Is it possible to develop influencing skills?19 Feb 2019
Have you ever found yourself willingly helping someone out without quite knowing how it happened? What about changing your own behaviour, after hearing someone speak passionately about a subject? The ability to influence others is a powerful skill that comes with a lot of responsibility. It’s also one that, with the right knowledge and practice, you can learn.
What are influencing skills?
Anytime your actions or words modify someone else’s thoughts or behaviours, consciously or not, you’re influencing them. Just like with most things, how you apply this ability changes whether it’s a positive thing or negative. You can use it to motivate, empower, right wrongs or encourage collaboration. On the other hand, coercion and nagging are also styles of influencing.
It’s generally accepted that the ability to influence is one of the essential skills required by leaders. Personally, I don’t know if I’ve ever met someone successfully managing an authoritative role who didn’t have something about them that spoke of influence.
However, I believe that a better way to look at the relationship between the two is that influencing others makes you into a leader.
The power of influence in developing opportunities
I remember getting to know a business owner who was incredibly charismatic. Despite a background that lacked business studies, job experience or running a company, he somehow drew people and investors to himself. Within six years, he went from nothing to being invited to interview at Silicon Valley.
How he did this had me curious. However, watching him it wasn’t hard to see what he drew on to develop such a strong influence. Here are some of the things I observed:
- He was passionate about what he did and believed in his work.
- His communication skills were excellent. He engaged with people and built a strong rapport with them.
- Assertiveness aided him in voicing his ideas and ensuring they were heard.
- He used emotional intelligence to read the people he talked to and influence how he presented his ideas.
Often, influencers tend to fall into two different styles and approaches: push or pull and logical or emotional. When pushing, you give others information and encourage or lay out reasons for them to act on it.
Instead of pushing, this business owner drew everyone on the journey with him by leading the way. He created a vision and worked towards it, his open communication, strong work ethic, and interpersonal skills bringing people in. He used pull and emotion, to influence them in a way that benefited them all.
Breaking down what influences your influencing skills
Your ability to influence others relies on a mixture of soft skills and your own personality. Understanding how you naturally tend to influence people is important to developing it. Generally, it’s considered that there are five different main styles.
- Rationalising – Pulling on logic, research and experience to present your case and persuade others.
- Asserting – Using your personal confidence to ensure your ideas are heard and considered. You back this up using rules and authority. Debate is a common approach to encourage discussion and change.
- Negotiating – Making deals or exchanges help you to achieve your goals. You consider timing, tradeoffs and you are open to compromising when necessary.
- Inspiring – A vision and passion help you communicate and pass on your enthusiasm to others, inspiring joint efforts and a shared sense of purpose.
- Bridging – Networking builds your influence. You unite and connect others, creating mutually supportive relationships that help you achieve your aims.
Once you identify your natural influencing style, pick out the soft skills that will strengthen it and develop them. I also find it useful to consider whether how I approach persuading people is best for every scenario. In certain situations it’s sometimes better to use a different style to get the best results.
Can you think of a time where you might have achieved better results if you’d used a different style of influencing?
Improving your ability to influence others is possible. If you’d like help doing this, get in contact with ICML today. We can help you develop your skills.