Exerting influence at work today, is no walk in the park for executives, given that they must work with teams they often have no formal authority over, all thanks to the rise of flatter management structures, dotted-line reporting, outsourcing and virtual teams.
But influence they must, if they’re to get the job done, authority or not.
The question is how.
Browse the video lesson below to find out. And remember to take the quiz at the end of the lesson.
In the contemporary workforce, with flatter management structures, dotted-line reporting, outsourcing and virtual teams, leaders work with teams they often have no formal authority over others. They must find other – softer – means to motivate and influence without authority.
But what are these ‘softer means’ of influence?
a. Conversational Intelligence
Conversational Intelligence is about conducting conversations in a way that influences and persuades others. There are words and phrases, which research has shown can better influence thought and action.
Consider for instance the following words and phrases that bestow the wielder with enhanced power to influence:
Using the word “because’ when making a request has been found to improve request compliance by 85%. Here’s another example: giving people a chance to back out of a request by saying something like “You don’t have to, however…..” is known to ensure a 15% higher acceptance rate than a straight-out request.
Another example is using the technique of ‘framing’, which refers to tying in your proposal to something that the audience cares about.
This is known to ensure better buy-in and influence.
These are a few examples, and considering this is merely an introduction to the subject of softer means of influencing, a more detailed treatment of the subject of conversational intelligence would be out-of-scope here.
Just remember that you would do well to master Conversational Intelligence. It is a powerful tool to ensure influence without power.
When you do something for someone, they feel inspired or obliged, and take the trouble to return the favour. The mutuality rule often produces a positive response (“yes”) to a request that in the absence of an existing feeling of indebtedness would most likely have been refused.
So, how can you get Mutuality to work for you? First, ‘give’ something to someone from whom you are seeking something in return? In fact, be seen as someone who is by nature ‘giving’, especially by people you must influence. The more you give, the more people will feel indebted to you and give back what you seek of them.
It is the principle of mutuality at work and a great tool to ensure influence.
Research shows that, the more similar to them you appear to be, the more people will like and agree with you.
Tupperware, the premium home products line recruits women who throw a “Tupperware party,” an event where a Tupperware sales rep would ask a hostess to invite several of her friends for a get-together, featuring door prizes, munchies, etc…and then the Tupperware rep leads a discussion on the awesomeness of her product. Attendees are known to make a purchases of Tupperware products at the party.
Research done by Psychologist Robert Cialdini, found that when attendees made their on-the-spot purchases, it wasn’t because they really wanted the product, nor because the sales rep was particularly convincing. It was because they knew and liked the hostess, and thus felt obligated to make a purchase, in turn.
Seeking to improve your ability to influence others? What can you do to raise your likeability quotient?
Gravitas is behaving in ways that shows the world that you are credible and capable of being taken seriously and leading others.
Here is how you project gravitas:
Virtuosity is evolved skill or expertise in a particular domain. People who are seen as virtuosos wield tremendous influence.
Think about it. If you wanted to learn a thing or two about chess, who would you seek out for input/information? If you fancied learning the ‘tabla’, whose name would you google for tips and tricks?
Whose word would you consider as final on finances?
Chances are you’ll pick authority figures in all those fields. You’ll look for blogs, articles and videos associated with them, if you can’t afford working with them in person. And you’ll heed their advice without question.
Bottom line: Virtuosos wield greater influence that average practitioners in any given field.
How might one exude virtuosity? Could you blog about a topic that you consider yourself to be an expert on? Could you ensure that the right kind of people read and endorse your blog?
How about displaying your academic accomplishments and credentials on your area of expertise in plain view? Why stop at academics? What about your professional successes in your area of expertise?
f. Social Influence
People are influenced by decisions made by other people – either people in their social networks, or people they respect. According to this principle, we deem correct/valuable what others think is correct/valuable.
As an example, Netflix, the leading online entertainment provider, makes clever use of social proof to keep subscribers hooked and binge watch by highlighting trends, reviews and testimonials – what others are watching and deeming to be cool. Impressed, we follow the trend and are hooked, in return.
We are influenced by what others say about some thing or person and this informs our choices and opinions about the subject under consideration.
How can you leverage social proof to your advantage? Remember, social influence or social proof is about using another party’s word to convince a third. So,
1. Look to win people over to your side first and then use them as your agents for social proof.
2. Use testimonials and endorsements from others – especially those in position on authority – attesting to you and your work?
These are measures that you can use to build word-of-mouth to build your repute and stature in your workplace or society. Remember, that when people view you and your work favourably you will be better able to influence them.
As the business landscape continues to shift, leaders will need to develop the ability to influence without formal authority. The six tools of influence we’ve shared in this lesson, namely:
1. Conversational Intelligence
5. Being Seen as an Authority Figure
6. Social Influence
Will stand you in good stead and enable you to influence thought and action, even if you lack power or formal authority.
We will be discussing these tools in depth in subsequent lessons, but for now, please scroll down to take the quiz