Updated: Jun 2, 2020
If you have applied for a role recently you may have seen a key selection criteria around “You will have a strong ability to influence & handle multiple stakeholders” or “ Influencing across the business up and down to deliver the best customer service experience” So just what does this mean when written in a job advertisement?
Influencing is a crucial skillset that leaders need to display – as you develop further in your career and potentially into a leadership role you have two ways you can lead:
· By forcing people to do things your way or
· Influencing people to see the positives and benefits of doing things your way, or ultimately allowing them to believe the idea was theirs in the first place
Despite the very idea of somewhat convincing people to do things your way – influencing is worlds away from manipulating someone else. Influencing is the very concept of leaving your ego at the door, seeing the path that is needed to be taken in the best interests of the company and the team, and helping everyone get on the same page. What goes hand in hand with that – is being open to hearing different perspectives and that one of those could be a better path than your own!
But using influence in your role isn’t exclusive to leaders – so how can you become a strong influencer?
Leading by example:
Strong influencers walk the walk they do not just talk the talk. Think about things that are important to you in the workplace – do you lead by example with these? For example, if you want peers to be on time for meetings, you should be on time.
Do you show respect for others time by replying promptly or acknowledging their emails? If that is behaviour that makes you feel respected – extend the same to others!
When people see that you are ready to do what is necessary to get the job done, they become more open to hearing your perspective and listening to your advice. A key part of influencing is getting people to listen to you and believe in you – show them you believe in it and you are halfway there.
You can disagree constructively:
Its all too easy to just agree with a Manager or more senior Stakeholder in your business – even when you clearly do not agree. Refining your influencing skills allows you to table an alternative point of view constructively, whilst still acknowledging and respecting the other persons point of view – even when this feels a little uncomfortable or you are presenting an idea that is different to your peers. Does the thought of that make you squirm? For some it can! Some people feel this is too aggressive or confrontational for their personality – but it does not have to be! Like anything the more, you practise this the easier it becomes.
Realise and accept that the win/win situation is that all ideas are discussed but that you will not win them all. The end game is not to make everyone do things your way. It is to get the group to agree on the BEST way to move forward together. There is no room for ego or emotions when it comes to influencing stakeholders.
You build trust
You will find it difficult to influence anyone who does not trust you! So how do we build trust? Are you open and honest about decisions you have made? Are you quick to admit mistakes when they occur? Creating an environment of transparency builds trust. It is sending the message – Hey I am human and so are you – and that is ok! Mistakes happen, and decisions happen everyday in business that not everyone is going to like. The more transparent you are the quicker trust is built.
You do not use force
No one likes to be micromanaged, ordered around or forced to do something. By appealing to the emotions of your audience, and building the value in what you are doing – you have more chance of gaining their buy in.
Show them what is in it for them – and you have champions of your cause!
You know your stakeholders
Know one cares how much you know until they know how much you care! One of my favourite quotes, sometimes leaders spend more time talking about themselves and what they know, rather than taking the time to understand what motivates their audience. What are their drivers? What lights them up?
You are clear about the goal
What’s in it for me? Are you clear about what the goal is and why it will benefit everyone? Hit the nail on the head by having a clear goal and the exact benefits to the wider team and you will have their buy in.
You inspire confidence
Can you talk confidently about your subject of choice? Are you well researched, and have the facts to hand? And as we already covered – can you remain impartial to the outcome? All of these inspire Stakeholder to have faith in your decision making abilities and be led by you.