My Take On What It Takes to Influence
My last blog talked about the list of influential disabled people that is currently being compiled. This post looks at what I believe influencing is and how it can be achieved.
When I run leadership training workshops I am always told by the disabled leaders and aspiring disabled leaders that being able to influence is a key skill of a great leader.
As this is always cited I have run stand-alone workshops on influencing. It is possibly more important than ever to think about influencingas times are difficult, opportunities limited and budgets tight. So, whether you are influencing on behalf of others or yourself it will be a compelling tool to have in your tool box.
What is influencing? I put it to groups of disabled people at leadership and empowerment events that influencing is, “changing another person’s attitudes or actions without using force or authority”
On one occasion one delegate questioned the ‘without force or authority’ bit. She claimed you could influence someone by making them change. I thought about it and conceded she could be right in some circumstances. However, it certainly isn’t the ideal as it doesn’t work well for creating lasting, positive change, which was the topic of my workshop.
Dale Carnegee in his famous book, ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’ says, “the only way to make another person take action is to make them want to” So how can we make other people want to change to our way of thinking or take actions we want them to take?
- Firstly, focus on being interested in the other person. You are of course interested in your own outcome but remember the other person is more interested in theirs.
- Your aim is to create a good rapport with the other person so they respect you and in time want to hear your views.
- The natural tendency is to focus on what you want to say and what message you want to get across. If you do this then you will likely forget to listen. My advice is to actively listen, ask open questions then listen again and refrain from interrupting. This is in your interest, as once you know more about the other person you can ensure what you have to say meets their objectives and is of benefit to them. Focus on the benefits, not the features.
- In addition, this endears you to them and makes you memorable. Once they have made a connection with you they are more likely to listen to your views and likely be influenced by what you have to say.
- Clever influencers lead others to their way of thinking. So, even if you know you are right and the other person is wrong avoid telling them this. No one likes to be told they are wrong and this will not help you influence them to your way of thinking. Plan your responses to possible objections.
- Sometimes you might need to be diplomatic and allow the other person to think they have come round to your way of thinking off their own back. If it is not necessary that you are credited for the change, be satisfied with achieving your desired outcome. You know how the change came about and it might be better to consider the bigger picture, especially if it has a positive knock-on effect for others.
- Begin with what you have in common before you deal with the barrier or opposing issue. For example:
- You don’t want to leave the organisation and your manager doesn’t want you to leave either. You You may disagree on internal issues but you both have that in common so that is your starting point.
- It may be important to both of you that the views of disabled people are taken into account. It doesn’t matter if this is for different reasons. Get an agreement that this is the agreed outcome before proceeding to the detail of what you don’t see eye to eye on.
You might feel you need to be more forthright than the approach I have outlined. You may agree with the delegate who questioned my definition about not using ‘force or authority’. You may even be one of the influential disabled people on the list and have taken a bolder stance with success. Perhaps I have your campaigning to thank that you pursued before I came on the disability scene?
My only idea of influencing using ‘force or authority’ would be to fall back on disability legislation which I have past activists to thank for. Yet I stand by my approach. It is the best possible starting point when influencing and is tried and tested with success.
‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’ was first published in 1936 so this approach is certainly not new. I find it remarkable just how relevant it is today for anyone wishing to influence others and build relationships and networks. As a business owner I need to influence and as a personal development trainer and coach I influence the influential leaders of today and tomorrow. As a disability equality trainer I influence non-disabled people to appreciate the importance of disability issues and to act upon their new found awareness.
My view is that the ideal way to influence for positive, lasting change is to meet people where they are at and take them with you willingly.