03. Communicating to Influence

Read MoreAs managers, you are constantly influencing your team members.  Yet, there are crucial times when you need the team to act in a certain manner.  For example, influencing them to improve their skills, or let’s say implementing Six Sigma standards for upcoming projects.

How does a manager go about influencing team members? Dale Carnegie, in his best-selling book “How to Win Friends and Influence People, answered this question almost eight decades back when he said “There is only one way to get anybody to do anything, yes, just one way, and that is making the other person want to do it.”

Influencing is an art, where you are working with the complex human mind.  At its core, influencing is about changing another person’s mind.  You are taking an idea, planting it in the mind of another person and making the person feel that he/she owns that idea.

Influencing needs skill and it requires practice.


The Elements that Influence Influencing

If you are looking to influence more people most of the time, then there are two elements that need to be in place

  1. Your credibility (your reputation and would others want to believe you) and
  2. Your relationship with your team or in other words, how connected does your team feel to you

In the absence of either, you will fail to influence your team members to follow your instructions.

In such a situation, you will then have to fall back on using threats, abuses and fear, typical tyrant behaviours, to influence your team members. Or, you would need to resort to manipulation to get your team to comply with your instructions. This might work in the short term. In the long term though, such behaviour will erode your credibility and your relationship with your team. That will then make the task of influencing them even harder for you.


How to Influence Your Team Members

Here are four simple inputs to help you better influence your team:

1. Connect your agenda with what your team members care about.

If what you want them to do can be shown to help them succeed better or grow in their career, then they will have a greater desire to comply with what you are requesting them to do. For example, say you want people to be trained to be able to perform cross functional roles, if such a need should arise. This might be an additional burden on your team. Here, you can connect your agenda to their desire to grow in their career. Show them how having multi-disciplinary knowledge and skills can place one at an advantage, as compared to those who do not, when it comes to career growth.

Or, connect what you are asking for to your team members’ value systems or beliefs. For example, if you are talking to an individual, who is loyal to your organisation, then you may say, “Doing this is good for the organisation that I know that you feel deeply about. So, wouldn’t you want to do this?”


2. Make things Simple:

Everybody wants an easier life and if you can provide this then you can exert a lot more influence. This often means giving clear, straightforward directions and leading people by the hand to the doing what you want them to do.


3. Challenge Them Constructively

This will work especially for your top performers and those team members who are intrinsically driven and ambitious. Have a relentless focus on excellence and progress. Challenge your team members to reach for tough to achieve stretch goals. When your team members begin to see your commitment to success and excellence, they will develop a great sense of respect for you, which will then help you influence them better.

Though, do not get this instruction wrong: we are not speaking about being tyrannical and simply barking out orders at your team members. Set tough-to-achieve stretch goals, but then work with them closely, using Facilitator behaviour, to help them get there, as well.


4 .Use strong-arm behaviours

Nothing that we have said so far in this lesson should be taken to understand that one should never use strong arm tactics in getting team members to comply with your instructions. There is a time for such tactics.

By strong arm tactics we mean using fear, threats (of stunted career growth and not threats of physical violence) or even, in rare cases, communicating that you are angry with people for their lack of follow through on your instructions.

As we had discussed under Results Focus in the YLP learning continuum, fear can be a potent tool in helping those team members, who were at one point, diligent and productive, but have now slackened off. You could also use such behaviours against those individuals, who are taking your word or instructions lightly. However, and this is where you need to be very careful: many a times, managers mistake lack of ability to perform a task to a lack of desire to perform the task. A team member, who seems reluctant to perform a task, may be so owing to the fact that he or she simply lacks the know-how or the confidence to perform the task independently or effectively. Using strong-arm tactics with such an individual will only lead to the team member further losing confidence and thus underperforming. You do not want that.

So, use such tactics sparingly and only with those individuals, who you know for sure are slacking off or deliberately choosing to disobey you.


In conclusion:

Remember what Dale Carnegie said, “There is only one way to get anybody to do anything, yes, just one way, and that is making the other person want to do it.” This requires that people see you as a credible professional and that you have a close relationship with them.

Lastly, remember the four techniques of influence that this lesson had shared with you:

  1. Connect your agenda to what your team members care about
  2. Make things easy for them
  3. Challenge them constructively
  4. In extreme cases, use strong arm tactics to influence your team members to act as desired