I read a very interesting and inspiring book recently. This in itself was a milestone as the last book I finished was about 20 years ago! The book in question is ‘Return On Influence’ by Mark Schaefer, a renowned marketing consultant and blogger. I was initially interested in leveraging my influence online to further my personal brand, however, during the book I started to realise that influence is not something that should be used solely as a tool for personal gain, but more a quality that can be utilised to achieve a ‘greater good’.
What does influence actually mean in the workplace?
in·flu·ence – the capacity or power of persons or things to be a compelling force on or produce effects on the actions, behavior, opinions, etc., of others.
Influential situations and events happen in the workplace everyday, and affect all of us on a regular basis. From being persuaded to go to a particular sandwich shop at lunchtime to deciding upon which marketing campaign to embark on, influence always plays a part. From a verbal conversation to an update on the company intranet, any action that involves a discussion will invariably be affected by influence in some way, no matter how small.
Using influence as a positive contributing factor can be the key difference between a successful campaign, and one which never really gets off the ground and consumes your colleagues valuable time needlessly. Even in the smallest of conversations, your influence on others (whether you appreciate it or not) can either be a positive force, or a negative one, and have a lasting effect.
How to influence others?
There are a number of ways, or techniques, that can be utilised when trying to influence others:
- The logical approach – use logic or evidence to explain or justify a position. Evidence your opinion with solid facts and figures that can be presented within data or illustrated in a graphical form. Explain your position and the proposed course of action.
- Appealing to friends – the people that know you best (other than your family) are your friends. Friends will know your thought processes and understand your reasoning for most decisions. They will also trust you more than a stranger or colleague. Leveraging this trust and familiarity in order to influence a friend’s actions is often much simpler than trying to influence colleagues.
- Social influence – this technique is played out on the internet every minute of every day. Quite often people make the mistake of assuming that they can influence others immediately, however, becoming influential is not a 2 minute process. Interacting with others, commenting, sharing, giving credit to others and discussing mutual interests will build their trust and respect. Being seen to be helpful and offering advice and guidance strengthens your position within the community and increases your influence amongst those who participate. As a trusted and respected member of their ‘tribe’, you have a greater influence when suggesting future actions.
- See both sides of the ‘argument’ – displaying a willingness to understand an opinion or rationale of others is an important element when trying to influence a decision or action. This shows that you can consider all alternatives, take differing opinions into consideration and respect others opinions.
Colours that you wear can have an influence on how others perceive you and how likely they are to be influenced by you. Wearing blue portrays, amongst others wisdom, intelligence and nobility which are all qualities that others would look for in a trustworthy colleague.
The ability to influence those around you in a positive way will not only benefit them, but also how you are perceived as an individual. Bearing in mind that the things that you say and the actions that you take have a bearing on those around you, consciously or subconsciously.