“When you think of someone who epitomises the word, ‘influential’ who comes to mind”?
This was the opening question that I posed to a room full of managers, senior managers, and executives at CLA’s annual event, which this year, was a show-case Masterclass titled ‘Influence with Impact’.
The answers that came forth were varied and wide… they included the usual suspects (think, Oprah, Trump, Obama, etc.) yet some were totally unique (a participant’s Irish Grandmother who migrated her whole family to Australia back in the day to start a better life – a great story if ever I heard one!).
But it was the next question posed that really got everyone thinking…
“Who said they were someone whom they considered influential”.
A few knowing smiles and nods came my way anticipating where I was leading with this, but despite this, the silence was deafening. This outcome (which between you and me, was expected!) opened beautifully into a discussion on the Laws of Influence. Reader, did you know that you are highly influential in your own right? Regardless of whether you realise it or not, you are.
Now please don’t mistake this statement as one that means this is about to become a ‘sugary pep-talk’ blog… that’s not the CLA way! No, it’s a statement that underpins the first of the concrete principles of influence that you can apply immediately. Through this blog you will learn about something that you already have, and how to turn it into something even better (and I know this to be true as the feedback from the Masterclass was highly consistent in the practical applicability of what was taught… which is most definitely the CLA way!).
I recently heard world renowned leadership expert, John Maxwell, talk about the laws of leadership that apply regardless of whether or not a leader knows about them, understands them, believes in them, or even agrees/disagrees with them. They are in operation regardless because they are an irrefutable ‘law’. That great talk got me thinking that this also applies to the notion of influence, hence the opening question for the Masterclass (and the title of this blog). The law of influence states that everyone is influential, and are indeed influencing those around them and outcomes, regardless of their level of awareness or intention to do so.
This law does not correlate in any way with effectiveness – you may very well be influencing people/outcomes/situations, but this does not suggest that how you’re influencing is having a desirable or positive impact.
If you’re seeking to use your influence for ‘good’, then you’ll be interested to read that…
- Insight helps us to become more deliberate and intentional in our actions to influence
- Being intentional in our influence attempts is what helps us increase the impact and effectiveness of our behaviour
Assuming you’re in agreement with the law of influence, I want to equip you with some key insights to help you use them to have greater impact both inside and outside the workplace.
Here at CLA, we operate all our programs using the Development Pipeline (which conceptualises the 5 stages required for transformative development to occur), and this pipeline always starts with ‘Insight’.
So, in keeping with that theme, here are 3 key insights to help you become more intentional in your influence, thereby increasing the impact you have. Participants in the Masterclass were asked to think of a situation/person they were currently seeking to influence, so I will ask you, Reader, to do the same. This will help make the insights you’re about to read far more concrete and able to be practically applied (something that we highly value at CLA!)
So, what person/people are you seeking to increase the impact of your influence with right now?
With the answer to that now at the forefront of your mind, read on…
Insight #1: Know your ‘why’
If you have read Simon Sinek’s widely acclaimed book ‘Start with Why’ (and if you haven’t, I highly recommend it!), you’ll appreciate that to increase the impact of your influence, it helps if you start with defining the outcome you’re seeking, and knowing why this is important to achieve. Once you know the reason why you’re seeking to dial up your influence in any given situation, it helps to shed light on the how (something we’ll come to shortly).
So, thinking about the scenario that came to mind for you with the last question, what outcome are you seeking to achieve? Are you seeking to simply have someone comply with your request of what needs to be done? Perhaps you’re seeking to reduce someone’s level of resistance by a notch or two (as that’s all you can realistically hope for at this time)? Or maybe you’re seeking to capture the hearts and minds of others, to get them on board with the vision of what could be, and gain their engagement and commitment to achieving the ‘good thing’ you’re wanting them to achieve (we find this is often the most likely of the scenarios from the leaders with whom we work closely).
So what is it out of these outcomes that is your driving reason why you’re seeking to increase the impact of your influence attempts?
Answering this will help with the next insight, so ponder that now, then move on to the next insight…
Insight #2: Know your levers
CLA have partnered closely with Prof. Jen Overbeck from Melbourne University over recent years to learn more about her highly acclaimed work in the field of influence. Prof. Overbeck’s work states that there are two key sources one can draw on when influencing others – power or status.
The influencing source of ‘power’ comes when you are in a position of authority over those you are seeking to influence (e.g. you are senior to the person you are seeking to influence). When you influence with power, it is akin to telling someone what you want them to do and is often aligned with more of a ‘command and control’ style of leadership. When seeking to influence outcomes whilst maintaining relationships however, it is recommended to sparingly pull the ‘power’… people may be fine to comply with your requests when necessary every now and then when the situation calls for it, however if this is the only lever you pull (and you do so regularly), you run the risk of eliciting subversive behaviour, those on the receiving end becoming actively resistant, and/or having them walk out the door and taking their talent, skills, and knowledge elsewhere (potentially to a competitor)!
The other source of influence – status – is often seen as being more effective and is recommended if the outcome you are seeking is to reduce resistance (not create it!) and/or elicit commitment. A key part that social psychology teaches us when influencing people, is this idea of how you are perceived by other people. In short, what makes someone ‘more influential’ than another person? Think about the people in your organisation, your network or your field – who are the people that are really looked up to, who seem able to say the word and others just follow? More likely than not, these people have status.
Unlike ‘power’, the influencing source of ‘status’ has no correlation with formal titles or position, rather it comes through relationships, ‘runs on the board’ (so to speak), your credibility, and the level of respect you hold within your network. When you build up your status over time, people will be more likely to perceive you as someone with influence, and more likely to follow you or get on board with your ideas.
When you know the outcome you’re seeking (e.g. gain compliance, reduce resistance, elicit commitment), it gives an indication of which lever is best to pull. Power is fine when you’re seeking compliance, but if you pull the power lever when you’re aiming to elicit commitment (or perhaps simply reduce resistance before you can eventually gain their commitment), you may find your attempts miss the mark… which is where status comes into play. More often than not, we’re all best aiming to pull the status lever in the first instance, and only when it’s totally necessary, resort to pulling the power lever (if we have that available to us).
So, in the situation you’re seeking to increase your level of influence in right now, what lever are you best to be pulling? What can you do to build status with those you’re seeking to influence?
Reflect on these, then continue on to the third and final insight…
Insight #3: Know your tactics
So we’ve covered the ‘why’ (reason) and the ‘what’ (levers), now comes the ‘how’… this involves the nuts and bolts of influence through tactics.
Drawing closely on 30 years worth of work from Gary Yukl (University of New York) there are a specific series of influencing tactics commonly used in organisations by managers/leaders. These tactics involve what you say and behaviours you demonstrate to influence others and outcomes. Not surprisingly, some are found to be more heavily used than others, and some are considered more effective than others (and as a point of interest – the most used are not always the most effective…!).
The tactics can be largely grouped into two categories – ‘hard’ and ‘soft’. When using hard tactics, individuals rely more on their own perspectives to influence, draw on their source of power, and are more likely to yield compliance as an outcome. ‘Soft’ tactics however include individuals seeking to understand the inner motivations of others through getting to know them and seeking to include them in decision making, thereby pulling the ‘status’ lever and eliciting a greater degree of buy in and commitment as a result.
(for more information on what the specific tactics include, please contact the CLA office – email@example.com and we can forward you through a great article to read!)
Indeed, the effectiveness of any tactic applied depends on the outcome you desire to achieve and the strength of the levers you have to pull, however the clincher in this is knowing what makes the other person tick, and using the right tactic accordingly… just because you know a particular tactic works on you, doesn’t mean that it will work on another.
This is where the age old principle of awareness of ‘self and others’ comes into play with influence – it’s great to be aware of what works for you, but don’t fall into the common trap of assuming that it will automatically work for others too. Think of what you know about them, and adapt your influencing tactics accordingly.
With that in mind, spend some time now to reflect on the final questions…
What tactics do you use the most when influencing? What tactics do you think will work on the person/people in the situation you first thought of at the start of this blog?
Two of CLA’s core values are to 1. demonstrate a curiosity to never stop learning and 2. to deliver practical solutions that make a difference. We hope that through reading and reflecting on this blog piece you have joined with us in our love of learning through having increased your knowledge in the area of influence, whilst at the same time gained some practical ways to become more intentional (and therefore impactful) in the influence you have on others.
We thrive on working with organisations keen to increase their competitive advantage through great leadership – if you or your organisation are ready to explore the benefits that partnering with us can bring, we’d love to hear from you. Visit our website, complete the contact form, and one of our team will be delighted to connect with you.