Why is it important to be an effective influencer? Because it is your job to know what you want and to communicate it in a way that inspires others to act. This is self-serving but is so important in your career and personal life.
Today we’re going to talk about a nuance of communication skills, and that is the ability to influence.
This is a skill you can learn at all levels. You’ll always have new opportunities in your career to practice; new bosses, new stakeholders, people you’re working with internally and externally, and new teams. You can also use this in your personal life as well.
Definition of ‘influencing
I found a really great definition of influencing skills online from Roffey Park. This is what they say: “Influencing skills is about behaving in ways that offers others the invitation to change their behavior, their attitudes, their thoughts, and their ways, and or accommodate your own wishes while accepting that they may be unable, or unwilling to, or are unprepared to meet our request to be influenced.”
That is a mouthful, so I am going to simplify this and give you my definition: “Influencing skills is simply an invitation for someone to change their perspective or behavior to align with your own preferences.” You’re not pushing or making anyone do anything, you are simply inviting them to another option.
How to influence people effectively
Let’s talk about what you need in order to influence effectively. First, you need to be considered credible. This doesn’t mean that you have to be an expert, but it needs to be part of your work or expertise.
Number two, you have to be able to articulately communicate your invitation. Articulation doesn’t just mean the right words but also includes the tone, energy, style, and approach. You want to consider the person’s communication preferences before you try to influence them.
Number three is that neuroscience has proven that we make decisions based on feelings of trust, compassion, and empathy. So it is important that you have positive relationships with the people that you want to influence.
Practice this new skill
These are the three main fundamentals of influencing: credibility, communication skills, and relationships.
If you aren’t effective the first time, I want you to know that that’s okay. It’s an unrealistic expectation to think that you’re going to hit it out of the park perfectly every time because this is a new skill you’re learning and there are many nuances. There are team dynamics, boss dynamics, there are work cultures to keep in mind. You’re constantly going to have different personalities that you’re navigating.
The more you try and practice, the better you will be – I can promise you that.
If this episode resonated with you, and you are an aspiring or current leader, I encourage you to join the waitlist for the Standout Leader Incubator. You will get leadership development tips sent to your mailbox every week, and you’ll have the first opportunity to join us when enrollment opens on February 20th.
What you’ll learn:
What it means to be an influencer and how it impacts your career
The 3 things you need to influence effectively
What to do if you fail at influencing your boss or other stakeholder
Mentioned in this episode:
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Welcome to Your Worthy Career. A podcast with me, Melissa Lawrence. I’m a career and life coach with all the corporate cred in talent development and organizational psychology. I help women like you get extraordinary results by being more of you, not less. I won’t just help you have a career experience worthy of you, but I will help you build your self-worth to shift what you think is possible and take the action that will create the career you’ve always wanted. Whether it’s more meaningful work you’re passionate about, making more money, getting to your next level, or being more effective as a leader. We are shattering the glass ceiling here.
The one that exists for women.
Work and the one we put on ourselves with our doubt and inner critics. Each week you will get practical teachings grounded in neuroscience and effective career development strategies. You’ll experience deep mindset shifts and the perfect amount of woo so you can run your career with ease rather than your career running you. You were born for more and I’m going to help you get there with maybe a few dance parties along the way. Your up-level begins now. Hello and welcome to this week’s episode of the podcast.
Today we’re going to talk about a nuance of communication skills, and that is the ability to influence. This is a skill you can learn at all levels. You will always have new opportunities in your career to practice. New bosses, new stakeholders, people you’re working with internally and externally, new teams. You can also use this in your personal life as well. Imagine you really want sushi, for example, but your family is begging for another pizza night. Influencing skills can play a role in helping your family make another choice, one that you actually like and can get you. That Sushi. I think we should define what influencing means in this context. Now I almost name the podcast being Influencer as a play on the never-ending social media influencers these days but decided against it. I found this really great definition of influencing skills online from Rafi Park. This is what they say influencing skills is about behaving in ways that offer others the invitation to change their behavior, their attitudes, their thoughts, and their ways and or accommodate your own wishes while accepting that they may be unable or unwilling to or are unprepared to meet our request to be influenced.
That is a mouthful. So I am going to simplify this and give you my definition. Influencing skills is simply an invitation for someone to change their perspective or behavior to align with your own preferences. I’m going to say that again. Influencing Skills is an invitation for someone to change their perspective or behavior to align with your preferences. Now, how nice is it to think of it as an invitation? You’re not pushing or making anyone do anything. You are simply inviting them to another option we cannot control. If they take us up on our offer, we can control our approach. This is where being an effective communicator comes in. Why is it important to be an effective influencer or to even listen to me tell you that you should have these skills because it benefits you? That is the short answer. Now here is another answer. It is your job to know what you want and to communicate it in a way that inspires others to act. This is self-serving but is so important if you want that promotion. If you want a new job assignment, you want a new cubicle. Maybe you want your boss to create some strategic goals so you know what you’re even doing or working towards.
You have no idea how much I hear that as a problem. Maybe you have a team and you want them to do what you say. You need to be able to influence also. Spoiler alert. But being able to influence is also how you can manage. Really let that sink in. Now imagine you have the ability to invite others to a perspective that gets you what you want. That is powerful. If you’re a people manager, think of being such an effective communicator that your team easily accepts your invitations to do things as you say, instead of having to pull that I’m your manager card, right? Like you’re like a parent. I think of being at home, being like, because I said so. Because I’m your mom, right? Or having to rely on your hierarchical authority. This is invaluable. Now, I work with a lot of leaders without direct reports. And this is something we work on even though they don’t have a team, because they are directing or influencing the work of others. The industry is really big on matrix environments. So even if you aren’t a people manager, if you’re not considering yourself a leader, I think that everyone can be a leader regardless of their title.
But even if you don’t consider yourself at that level, this applies to everything. I work with scientists that are not in management or leadership positions. And we also work on influencing skills. This is a life skill. You can use it forever and in every context. So let’s talk about what you need in order to influence effectively. Now, first, you need to be considered credible. This doesn’t mean that you have to be an expert, but let’s say you hop into a McDonald’s and you start offering them that they should start selling tacos. Okay? They likely won’t take you up on that invitation. You’re not a credible person in the fast food industry, or so I’m assuming. If you are, then by all means make your pitch. So you might be thinking, well, am I more credible than my boss? Can I influence my boss? And the answer is, you are equally as credible. If what you are trying to influence is an area of your expertise, you have an idea. In your area of work, you are credible. You want to be invited to a meeting with senior leaders because you think it impacts your work.
You absolutely can make those requests. The credibility piece, in shorthand, is just a little bit of doing an internal check on whether or not the subject area is relevant to your area of influence or expertise. And if so, you definitely have that credibility. Number two, you have to be able to articulately communicate your invitation. Articulate doesn’t just mean the right words but also includes the tone, energy, style, and approach. I was just having a conversation the other day with someone who is going to ask her boss for a promotion. We talked through her boss’s leadership and communication style so we could set her up for success. If your boss likes to think things through, your approach or strategy would want to include a preread or heads-up of the conversation. You wouldn’t want to just spring the requests on them in a standard one-on-one meeting where they have no idea that you’re going to talk about your next level or what it is that you want. Now, you want to consider the person’s communication preferences before you try to influence them. What may seem logical for you may not work for them.
Now, number three is that neuroscience has proven that we make decisions based on feelings of trust, compassion, and empathy. So it is important that you have positive relationships with the people that you want to influence. You are more likely to do things for people that you enjoy working with, right? You may be swamped, but if your work bestie asks you to help with something really quick, you’re more likely to take them up on that invitation rather than someone that you don’t really care to work with. Now, this doesn’t mean that you need to be someone you aren’t or that you need to be fake just to be likable. I’m not suggesting that. I’m just sharing the science with you. If you put effort into your work relationships, they will pay off and it will make it easier for you to influence. Now, another example of this from a personal standpoint is let’s say we’re at a family gathering with extended family and we’re trying to decide what to do for an activity. So we’re not just sitting together for endless hours, right? And that random cousin that always looks at me weird and I’m just making this up, I just want to be clear on that.
But there’s this random cousin, and let’s say he’s like, let’s play Monopoly. But my wife says, Well, I’d really like to play Clue. Now, I love Monopoly and I don’t like Clue at all. But because my wife wants to play, I’d be more likely to side with her, right? Because relationships matter. So we tend to decide on the people we like the most. So these are the three main fundamentals of influencing credibility, communication skills, and relationships. So let’s talk through how to apply this. Think about something you want at work. Do you want your boss to hold a team meeting? Do you want to raise? Do you want help with a project? Do you want some colleagues that don’t report to you to listen to your ideas? Do you want to go into a leadership or project team meeting and win over the table and everyone there? Just pick something. Think about something that you really want and think about how you can offer an invitation. You’re inviting this person or people to your perspective and ask yourself, do I have credibility? How am I relevant and uniquely positioned to be the best person to make this invitation?
Don’t overthink it and get in your head about someone else is better than you. I see you there. I know that this is something that a lot of you struggle with. Now think through the communication strategy. What is the style of the person that you’re making the ask of or from? What is the best way to share the invitation? Is it a preread? Is it an informal meeting before the official meeting where you have a larger group of people together? What homework do you need to do? Now, another thing about communication is the delivery of your ask. I always recommend a collaborative communication approach. You want to buy in along the way to your ask. You don’t want to just jump in and say, okay, I want this, because you want to treat the person as an equal and invite them to the new thing or the change that you’re asking for. When they feel included and bought in and that you’re being collaborative, you will be more effective. Then think of the relationship. How is your relationship with the person that you’re making the invitation to? If it isn’t great, then consider spending a couple of weeks nurturing that relationship first, right?
If there’s some tension with your boss right now, don’t go in asking for a raise. When you’re ready and you think you have those three things locked in, then make the invitation. And if you aren’t effective the first time, I want you to know that that’s okay. It’s an unrealistic expectation to think that you’re going to hit it out of the park perfectly every time because this is a new skill you’re learning and there are many nuances. There are team dynamics, there’s boss dynamics, and there are work cultures. You’re constantly going to have different personalities that you’re navigating. But the more you try and practice, the better you will be. I can promise you that. All right, now that is all for this week’s episode. And if this week resonated with you and you are inspiring or you are a current leader, I encourage you to join the Waitlist for the Standout Leader Incubator. At yourworthycareer.com/incubator. You will get leadership development tips sent to your mailbox every week and you will have the first opportunity to join us when enrollment opens on February 20. Have an amazing week.
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