The desire to influence other people is a natural part of being human. Your style of influence — how you act — has been established over the years by your experience and learning. Subconsciously, you will have found out what works for you. Yet each individual is different and different people will have found alternative styles of influence. Psychology suggests that, when it comes to being influenced, you will be more amenable when the other person is using the style you prefer to use.
The implications of this are that, if you want to be more successful, you will need to learn how to be able to flex your style to match other people. This requires that you take a good, hard look at how you operate. There are many different aspects to consider and we’ve built up a comprehensive syllabus to develop people in their influencing and political capability. A key element of this is establishing your preferred style and then learning how to become more flexible.
With years of life experience, you have built up a preferred way of operating. From the school playground to the workplace, you’ve been honing your natural way of getting what you want. Maybe along the way you’ve also learned about the value of integrity, and maybe been on a few courses to boost your skills. All of this learning provides you with your own apparently natural way of seeking to influence.
A colleague and I have managed to distil this down to four different dimensions of style, which need to be considered when assessing your approach to influence. This is not all that is required, but I have seen some quite remarkable changes in people who have managed to work out exactly where they are on these dimensions and then started to think differently about how they interact with others as they seek to persuade and influence. The key dimensions are:
- Sociability and Networking: the preference to use social skills to build a wide and strong network of valuable contacts vs. the preference to focus on the task in hand and to avoid social distraction.
- Tact and Diplomacy: the preference to sense the feelings, concerns, and agendas of other people and respond in a sensitive way vs. the preference to be direct and clear with others so they know where they stand, even if this risks upsetting them.
- Determination: the preference to express clear views, opinions, and goals and then drive them towards realisation (favouring) vs. the preference to consult, accommodate and reach a harmonious solution, direction, or view (avoiding).
- Emotional Control: the preference to remain calm and focused on facts and processes vs. the preference to express genuine emotions openly as they happen.
On each of these dimensions, people will vary on their preference to favour or avoid. The combination of these preferences results in their influencing style.
How do you stack up in these areas? Which do you tend to favour or avoid, and how strongly? What I have found is that the most effective influencers, with the highest levels of integrity (oh, and still friends with everyone), have managed to develop a delightful balance between these four dimensions. The behaviour that sits behind each of these appears to be natural, and they are able to flex their style to suit the situation and the people who they have to deal with. On one day they may be extremely determined and energetic while still keeping a big happy smile on their face. Other days they will appear to be very serious, standing up straight and holding their cards close to their chest. Whichever style is required, they adapt quite naturally.
Nurturing Your Influencing Style
Based on your initial perceptions of these dimensions, how do you think you measure up? Where do you think you are on these scales? Which do you think you need to work on to get greater balance? To help you develop, work through each of the questions below.
For each dimension, start by answering the following questions:
- When have you been exceptionally good at this?
- Umm….what about not so good?
- Who is a good role model for this?
- What exactly do they do in this regard?
- What prevents you from being more like this?
- How could you do this?
Now that you’ve thought about the dimensions, let’s start thinking about change…
- Over the last week, list three things (for each dimension) that you could have done differently.
- What would have been the downside if you’d done these things?
- What about the upside for each?
- Could you see yourself doing this?
- Go on — start to make it happen!
- Looking at the week ahead, what/who do you need to influence?
- For each situation, which dimension would gain the most potential?
- If you turn up the volume on that dimension, what reaction might you get?
- What will you gain if you are successful?
- You are going to do it — aren’t you?
Okay, I know that there are many factors that may make it difficult for you to change but, from experience, I know that awareness is a key part of the solution. So, at the very least, I would encourage you to dig out that personal development plan, reconsider it in the light of these dimensions and start to learn and develop to become more influential — you know it pays!
For a limited time, you can complete your own influence profile here, and see how you measure up on the dimensions: