work. Do you connect your team with the big picture? Vision is about where we are going; understanding the “why”? Use this approach to form a team and create a sense of alignment.

This helps the team to collectively “see” where you are going. Leaders can make a compelling case that gets a team aligned in a powerful, authentic way. This approach works well when you want your team moving forward despite challenges or as a new leader introducing the vision. Once done, we focus on shared values and experiences; a common ground and a bond that holds us together.

Heart: The connection with the heart is a reminder that you should focus on the best interest of all parties involved and find a mutual purpose for the discussion. In situations where leaders want authentic commitment, the conversation shifts to asking questions and active listening. It is about a common goal and listening to the other person’s aspirations to craft a solution. It is also about being flexible about how things get done.

Gut: Have you ever acted on a “gut instinct” or been in a new situation that stretched your comfort zone? To communicate in a direct manner is critical for successful outcomes. In conversations where we need to take a stand, set boundaries, or assert appropriately, we do it from the gut. Think of this as your personal battery pack and connect to your own personal power. So often we need to have these candid conversations about an unacceptable performance level or clarify expectations with a colleague and partner. Bear in mind that candid conversations should still be done with empathy and compassion – directness without compassion is mean.

Legs: Have you experienced a conversation that is spiralling down and not getting any results? If you (or the others) are too emotional about a certain issue or situation, the last resort to consider is to allow both parties the opportunity to rethink their positions before coming back together at a later stage. The “go to the balcony” approach creates a psychological distance from the matter at hand.  For high-performance teams to function, there needs to be a sense of harmony… so it is important to schedule the meeting to resolve this matter. In the Crucial Conversations workshop you will learn what to do when people get emotional or withdraw from the conversation.

By using these different approaches, you are at a good starting point to increase your influence. You can also download our FREE influence planning tool by clicking here.

This article first appeared in the June edition of HR Future Magazine.

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