Influencing is about inspiring, motivating, or in some way, compelling others to move in a certain direction.
Some individuals are naturally great at this. Others find it very hard to influence the behaviours and actions of others. This may be due to an inability to connect, lack of credibility, or perhaps just bad communication.
Self-awareness is an essential place to start when examining your ability to influence. How do you interact with others? Could you yield better influence outcomes if you diverted from your natural tendencies?
You may also be surprised at your ability to influence if you paid more attention to the personalities of others, and to your communication methods.
To help you think through these points, here is a guide on understanding the way you interact with others, and how to influence people.
First, understand your natural tendencies
To learn how to be a powerful influence on others, a good place to begin is by understanding the way you naturally interact with others.
Of course, this may differ between the various groups of people you interact with. For example, you may be a more relaxed, forgiving, and a softer critic when it comes to your children, but much more aggressive, assertive, and strict when it comes to the workplace.
In general, if no conscious effort is made to control the way you react in different situations, chances are that you will react in a way that is compatible with your character traits.
If, for example, I am an anxious person, I am likely to exhibit anxiety in the way I communicate with others and focus on unwanted consequences, unless I consciously control this.
So it’s important to understand our natural tendencies by assessing our character. Consequently, it is also important to assess how much we control these natural tendencies. How do we react to different groups of people?
There are many questions you can ask yourself, and many quizzes out there that help you identify your natural tendencies.
Here’s a question to ask yourself:
Question: It is year-end appraisal time, your boss gives you an appraisal that is below your expectation. What do you do next?
a. You go back home and pour out your frustration to those close to you.
b. You calmly seek clarifications with your boss and share with him your perspective on the matter.
c. In frustration, you leave your bosses’ office and tell your colleagues how unfair and unreasonable your boss is.
Question: You spot a “typo” error in an important document done by your subordinate. What do you do next?
a. You ignore it as you think it is a minor mistake.
b. You alert your subordinate of the mistake and have him make changes.
c. You tell your subordinate that such mistakes are not acceptable and he should not repeat this.
If your answer is (a) in both scenarios, this indicates you are more of a passive, hesitant influencer. If your answer is (c), it shows that you are more aggressive. Those who choose (b) as their answers have a tendency to interact with others in a confident and assertive manner.
To increase your chances of a well-rounded, more accurate assessment of your influencing tendencies, ask a trusted friend, colleague or relative how they perceive you. Once you’ve established the way you interact with others, it’s useful to understand the three styles of influencing behaviour: passive, assertive and aggressive. The table below describes each style in detail and how people with these tendencies can be perceived.
On the “Influencing Response Scale”, being passive tends to diminish your influencing power. It can increase stress levels as well.
Being aggressive increases your influence, however it does so by exploiting the element of fear in others. Being assertive is the most balanced of the three and often gives the best results.
Which one are you? Consider the implications of your natural style, and how you can be more effective in the way you influence others:
How to influence team mates
Now that you have a greater sense of self-awareness, consider how you work in a group setting. Here is a summary of the different roles one can take in a team. Which one are you?
Positive: The Futurist is a visionary and focuses on the big picture. This person looks at the long-term objectives, desired results, and the general direction of the team and its systems. As such, the Futurist provides a sense of mission, purpose, direction and leadership that others cannot.
Negative: The Futurist often ignores important details and fails to do what is important to get things done.
Positive: The Go-Getter is one who can be most relied on to accomplish a task. He/she is a hard worker, often pushes through and has a high level of expertise to get things done.
Negative: In his/her desire to get things done, the Go-Getter often neglects the contributions of others and may be seen as tough to work with.
Positive: The Coordinator works very well with people. He/she often tries to ensure that processes are established and adhered to. When disagreements happen, the Coordinator will often step in to solve the issues by getting all parties involved to discuss their differences.
Negative: In his/her concern to get the processes right and to please everyone, the Coordinator often fails to complete things on time.
Positive: The Analyser is often the “heart” or conscience of the team. He/she reviews the team’s decisions and analyses them against the common purpose to ensure that the team stays on track. The Analyser often provides ethical and procedural direction that the team needs.
Negative: The Analyser is often in a reactive mode waiting to “catch” the mistakes of others. He/she is often not seen as someone who will initiate anything.
For instance, if you are a Futurist and like to focus on long-term objectives, you may clash with a Go-Getter who just wants to get things done.
To get the Go-Getter alongside you, translate the big picture you see into steps that can be accomplished. This will fulfil the cravings of the Go-Getter to see tasks through to completion.
Likewise, if you are a Coordinator working with a Futurist, work with the natural tendencies of the Futurist. Let your passion for process complement the direction and big picture that the Futurist sees. Help him or her understand the systems required to fulfil the long-term goals.
The table above explains how each personality type can engage with other personalities more effectively. Try it with your team mates.
The art of delegation and empowerment
If you’re leading a team, delegation of tasks and empowerment of team members will be an essential part of your role.
This is part and parcel of influence, as you are moving others to act in a specific way. It also indicates the value and trust you place on others.
However, delegating can be futile, and very frustrating for those you lead, if details aren’t clear.
The delegation process should ideally follow these steps:
For delegation to be successful, also consider the following things:
a. The knowledge, skill and experience of the individual
b. The current work load of the individual
c. Does the individual have adequate support to execute the task well?
d. Has sufficient authority been given?
If such elements aren’t properly thought about, delegation of tasks to individuals may not only result in unmet goals, but call into question the effectiveness of the influence you are attempting to exercise on the team.
To powerfully influence, you can’t neglect the importance of authentic, effective communication either. Here are tips to bear in mind as you communicate and interact with others.
1. Always aim for interactive communication
There are two types of communication – one way communication, and interactive communication. When possible, interactive communication should be the preferred method to use.
Examples of one-way communication at work include memos, policies, manuals and press releases. Sometimes, information is best delivered through a one-way channel of communication.
However, interactive communication has the benefit of increasing your influencing power. The opportunity to ask and answer questions, clarify any points that may be unclear and address concerns is invaluable, as it enables the distributor of information to build the case for the information and ensure everyone is on board.
2. Eliminate communication filters
But interactive communication alone is not enough to increase the influencing power. Overcoming communication filters, is also an important part of effective communication.
Filters could be either external, like noise or distractions, or internal, such as emotional baggage and cultural background.
Identify filters that could be shielding the effectiveness of your communication and work to eliminate them.
Elements like noise can be dealt with by better choice of location, equipment or just better timing. Internal filters like emotional baggage, are tougher. However, they can be overcome by discussion and raising awareness of the existence of these internal filters.
3. Remember to listen
Last but not least, authentic communication demands effective listening. Once again, this seems simple enough, however we tend to not listen properly when interacting with others.
Whether it is that we are too fixed on our opinion of the subject matter, or that we are too preoccupied with other thoughts, not listening carefully reduces our influencing power as it diminishes our communication effectiveness.
We tend to miss key pieces of information, and in the case of our not-so-straight-forward colleagues, underlying messages. So as you seek to strengthen your influence on others, first start from the point of self-awareness. Consider the way you naturally interact with others, and the effectiveness of your communication.
Then increase your awareness of others. Understand the way they tick, and what they need to successfully carry out tasks you give them to do. These points lie at the foundation of inspiring, motivation and compelling others to action.