I am frequently faced with the challenges of leadership in organisations; the disempowered, the disenfranchised and the undermined people who struggle to get done what their apparent authority should make relatively easy. Or more crucially they may lack the assigned authority but quite reasonably seek to influence outcomes in their organisation.
A vital skill for leaders at all levels is the ability to positively influence people in such a way that others follow and act willingly — as opposed to complying because of bestowed authority.
– Understanding resistance and objection: explicit or implicit
Resistance to change is all too common and rooted in many reasons. Understanding those reasons is essential to help circumvent the ‘blockers’. The trick is to probe these blockers with questions such as:
- Do they understand the consequences of inaction?
- Do they understand the benefits of change – especially to them?
- What sacrifices or risks are they seeing from change? Personally and organisationally?
- What would minimise their worries?
- When attempting to influence, consider what people might do in each of these areas.
– Tailoring to styles of people
Even the nerdiest member of the team has some emotional capacity and will see and hear things in a unique way. What people think they are clearly saying can be heard in a number if ways depending on whom they are talking to. People also filter what they hear according to their own pre-conceptions.
For simplicity consider the four primary styles of people:
- Driver: Direct, results-orientated
- Expressive: Outgoing, creative, social
- Amiable: Dependable, easy-going, sensitive
- Analytical: Systematic, accurate, structured, logical
The best communication effectiveness and influence will be achieved by tailoring to these types.
Drivers often have poor listening skills. Expressives often struggle to process logical and rationale points. Amiables can struggle to get their real thoughts across. Analyticals can lack the personal touch when dealing with people.
People have to assess and tailor to the dominant style of the person they are attempting to influence.
Drivers can be impatient so get to the point with them. Expressives want more social interaction and recognition. Amiables want consensus, which can be put above correctness. Analyticals need strongly fact-supported arguments.
– Creating personal power
There are two types of power: positional (bestowed) and personal (innate). Positional power is bestowed by the role but should not be over used. Over use undermines personal power which comes with presence, knowledge and inclusiveness.
Personal power may be defined as being made up of relationships, presence and expertise. A lot more gets done when people like each other – we are social animals and relationships are essential. Expertise leads to credibility and authority.
– Communication – both ways
Conscious, active listening skills are essential. With these people will know that people understand people and people understand them People should react to what they hear and perceive, not assumptions and presumptions.
– Acknowledge emotion
Influencing requires a good argument and an appeal to a people’s emotions. Honesty and authenticity serve this well. Real, from the heart expressiveness will usually get a positive response. Hidden agendas can however cause people to bridle, they can be smelt. Body language helps but even more powerful is storytelling. Stories always get a reaction and can really enable an argument because within a story are consequences and solutions. Stories stir the soul and speed up the onward consensus for action.
Too many people focus on the ‘what’ of changes. People will however respond to the ‘why’— and the benefits thereof. People need to focus on the implications and consequences, these are rooted in the “why’ , i.e. why change is important and why its important to those involved.
– Big stuff : Little stuff
The bigger picture and the minutiae must be balanced. Some will want the detailed version of the story and others focus on a higher-level view. Some respond to language and some more to images.
-Presence, Persistence & Perseverance
Influence is not an episodic matter. It requires tenacity, patience and consistency. Influencers may need to repeat the subject a number of times to a number of people in a number of ways. Influencers need to be ‘present’ and networking with interested and dis-interested parties. Influencers need to take the rejections. But every effort helps to nudge change.