The ability to influence others is crucial in your career and in management and leadership. When being interviewed for a position, you use influence to demonstrate you are the best candidate for the job. When signing a new client, you use influence to convince them you can deliver better than the competition. When you are a manager, you use influence to motivate your employees to bring their best. And when you lead a team, you use influence to set the strategy and get everybody on board.
Influence, at its most basic definition, is changing someone's behavior. It making an impact in a situation where you ordinarily you wouldn't have much control. It is a way of doing something, rather than sitting back and deciding that there is nothing you can do.
Influencing others is something we learn very early in life. If you have children you know this well. But as we grow older, many of us don't realize how powerfully influential we are or have the potential to be. Studying influence in a psychology class in college, I recall a professor telling us that the average person influences 100 people each day. We are doing it—we are influencing others—whether we realize it and give thought to it or not. Here are a four of the most effective ways we can influence others:
Rational/Logical Persuasion – presenting the facts and laying out an argument is perhaps one of the most common and most accepted methods of influence in business. It generally includes emphasizing the positive benefits of a course of action. This method is most often used upward, such as making the case for the feasibility of a certain initiative to your boss or proposing plan objectives to your Board or executives. The only problem is, people don't act with logic all or even most of the time. So unfortunately this method does have its limits.
Inspirational Appeal – inspiration is most often used by your stereotypical transformational leader in a downward fashion to influence high performance in a team. The leader effectively links the desired activity or outcome to a set of values and ideals that is honored by the group. This appeals to emotions, a primary driver of motivation. An example is when an incoming leader communicates their vision for future success and by doing so, not only gains support, but also sparks enthusiasm for major changes. Inspiration often requires modeling behavior and setting an example for others to follow.
Consultation – a fancy word for advice-seeking, you use consultation when you know what you want to do, but request input on how to do it. Consultation works because when someone provides input, they become more committed to the initiative. They feel involved and are more intrinsically motivated to take action that will ensure success. The tricky part is that you can't be manipulative about it. Most people will catch on if you use consultation as a means to pursue an agenda rather than a sincere conversation. So, yes, it is an influence tactic but only when not it is not meant to be used as an influence tactic.
Collaboration – when you think of collaboration you probably don't consider it an influence tactic at first, but you can think of collaboration as the inverse of consultation; rather than seeking advice, you offer assistance. This is most often used downward or even laterally when one wants to convince someone to do something that is difficult or nonroutine. You gain their commitment to complete a certain task and in support, you can offer help them directly of provide resources. Collaboration can also be a common partnership model between two complementary teams or companies. The decision to collaborate is usually reached mutually.