Being influential is the key to success, but how do you achieve it?
If you want to be a successful PA, or indeed if you want success in almost any aspect of your life, you need to be able to influence other people. Influencing others to like and respect you is a starting point. Getting others to support your ideas and take action, to do what you need them to do in order that you can do your job, or even, simply keeping your boss in line, are all examples of where you need to apply influence.
Without doubt, your role already carries a great deal of influence, particularly if you are working at a senior level. Your gatekeeping duties, scheduling control and access to executives are all very potent sources of influence if you recognise them, and use them. Yet, even if you have these, and use them well, there is always more to learn. Focusing your development on influence will pay dividends.
When you have developed and refined your influencing capability, you will be able to determine the most appropriate course of action and others will help you along the way – they’ll help you to become successful. How you put this skill to use is up to you, but we assume that you have the very best interests of your organisation at heart, and will want to maximise your positive contribution to its success.
However, remember that since you are keen to become influential, others will be as well. It’s a competitive world as people vie for influence, and not everyone will want to agree with you all of the time. Successful influence requires that you factor this in, and learn how to build agreement, alliances and if it necessary, overcome opposition.
Becoming more influential requires hard work, energy and commitment – no surprise there! However it is easier than you may think. Often it just requires a little clear thinking, and refocusing your development time. Here are six steps you can take to start to become more influential, and you can use these again whenever you need to move up a gear.
1. Assess Your Skills. Give yourself a score out of 10 for each of the seven dimensions of influencing skill – 10 being perfect. Although we use an assessment tool for this, all you need right now is an intelligent guess.
2. Prioritise One Dimension. Which of these (see Box 1), if improved, would give you the biggest lift in your influence? They are all important but some have more value depending on your situation. Figure out three actions you can take to become better in this area.
3. Focus Your Personal Power. This is what makes you influential without even acting. These are the assets you own (either tangible or intangible) which cause people to do, think or feel differently. Which of the nine sources of personal power (see Box 2) could you build on? We find it helps to have four or five of these sources available. Identify one source and find three actions you can take.
4. Consider Your Style. The manner or behaviour you use when you try to influence can make or break your attempt. Some like to laugh and joke while others are stern and serious. Different people have different styles and you can flex your style to suit. Review the type of behaviour you prefer, how this differs from those you want to influence, and find ways to become more flexible. Identify one person to adopt a different style with.
5. Get Feedback. With all of these steps it really helps if you can use some trusted friends as a sounding board. How do they see you? What do they think you could improve on? There is no point in continuing to delude yourself – so get real and find out what they think so you can start to improve. Talk to one person within the next week.
6. Focus on Goals. This is the key – make sure that you apply all of the above on a specific goal you want to influence. This helps you to implement your learning and move forward your success. Define two goals for today.
These steps cover all of the main areas you need to focus on to become more influential. If you use these to find things you can do to improve, you will always be moving forward. As I often say on my workshops, when becoming influential, there is always more to learn. The most important thing is that you keep focus on developing your capability in this area – if you do, your success will increase as you become more influential.
Seven Dimensions of Influencing Skills
Self-Awareness. The better we know ourselves, the more likely we are to be able to influence other people. This self-awareness helps us understand what we are capable of, what our limitations are, and what we need to do to leverage the greatest influence.
Understanding Others. The ability to know what drives people, how they think, how they react is critical. This establishes a firm foundation upon which we can determine the most appropriate approach to influence.
Understanding Groups. The workplace is a social organisation and comprises many different groups, both formal and informal. Understanding them, how they work and how they get results, can provide us with many opportunities to gain influence more quickly and thoroughly.
Influencing Individuals. This is the most talked about area of influence and cannot be avoided. We need to be able to influence people on a one-to-one basis first and foremost. From this base, we can then develop more sophisticated approaches to influence.
Networking. This is often seen as the differentiator between good and great influencers. To be able to work the room and build a wide array of good personal contacts develops an extremely useful resource which we can call on when we need to, for support, information, and advice.
Influencing Groups. Influencing groups of people is far more efficient than focusing just on individuals. With our understanding of how the different groups around us function, we can develop strategies to maximise our influence and speed up the results we get.
Building Trust. Research has demonstrated that in the absence of trust, successful influence is unlikely. Therefore, the person skilled in influencing others will be able to act in a manner which builds trust with the people they are working with.
Nine Sources of Personal Power
Network Power: The influence you gain because of your network of contacts, associates and friends. This is your ability to access a wide range of sources either for your own benefit, or to help others.
Interpersonal Power: Your ability to use people skills and techniques as a source of influence. It is the power that flows from your ability to build rapport, communicate, persuade and generally get on well with people.
Intrapersonal Power: The extent to which people are influenced by your self-confidence, inner belief, and calm yet strong commitment to your chosen course of action.
Technical Power. The influence you achieve because you are competent at what you do. It includes all of your experience, qualifications, knowledge and track-record of achievement.
Force Power: Your ability to gain influence through your determined, assertive or even aggressive style of interacting with others.
Image Power: The amount of power and influence which derives from your image, personal brand, and reputation. This builds expectations among those you influence about how you will respond or act in any situation.
Status Power: The influence you gain because of your formal role within the organisation. This includes job title and responsibilites, roles on key projects or committees, or the formal mandate to veto actions or decisions made by others.
Resource Power: The influence which arises from your control of valued assets such as people, money, specialist knowledge or vital information.
Physical Power: The way your physical attributes incline others to be influenced by you. This includes your physical appearance, the quality of your voice, the clothes you wear and the way you are able to amplify the impact these things have in the minds of others.