Influencing

by Don Morley

Introduction

Influence has never been as important as in today’s business climate.

In the past, it was assumed that seniority bestowed the appropriate influence. Employees were paid to follow instructions from above without question. Today’s less hierarchical structures require a more subtle approach to getting things done: influence now has to be earned.

With the increasing use of project teams and cross-functional activity, the norm is for staff to come together as equals, and the best that the project leader can do is to rely upon a ‘first amongst equals’ positioning. Even expertise or reputation must now be supported by influencing skills.

Yesterday’s influence was largely about getting people to see it your way – a push strategy. Today’s influence is more often aimed at winning hearts and minds through a pull strategy. When might having the skill to influence be crucial to the outcome?

  • Conducting recruitment interviews
  • Carrying out performance appraisals
  • Coaching difficult staff
  • Chairing or addressing a meeting
  • Instigating change
  • Leading or participating in projects
  • Setting stretching sales targets
  • Implementing budget cuts.

The list could continue. In practice, if you are managing, you are probably influencing most of the time. Influencing skills enable the capable individual to maximise their contribution to personal and organisational performance. Without it, even the most talented person will fall short.

Definition

The dictionary definition of influencing is:

  • the power to affect other people or events
  • to act on the mind; to sway; to bias; to induce

It also records that being influential is:

  • authoritative, compelling, controlling, convincing, dominant, forceful, guiding, inspiring, persuasive, powerful, pressurising, manipulative, motivational

So making a compelling case in the course of a convincing presentation that can guide, inspire and motivate clearly demonstrates influence of the highest order. By contrast, the other defining words imply an outdated type of influence that runs a high risk of being counter-productive in today’s organisation.

This topic will therefore concentrate on influence aimed at achieving a meeting of minds and win/win outcomes for all parties involved.