We’ve seen a trend over the years in the way that people in business have to influence others.
In many organisations people were hired for their expertise and were left to get on with it. This was particularly true for technical employees: finance, IT, engineering, etc.
As the business world changed, the recession hit, redundancies were made, many of the people who were left have had to take on additional roles they hadn’t trained for and often believed they didn’t have a facility for: influencing others.
The fallout from these changes is still being felt.
Many of these people have to attend client facing meetings which they didn’t have to do in the past. They have to interact with colleagues from other departments and convince them to give time and resources to projects they may only be peripherally involved with.
The biggest issue these people have said to us that they have to grapple with is influencing people over whom they have no authority and who may not appear to be particularly interested in what’s being asked of them.
That’s one of the reasons our influencing skills courses prove so popular – because they give people a comprehensive range of tools and techniques to help them bridge that skills gap.
Here are a couple of examples:
In our experience people with highly technical skills are exceptionally adept at describing what they are doing….in their own terms. The problem is that those terms are often gibberish to non-technical people and it’s easy for the techies to be misinterpreted or even ignored.
What we look at is that in order to influence when there is that kind of communication gap, you have to start using the other person’s ‘terms of reference’, the other person’s point of view, rather than trying to get them to understand yours. If you can really get your head ‘round the idea of seeing what ‘they’ see and talking from that place, your influencing skills will increase exponentially.
Another useful tool is about the ‘three strikes and you’re out’ rule. Again, in our experience, when there is a communication gap the person trying to influence will ask a lot of questions. A lot of questions. In some contexts that’s OK and useful. However, in influencing situations more than three questions begins to feel like the Spanish Inquisition and other people can often feel intimidated, overwhelmed or even cross.
So the first step we would be to limit the number of questions in a row you ask. The second step would be to spend time practising open questions that require the other person to amplify their answers so that a conversation can begin rather than carrying on the uncomfortable pattern of question-answer-question-answer-question-answer, etc.
Getting a few simple hints and tips under your belt will make your influencing life so much easier and will build your confidence so that you enter this new arena with self-assurance rather than wishing you were hiding under the duvet.
Check out Impact Factory’s Influencing courses.
By Jo Ellen Grzyb, Director, Impact Factory