In my work, it is often easy to forget the simple things ― yet, they are often the most important things. If you want to be influential, a good starting point is being clear on what influence is. We throw words around, but if you pause a moment and pull it apart, you will find it contains some useful ideas to sharpen up your influence.
In the fascinating world of interpersonal relationships, influence is…
“someone changing what they do, say, think, or feel”
Why they were influenced to do something different could be as simple as deciding it would be a good idea. The cause could be outside of their awareness ― like one of those little tricks some people peddle that triggers people into compliance. Or, it could be the unseen influence of phenomena such as groupthink.
From a more ethical stance, we like to aim for people making a conscious decision, even if the stimulus is emotional in nature. We want people to willingly do what we want them to do ― and that doesn’t necessarily mean they want to do it, willingly is okay (read more about the ethics of influence).
Refocus your objectives. What exactly do you want people to do, say, think, and feel? Most of the time, people focus on their end goal in terms of the signature on the dotted line or vague notions of wanting people to support their idea. Instead, think of precisely what you want people to be doing, or what they need to be thinking, in order for you to achieve your objective. If I wanted to get funding for a new project, it might be very helpful to get the Marketing Director raving about it. I want him to tell everyone it’s the best idea put forward this year when we have the next budget meeting. In fact, it’d be great if he mentioned it to everyone personally before the meeting!Holding on to this simple notion of what influence is will help you to…
- It begs an immediate and obvious question. If you are clear on what you want people saying and doing ― what have you got to do to achieve that? Because of the refocus, you are now thinking down a different route and hopefully coming up with some simple ideas you can take action on. How can I get the director to say my idea is the best? Perhaps I could ask him if he thinks it is the best, and if not, why not? If not, which is? Before, I might have just kept plugging away at trying to persuade him about the merits of my idea.
- You immediately raise the probability that you will get what you want. Most of the time when people don’t achieve the influence they wish, it can be traced back to lack of precision. Too often, people dance around what they really want, and this confuses the people they are trying to influence. If people have a clear idea about what you want them to do, it makes it much easier for them to say yes.
Here’s a common example which crops up in our workshops.
“I want to be well regarded by the senior management team.”
If this were your aim, more specific influence might be…
- Getting each director to proactively call you at least once a month to check your opinion on something.
- Being invited to 50% of their meetings.
- Senior management making sure their staff have got your input before finalising their strategies.
- Your emails being replied to within 24 hours.
- Being put forward for the top-talent development programme.
The more specific you can be, the more quickly you will achieve what you want, and also, the more quickly you will notice when you have what you want!
Now, what do you want to influence?
Colin Gautrey is becoming the most sought-after expert in power and influence by ambitious and talented professionals who are serious about accelerating their careers and their results. But, Colin is certainly not for the faint-hearted.
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