Ever thought about becoming an influencer? No, I haven’t either…But I have thought about becoming an influential leader. And to be truly effective, leaders must master the ability to influence others.
Developing effective influencing skills can be challenging. Effective leaders inspire, persuade, and encourage. Leaders understand the knowledge and skills of a group, point individuals toward a common goal, and draw out a commitment to achieve results.
According to Forbes, there are 5 steps to increase your influence:
- Understand your influencing style: It all begins with self-awareness. What’s your dominant style? Do you assert, convince, negotiate or inspire? Do you tend to apply the same approach to every situation and individual? Understanding your natural inclination is a good place to start
- Take stock of your situation: Who are the critical stakeholders you need to ‘win’ over to achieve an objective or overcome an obstacle? What influencing style might be more effective as you interact with them? An example would be if you’re dealing with a hard-nosed CFO, consider using a convincing approach, which is based in logic, data and expertise. If you’re in a crisis where people are relying on you to b e decisive and fast on your feet, an asserting style might be more effective
- Identify your gaps: Once you understand your natural orientation and the appropriate styles to influence those around you, figure out where you’re on solid ground and where you need to shift gears and use a different approach to be more effective
- Develop: After identifying your gaps, find ways to develop in those areas. It might be a workshop, coach or internal role model who is particularly strong in the style you’re trying to develop.
- Practice: Begin with small steps – low stakes situations where you can test out your new influencing approaches. Target a person or situation where you’d like to achieve a certain outcome, think through the influencing style that will work best in that situation, and give it a try. See what works and what doesn’t. as you build your capability and confidence, move on to higher stakes scenarios.
Have you heard of the seven I’s? Forbes gives another guideline for leaders developing their influencing skills to get the results they want: Identify (the results you want), Illustrate (your credibility), Invest ( the time in getting to know the people you wish to influence), Invite (them to share their ideas), Investigate (options that lead you to common ground), Intend (an outcome that meets everyone’s needs) and Improvise (as needed).
Whether you are leading, following or collaborating, you need to influence others in a successful and effective way. Forbes adds that influence strategies “can range from reliance on position to education, encouragement and collaboration. The key is knowing which approach to use in a given situation”.
Although the steps are helpful and effective, it does depend on the situation and people involved. Forbes states that a common mistake is “to use a one-size-fits-all approach’ because influencing is “highly situational”. In fact, having a clear sense of how to present a convincing offer, pitch or case often makes a big difference.
If we want to influence, we need to understand the other person’s perspective and frame our message in terms of this.
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