Those who lead effectively have mastered the art of positive influence explains Glynis Devine
You likely spend a huge chunk of your 24 hours trying to get others to respond, buy-in, support, authorize, advocate, and generally do what you ask them to so your life (and often theirs, whether they acknowledge it or not!) runs smoothly.
Your ability to get them to do any of the above depends entirely on your ability to positively influence.
Here are three elements to consider working on to improve your influencing superpowers. Remember, superpowers are always meant for good not evil…these are not mind-control hacks!
1. Be Consistent
When I’m brought in by an enterprise to find solutions to improve their performance, I hold conversations with front-line staff as part of the process; it helps me get a holistic perspective of the situation and identify the gap in perceptions within the organization.
One of the most widespread – and debilitating – challenges staff from many different industries report to me is the inconsistency of their leaders.
“I don’t know whether I’m walking into Jekyll or Hyde in the morning; and it can change throughout the day… minute to minute. I feel like I’m dancing on hot coals – it’s exhausting!”
Consistency of Behaviour
For people to be influenced to want to follow you, they must feel safe. Consistency of behaviour builds that feeling of safety and trust.
That consistency of behaviour comes from developing your emotional intelligence. Feelings – even excessive feelings – are part of life; life is an adventure with highs and lows when you live it fully. Excessive feelings are appropriate in excessive situations – life situations. Rarely does one face a situation at work that would make excessive feelings appropriate. So, save the excessive feelings for home. At work, reign in those excessive emotions.
Emotional Intelligence (and practice) helps you reign in the excessive emotions that cause inconsistent behaviour and keep your relationships at work in the ‘safe zone’.
Consistency extends to processes as well. Have effective systems and stick to them. Doing things differently each time makes people feel unsure they’re doing them right – each time.
Introduce Change Gradually
When changes – even if they are improvements – need to happen, introduce them gradually.
I spent 28 years in the cosmetics industry. I remember sitting down with a client who would say “I want a whole new look!” Two hours and a plethora of carefully blended colours later I’d hand them a mirror and their response? “It doesn’t even look like me!!”
In time, I stopped arguing that that’s what ‘a whole new me’ is supposed to be – different. Instead I learned an important feature about human behaviour… massive change really means several safe millimetres outside their comfort zone. So, in future, instead of suggesting a bright crimson lipstick in lieu of the soft pink my client had worn for twenty-odd years, I suggested a rose-toned one – just a little different. The result? “Wow! It’s different… I like it!”
2. Be Assertive
One of the keys to being assertive is to be on purpose. In communication, that means knowing where you are going – and why. What do you want the outcome of the communication to be? What do you want the other person to do as a result of listening to what you have to share with them?
One of the best ways to keep people engaged long enough to get them to do what you want is to use BLUF communication.
B.L.U.F. stands for Bottom Line Up Front; it’s is a style of communication similar to how journalists write newspaper articles.
Have you ever noticed that the headline of an article usually sets the tone for what we are about to read – the why – and the first paragraph, often in bold or italics and sometimes even one point size bigger font to REALLY get your attention, answers the who, what, where, and when.
And then, a number of paragraphs following, answer the how.
If the writer succeeds in grabbing your attention in the first paragraph, you’ll do what they want – read the rest of the article.
Whether face-to-face or in writing, you can engage your listener or reader the same way.
Start your conversation with the outcome you desire for the communication
This should be super short. If it’s a face to face or phone conversation it will sound something like this –
“I’d like your ideas about…”
“I’d like your interpretation of…”
“I’d like your authorization to…”
“I’d like your support on…”
Then, give your listener the facts – that is, the who, what, where, and when. That’s it!
This is an appropriate time to stop and wait for the listener’s input.
If the listener needs more information before being able to give you what you want, they’ll ask a question – this is engagement. Answer any and all questions as succinctly as possible until they have all they need to be able to give you what you asked for.
If the listener has heard enough to be able to give you what you want, they’ll give you your answer.
While you may be tempted, once you’ve gotten what you want, to give them all the other tidbits you edited out – DON’T! Doing this will undo the assertive prowess you just exemplified.
Start Making Statements
Here’s one more strategy. In my ‘Powerful Communication for Powerful Women’ program, a strategy I get loads of positive feedback about is when participants report the impact when they stop asking questions and start making statements. It’s a small modification in how participants communicate that makes a HUGE difference in how assertive they are perceived.
Anyone who has a habit of asking, “Can I ask a question?” before doing so, has had some wisecracker reply, “You already did!”.
And they are correct. Just ask! An assertive alternative is to say, “I’d like to ask a question….” and continue with the question.
Even more assertive is to simply ask the question without the introduction of intent.
So instead of “Can I continue?” when someone interrupts you in a meeting, try “I’ll continue” and do.
3. Be Positive
Do you golf? Have you’ve ever watched someone play golf on TV? Have you ever played mini putt?
If you have, you’ll notice that the more you whisper to the ball, “Don’t go in the water. Please, don’t go in the water” – it goes STRAIGHT into the water!
That’s because the human brain doesn’t process negative direction.
(and loads of others) fall on deaf ears.
Instead, what the brain focusses on is the rest of the sentence or in this example ‘go in the water’ and does whatever it needs to do to make that happen.
You’ve no doubt been in a class when the teacher or professor taught this phenomenon by giving the example, ‘don’t imagine a pink elephant’ – and we do.
How does this apply to business and being influential?
If you want people to do what you want, give them directions in positive language.
So instead of “Don’t forget, I need those numbers by Tuesday to include them in the report.” try “Please remember, I need those numbers by Tuesday to include them in the report.”
Instead of, “We don’t have the resources/bandwidth/visibility to support that idea” try “To support that idea, we’ll need more resources/bandwidth/visibility.”
What’s the difference? The alternative plants a positive (think: CAN do) message in the listener’s mind. As a result, it provokes positive responses.
In general, people who influence positive change are followed because they get people to think differently. If you want to influence people to do something to effect positive change, the message MUST be positive to start.
Being a person who effects positive change requires you to be able to influence others. You’ll succeed easier at doing this when you
- keep your emotions and your processes consistent
- introduce change gradually
- present succinctly – brief and specific
- make statements instead of asking questions
- use positive language when you communicate
To make a positive difference in your organization, you must be able to lead positive change. Those who lead effectively have mastered the art of positive influence – and you can too!