Many professionals who rise through the ranks realize they need more than expertise to achieve results. Successfully transitioning from individual contributor to leader requires getting things done through others.

Why Are Influencing Skills Important?

Leaders need to inspire, persuade, and encourage others to create a common goal and achieve results. Effectively exerting influence and using their formal power is a role expectation.

Exerting their influencing skills allows leaders to:

  • Get buy-in for essential decisions and convince others to embrace organizational strategies, including change.
  • Negotiate effectively, leading to win-win approaches.
  • Promote teamwork, collaboration, and accountability to achieve results.
  • Boosting engagement and promoting positive working environments. 

Power and influence are contingent upon each other. There is no influence without power, and there is no power without influence. Power is the ability to influence others by obtaining buy-in, cooperation, resources, and support to meet organizational goals and align with corporate values.

There are Four Kinds of Power in organizations that enable influence.

  1. Expertise – Becoming a subject matter expert is the first way professionals achieve the credibility and respect to get a seat at the table.
  2. Connections – Being well connected in a particular field, industry, organization, and function is a critical currency to get resources moving, obtain ideas, sponsorship, and support to make decisions and get things done.   
  3. Personal Authority – As professionals progress in their careers with solid expertise and ample connections, they develop strong credibility. Personal authority is the element of executive presence, confidence, and trust that sets leaders apart and makes them more influential.
  4. Position: This is where the leader stands in the organization, meaning that the person who holds the power is the one who makes the decision. Position power is more effective when supported by personal authority.  

In How Women Rise, Sally Helgesen quotes Ted Jenkins when he argues that expertise, connections, and personal authority are all non-positional kinds of power that professionals should develop throughout their careers because they help embrace positional power. What is clear is that more than expertise is needed to succeed.

Feeling comfortable with power is necessary when getting ahead. Many professionals aspiring to become more influential still feel ambivalent about formal power, and this mindset is holding them down.

Skills Involved in Influencing:

There are many skills involved in influencing the workplace. Usually, these abilities are interconnected. For example, building rapport is essential for persuading, negotiating, and resolving conflicts. Here are four critical skills:

  1. Interpersonal: The ability to build rapport and connection. Seeking to understand others and building trust.
  2. Negotiation Techniques: Orchestrating agreements through dialogues between parties to craft outcomes to satisfy various interests.
  3. Conflict Resolution: Process to ending disputes by achieving peaceful solutions to disagreements among parties involved.
  4. Strategic and Persuasive Communications: Crafting and sharing messages to communicate intended outcomes oriented to inform, persuade, appease, and increase trust and commitment.

Influencing Approaches: 

Deloitte Women and Power in Business describes three main influencing tactics: persuasion, exchange, and coercion. By becoming aware of these techniques, leaders can expand their approaches to influencing depending on the organization, context, stakeholders, and desired outcome.

1.    Persuasion tactics – such as rational persuasion and inspirational appeals. These tactics focus on using logical arguments or appealing to values and ideals to persuade people. They are most effective when building involvement, and their results are long-lasting because they lead to attitude changes. 

2.    Exchange tactics – such as consultationingratiation, and exchange. These strategies seek to get people into a favorable mood to encourage buy-in. They make people more compliant but require time and effort due to the high level of involvement needed. 

3.    Coercion tactics – such as coalition and pressure. These approaches are about exerting pressure; their primary function is breaking resistance. They require courage in confrontation, and they can be most effective when adversaries are unwilling and raise objections that something cannot or should not be done. 

Most leaders are unaware of their influencing methods because they use their natural styles to persuade. Familiarizing with different influencing approaches will allow leaders to explore other methods and incorporate them into their repertoire for better results.  

Different Lenses to Influencing:  

Leaders benefit from considering gender, national culture, organizational culture, and level when influencing the organization’s systems.

Gender Lens – 

According to a report from Deloitte, Women and Power in Business, women and men choose different influencing approaches. Generally, women seek more cooperation than men by combining rational persuasion (factual evidence) and consultation (getting people involved, asking for their viewpoints). 

Intercultural Lens –

Cross-cultural factors significantly impact the leadership assumptions that drive influencing and negotiation approaches worldwide. The wider the cultural gap between the two sides, the more it requires a conscious effort to adopt the more appropriate influencing approaches in different cultural settings.

Organizational Culture Lens –

An organization’s culture is reflected by what is valued, the dominant leadership styles, the languages and symbols, the procedures and routines, and the definition of success that make an organization unique. According to Kim S. Cameron and Robert E Quinn, four self-differentiated organizational cultures emphasize particular influencing approaches from their leaders.

  • Clan – Emphasis on collaboration
  • Adhocracy – Emphasis on creation
  • Hierarchy – Emphasis on control and,
  • Market – Emphasis on competition.

Levels in the Organization 

Organizations are complex systems of processes and people, and getting things done requires different approaches when they seek to influence direct reports, peers, and managers.

  • Direct Reports: Leaders who communicate frequently and effectively influence their teams and create environments where people want to do the work.
  • Peers: Since peers don’t have power over each other, leaders must find common ground to trade and transact.
  • Managers: Knowing how to operate in the matrix, becoming visible, and obtaining support and sponsorship from senior leaders to fund essential projects.

Four Ideas for Increasing Your Influencing Skills: 

  1. Be Transparent: Honesty is one of the most essential qualities a leader can display because it builds trust. Create an environment where people can voice their opinions and present their viewpoints even if they differ. Also, share enough contextual information so people can do their jobs better.
  2. Inspire Loyalty: Stay close to your team and key stakeholders with frequent touching points showing your genuine desire to connect and add value.
  3. Lead By Example: Focus on doing the right thing and be the one who models the behaviors that you want to instill in your team.
  4. Seek Continuous Improvement: We all are work in progress, and it is not realistic to expect perfection. Instead, pursue learning and growth from mistakes.

One of the most essential qualities of a leader is the ability to influence others. By becoming more aware of the multidimensional nature of influence, leaders can better strategize how to navigate their organization to get things done while staying true to themselves.

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