Guest Author - Dianne Walker
How important is it to be able to influence your manager to get a decent raise or promotion? Have you ever had to influence your co-workers in order to complete a task? The ability to influence others is an essential skill, not only for managers, but for anyone looking to advance in their career. Regardless of who you may need to influence, the ability to do so effectively will make your job easier and more successful.
It’s important to understand the full definition of the term as it applies in the workplace. The ability to influence means you have the ability to ethically, legally and morally gain support for your opinion and point of view, in a manner that preserves or enhances the relationship with another individual or group.
What influencing is not
The ability to influence is not always about getting your way, and forcing or coercing into compliance. Nor is it about manipulating, bullying others or trying to prove them wrong.
If you use emotions or manipulation to influence others you run the risk of doing irreparable damage to trust or tearing apart the framework of your team. The inability to influence others in a positive manner can be detrimental to your career.
How to influence effectively
The ability to influence is a core competency in the workplace and can be completed in a simple five step process.
1. Do your research
Depending on the scope of the issue, take time to do the research. Take the time not only to research the issue so that you’re knowledgeable on the subject, but research the people that you’re attempting to influence. You can not always predict the reaction of a co-worker or supervisor. If you understand what is of value to your audience, it will help you to address those issues. Understand the history of the situation, including the what, how and when of previous occurrences. While you can not anticipate every question, the more you know, the more knowledgeable and trustworthy you appear.
2. Describe the details of the situation and potential impacts
When it’s time to meet with your audience, do not rush into the conclusions. Take time to listen to their side and make sure that you are all on the same page. A problem can not be resolved if both parties do not have a genuine understanding of the problem. During the discussion, be careful not to assign blame. Assigning blame will result in a defensive audience that will not longer be receptive to any ideas that you present. The cause of the situation is only important if there is the possibility that without corrective action, the problem may reoccur. When presenting the issues, be sure to state facts and figures not subjective criticisms. For example, instead of saying, “the people in the quality control department have no idea what they’re doing.” Try the approach, “there has been a 25 percent increase in complaints from customers about defective parts.”
3. Explain your recommended actions.
In this step you will explain the action that you recommend, how you believe it will solve the issue, what actions need to be taken by all parties and the benefits that will result. This step is important because you will help your audience understand what is in it for them, and how they will benefit from your recommended action. The verbiage used is also very important in this step. You never want it to seem like a demand. Try a softer touch like, “What I’d like to do is…”
4. Ask for input.
Once you’ve stated your recommendations, get the buy-in by asking for input. You need to listen carefully to suggestions. It is important that you gain support and commitment so that you can move forward. By this time you should have successfully influenced your audience by taking the time to describe the situation in detail, presented a win-win solution and gained buy-in. You may need to do a little give and take to get to the final results.
5. Implement the solution and review the plan’s success.
The process does not end just because you’ve won their approval. Implement the plan as agreed upon and review the outcome. Follow up on the outcome and make sure to address any problems that arise.
While working through the entire process, be sure to choose your words carefully as to not alienate your audience. Stay away from words like “always” and “never.” Also try to avoid descriptive words like “pathetic.“ While in some situations emotions can be useful, there are just as many situations where emotions can be detrimental to the process.
Validate the groups feelings or concerns. Everyone has a right to their opinion.
The ability to influence people can build credibility and establish beneficial long term relationships. Taking the time to learn effective influencing skills will help you throughout your career.