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Influence Others

Learning Objectives

After completing this unit, you’ll be able to:

  • Identify your natural influencing style.
  • Determine when to use the best influencing style.
  • Learn strategies to influence effectively.
  • Build an influence plan.

Introduction

Patrick’s Finance team just came up with a new system for everyone to use to do their expense reports. What a relief! He knows everyone will be thrilled since they’ve been complaining all year about the current system.

Involve other employees, get their buy-in, communicate the project.

To roll out the new system, Patrick sent a company-wide chatter post announcing the change. While the Finance team were all clicking “Like” to his post, others were immediately posting their grievances and refusing to use the new system. Patrick and the Finance team knew the new system was a huge improvement. What in the world was going on?

Patrick forgot one of the most important elements when rolling out new initiatives--focusing on the customer. And in Patrick's case, his customer was an internal customer—the employees at his company.

Patrick and the rest of his department made a couple of critical mistakes. They didn’t:

  • involve any employees in the design of the expense report redesign
  • get their alignment or buy-in
  • communicate the project in advance

Instead, they got caught up in how great the system was and getting it to market fast. They forgot just how important influencing and involving others is when initiating change.

  • Have you ever been in Patrick’s shoes?
  • How important do you think influencing others is to your success as a manager?

Now more than ever, your ability to lead teams and drive results relies on how well you can collaborate and influence others across functions, and perhaps, across oceans. As businesses become more global and organizations flatter, you’ll likely need to influence others you have no direct authority over. That’s a tall order! Have no fear. Help lies ahead.

Influencing Styles

Think about the last time you tried to influence someone. What specifically did you do or say?

Did you:

  • present your ideas and allow others to provide input?
  • use data and logic to persuade someone?
  • use your position of power to drive an outcome?
  • make tradeoffs or compromises to reach an agreement?

Perhaps you used a combination of approaches like those above? The approach you use to affect the thoughts of actions of others is your influencing style .

If you’re like most managers, you probably rely on the same influencing style a lot. “If ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” You may even appreciate it when others use your go-to style to influence you.

But think about it. Does your go-to style work with all people? At different times? Under different circumstances? Probably not. The key is to learn how to use the right style at the right time for your audience.

Curious about your natural influencing style? Take the Influencing Styles Self-Assessment found within the Trust & Influence pack to identify which style you use most frequently.

If you’ve ever Googled “what’s the best way to influence others,” you’ve probably come across hundreds of different models, methods, and frameworks. Almost all of them have value, but which ones works best?

We’ve done some of the heavy lifting for you by consolidating the different approaches into these five influencing styles:

1 Collaborative, 2 Assertive, 3 Analytical, 4 Accommodating, 5 Inspiring

Five is a good number: but which is my natural style?

Getting a sense of your natural style will help you think about which other styles you may need to learn to expand your influencing approach.

Ask yourself these questions in the table below to identify which style seems most like you.

Style Questions to Ask Yourself
Collaborative
  • Do you ask questions to understand the other person’s needs?
  • Do you focus on shared goals?
  • Do you work with the other person to find a solution that satisfies the concerns of both of you?
Assertive
  • Do you use your authority to state your point of view?
  • Do you stand up for and defend the position you believe is right?
  • Do you make sure your ideas are heard when others disagree?
Analytical
  • Do you use logic and facts to reason objectively?
  • Do you use your expertise to persuade others?
  • Do you present the pros and cons of each solution?
Accommodating
  • Do you make tradeoffs and exchanges to reach an outcome?
  • Do you look for middle ground where you both are satisfied?
  • Do you look for a solution that’s acceptable to both parties by bargaining?
Inspiring
  • Do you choose an interesting, memorable, and engaging way to present your point of view?
  • Do you tell compelling stories that paint a picture of what’s possible?
  • Do you communicate your position with optimism and enthusiasm?

Let’s take a look at when and how you might use each influencing style. Keep in mind, there are pros and cons to using each style. Let’s start with 1. Collaborative.

Collaborative

Use it when: Tips:
  • You want input from others to identify options/solutions to a problem
  • You need the other person/team’s alignment, buy-in, and support
  • A joint solution that meets all parties needs is required
  • Ask questions to uncover the needs/goals of others
  • Be open to other points of view
  • Identify and discuss multiple options
  • Decide on the option that meets the most important needs of others

Being collaborative takes time. It’s worth it when the stakes are high and you need collaboration and support from others to be successful. But what if there is more of a sense of urgency that requires your authority to make a less democratic, quicker decision? Perhaps an assertive approach would be more effective.

Assertive

Use it when: Tips:
  • Quick, decisive action is needed (e.g. critical situation/compliance issue, emergencies)
  • An unpopular course of action needs to be implemented (e.g. cost cutting)
  • You know you are right and the issue is critical to meeting the company’s goal (e.g. a necessary pricing change)
  • Demonstrate confidence, authority, expertise, and/or your knowledge of the situation
  • State the decision clearly and directly
  • Make sure others know that the decision is made and that changes aren’t possible

Being assertive can move things fast. It's essential to be clear and direct at times. That's what leaders do. However, there can be unintended consequences if you aren't asking for input when you should be. Relying on this style too often or using it in the wrong situation can erode trust in your relationships.

If you do need to use an assertive style, you might also want to be prepared to back your decision up with data and facts. That’s where combining your approach with an analytical style can help.

Analytical

Use it when: Tips:
  • You have information and facts that others don’t
  • There are risks to taking the wrong course of action
  • There is a clear logical direction that should be taken
  • Share the facts and proof—don’t exaggerate
  • Make objective, clear arguments for your direction
  • Identify options with fact-based pros and cons

It can be hard to argue against “objective” data, right? Well, you better make sure you do your homework and have all the facts you need to make the analytical approach work.

This approach may appeal best to those who prefer logic, but don’t go all Mr. Spock on everyone or you may alienate others who have emotions and perspectives that aren’t taken into account. Even Mr. Spock and Captain Kirk had to compromise at times.

Let’s look at when to use a more Accommodating style.

Accommodating

Use it when: Tips:
  • You need a decision that’s viewed as fair above all else
  • Maintaining a strong relationship is critical and you need to build and sustain trust
  • When compromising on an aspect of your solution won’t have a significant negative impact on achieving your goals
  • Ask questions to gain clarity on the other person’s needs while looking for common ground to find a solution that will work for both parties
  • Focus on identifying shared goals and interests instead of standing your ground
  • Focus on building trust by compromising on things that ultimately lead to wins for both parties

Accommodating can be a great way to bridge a divide over an issue, especially when there are strong positions and emotions involved. Like a good negotiation, you’ll want to try get to know the other person’s needs so that you may be able to offer a solution that works for both parties. Of course, be careful not to compromise on non-negotiables, but bend and flex where you can.

Note

Note

There’s great research by the Harvard Negotiations Project and a book by William Ury Getting to Yes that outlines great strategies to negotiate effectively—they apply just as well to influencing others.

At this point, you may be thinking, “I’ve tried all these styles, but I still can’t seem to break through!” Sometimes you need to do just a little more to win the hearts and minds of others. That’s where an inspiring style may help.

Inspiring

Use it when: Tips:
  • You both share the same sense of purpose and goals you’re moving towards
  • You need to get the other team excited and enthusiastic about your approach
  • You want to make an emotional connection
  • You want to gain their buy-in and engagement around a bold goal or change
  • Appeal to the other party’s emotional connection to what you are discussing—be optimistic and enthusiastic
  • Use inspirational stories, metaphors, and communication to persuade others
  • Focus on the exciting possibilities that will come from the solution you propose

Using an inspirational style to influence others can feel great. Don’t cop out with sentiments like, “I’m just not charismatic enough to pull this off!” or “Inspiring others is not a part of my personality.”

In your own unique and authentic way, you can paint a compelling picture of the future that inspires others to come along with you. As long as you feel passionate about what you’re speaking about, your inspiration will come through.

Let’s sum it up…

Got a good sense of these five styles? More aware of the one you gravitate to most? Remember, there’s no one best style to use in all situations. If you’ve been “getting stuck” when trying to influence others, you may need to learn to flex and adapt your influencing style. More often than not, the context and/or your organizational culture will dictate which style, or combination of styles, will work best.

Note

Note

Want to learn more about influencing styles? Check out what Harvard’s research has to say about influencing styles and exerting influence without authority.

Influencing Strategies

So how will you know which style or combination of styles to use?

Sonia is a star on the Marketing team!

Let’s take a look at Sonia, a star on the Marketing team, who was wildly successful in influencing the Product team. How did she do it?

Sonia’s Marketing team had a great idea for a campaign for Salesforce’s newest cloud app. While the team was excited about pushing the envelope on this latest campaign, she knew the creative brief might meet with some resistance from the Product team and others. This was a make or break launch and she had to get it right!

What did Sonia do? First, she knew that they would respond best to being involved, not being told what was going to happen. She also knew that their long-term buy-in and commitment were critical. She had a strong point-of-view on what she wanted, but knew she might have to make a few compromises. As such, she chose to employ a combination of the collaborative and accommodating styles of influencing.

She employed a collaborative style by:

  • setting up an in person meeting to allow the Product team to share their thoughts and concerns
  • actively listening, asking questions, and looking to find common ground
  • identifying a shared goal of focusing on customer satisfaction

She employed an accommodating style by:

  • offering up a few options that took their feedback into account
  • making changes to the brief that everyone could sign off on

Reflection Exercise

Ready to try to pull this all together? You’re probably thinking of a few important people and projects you want to try this out on. We’ll help you think this through and then provide a template for you to get your ideas down.

You’re going to want to consider your:

  • performance goals
  • situation
  • stakeholders
  • company culture
  • influencing style(s) to use

Performance Goals

Step back and look at your goals for the year. At Salesforce we use what’s called our V2MOM—Vision, Values, Methods, Obstacles, and Measures. It’s our way to set goals and create alignment and accountability.

You probably have big goals you’re trying to accomplish too. What are the biggest goals that you have that will require influencing others to get them accomplished? All of them? Well, for the purpose of this activity, focus on the biggest, most important one.

Situation

So you’ve got the goal you want to work on. The situation is the story or context of what that goal is all about and what it will take to achieve it. At Salesforce, this is often the Methods and Obstacles part of the V2MOM.

Ask yourself:

  • What needs to happen for this goal to be achieved?
  • Who needs to be involved (stakeholders)? In what ways? (informed, consulted, accountable)
  • How much time do I have to achieve this goal? (a quarter, 6 months, a year, longer)
  • What facts and information do I need to implement this goal?
  • What are the obstacles for achieving this goal?

Stakeholders

Those people you identified in the Situation, what do you know about them?

  • What is your current relationship with them? (strong/trusted partnership, tenuous, new stakeholders)
  • What do you know about how to best engage them?
  • What do they know about the goal you are trying to achieve? What is their level of expertise around the goal?
  • Are they influenced by data, credibility, stories, emotion, inspiration?
  • What level of collaboration will they desire?

Company Culture

What do you know about the type of influencing styles and strategies that work best at your company?

When it comes to influencing at your company:

  • Is who you know more important than what you know?
  • Does investing in relationships help you get work done faster and more efficiently?
  • Does being more charismatic or more reserved make you more effective at influencing others?
  • Does your level of authority dictate how much influence you can have?
  • Can you/should you use the power of your position to get others to do what is needed?

If you’re not sure about the answers to these questions, don’t be afraid to ask others who can help you think through these critical cultural components to influencing.

Influencing Style(s) to Use

Now that you’ve thought through the goal, situation, stakeholders, and culture, which style(s) will work best?

Refer to the Influencing Styles Cheat Sheet within the Trust & Influence pack to recall when to use each one—or a combination of styles.

Ready to plan it out? Use the Influencing Planning Tool within the Trust & Influence pack.

Let’s sum it up…

By now you’re probably convinced just how important influencing others is to your success. It’s all about shaping the thoughts and actions of others, while getting them to buy-in and say “yes” to your idea, solution, decision, or proposal.

Start paying attention to how you naturally approach influencing, and then consider flexing your style and strategy to your audience and the situation. And combine your influencing know-how with your newfound knowledge on building trust. Get to know your team, communicate openly, admit your mistakes, and follow through.

By putting all of these trust and influence best practices into play, your team will be much more likely to achieve its goals, your business will benefit, and you’ll foster an environment of collaboration, innovation, and learning. Give it a try!

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