16 Feb Learn to Influence Your Co-Workers in 5 Easy Steps
In any social community, there are leaders, followers, and “hangers on.” In the workplace, leaders seem to excel at influence. (A leader doesn’t necessarily need to be a manager. A leader can embody any job role). Colleagues seem to defer to them and follow their lead. So, aspiring potential leaders may need these five hints on why and how to influence colleagues.
Why bother to take charge?
Because of internal organisational structure and external complexity, there could be barriers to getting work done or accomplishing a goal, which may require cooperating cross-functionally or influencing peers or others over whom one has no direct organizational or contractual power. In many cases, people may be part of a project team, in a work group, or in a cross-functional unit, having to use influence to get something accomplished or get the job done. To be successful, you may need to exert influence upward to sway the boss; horizontally to get others to assist, cooperate, or perform; and possibly downward to convince direct reports to do their very best rather than the minimum to get by. There is a greater need to manage upward and laterally in business today.
The lifeblood of this process is influence. In all likelihood, to be successful at your job, you must be able to “sell” an idea or project, persuade co-workers or peers to provide support and/or resources, or get people to do something that they may not necessarily want or need to do. The ability to move others to achieve important objectives is most effective if you can find a way to couch it in terms where everyone wins (you, me, and the organization). An underlying principle of persuasion is that people expect reciprocity in the process. To be able to persuade effectively, you must create win-win trades when in difficult situations or when dealing with difficult individuals or groups.
So the intent here is to show how you can learn to positively influence others directly and deliberately. If you don’t do it, you leave that leverage to someone else.
How to influence
Doing business is getting more complex. There are greater time pressures, the need to do more with less, more competition, and higher pressures on profitability. There are fewer middle managers. Employees are expected to take on more responsibility and decision-making.
Technology is changing rapidly, and knowledge is growing exponentially. People are expected to keep up, and there seems to be little time for training and development. There is a greater need to bring together diverse groups of people to work cooperatively to achieve success. With all the complexity and interdependence, the ability to exercise influence is becoming more and more important to one’s ability to function effectively in the organization and progress.
To make it work, here are 5 competencies I suggest you master to better influence your colleagues:
1. Credibility & Trust
Credibility is developed by constant and consistent demonstration of a positive and energizing demeanour.
One reason people struggle with credibility is that they do not realise their actions speak louder than words
Studies show that trust is declining around the world, even if it’s relatively simple to engage and maintain trust by focusing on some key areas. Here are some ways to ensure that your actions back up your intentions so you can be someone that colleagues know, like and trust:
– Be authentic which means be true to yourself in other words don’t try to be someone you are not because you may fool people for a while but it won’t last forever and the repercussions are more impactful than you think.
– Ask questions: asking questions allows you to know others better (be genuinely curious) and benefit from their experiences.
– Ask for help.
– Listen: Listening is an essential component of communication with intent. Listen to what is said as well as what lies beneath.
– Follow through which in other words if you say you will do something deliver and do it.
If you want a healthy and influential working relationship, you are going to have to cultivate trust. The easiest way to do that is to be open and honest, no matter what. State your opinions, disclose your apprehensions, and don’t keep secrets. It’s as simple as that.
Expose yourself. If you want to lead from above, you have to position yourself. It takes courage to lean in, step up, and speak up. It’s not easy to take charge but pay attention to the positive things that are occurring in your workplace and build on them. If you share the problem and the need for solution, you position others to see and accept your solution. Approaches like this let you speak out without jeopardizing your career.
Any social relationship, like the workplace or work teams, has a reciprocal connection among members. Colleagues are those who have been grouped by interests, goals, or tasks.
So, the members first assess the readiness and rightness of the other members. Trust begins when they see that in you. But, it’s your credibility, reliability and consistency that strengthen that trust. And, perhaps ironically, you build trust in yourself as you express trust and confidence in the work of others.
With confidence in your goals, ways, and means, you can speak with authority. Acting with confidence influences others to trust you. It’s very hard to lead and influence from a position of insecurity that will be perceived as weakness.
However you need to ensure that you are assertive and not aggressive. Being assertive is the only way to get your ideas noticed, especially when you’re competing with others for visibility, such as in meeting. You will need to present your thoughts and ideas with a high degree of confidence, indicating your convictions, but any excessive degree of confidence could be mistaken for needless arrogance, which will compromise your perceived authority. Tread carefully, especially when you’re unfamiliar with your audience or if you’re presenting your thoughts on an area outside of your expertise. This assertiveness should extend to a general quality to all your interactions, regardless of whether you are speaking to employees above, below, or at your level, and regardless of the conversation format. Being assertive, so long as you truly believe in what you’re saying paying particular attention at how you are saying it, is a way to cultivate a reputation of authority and earn the ability to influence your peers.
You can work on posture and voice. You can strengthen your handshake and improve your smile. You can work on body language to reveal your self-confidence and self-possession.
Self-confidence leads to optimism, and optimism attracts attention. Try these tricks:
– Try to avoid ending remarks with a tone of voice that suggests everything you say is a question.
– Eliminate certain conditional words from your vocabulary: would, could, might, try, want, and need. Replace them with active commitments: will, do, must, complete, finish.
Because these are behaviours, they get noticed above and below. Even if you have not been in a position of authority, your bosses will notice and respond to the show of confidence.
3. Coaching & Mentoring
Influencing colleagues requires you to lead horizontally. Colleagues are, by definition, at your level in the organization. Once you have a grasp of your own strengths and emotional intelligence, you have to assess the temperament, personalities, and values of those around you.
Coaching does not have to be complex or intimidating, but it does require you to deliberately adopt a different mindset, one where you are not solving the problem for your colleagues, but helping them think clearly and make better informed decisions.
Here are my three steps for providing this kind of coaching for a colleague:
– Ask open questions: Ask your colleagues an open question that gets them talking, really talking, about the problem/challenge/task they are facing. For instance, ask them “How it’s going with project X”. If they answer with a short, closed sentence, “It’s a nightmare”, don’t give up. Ask another open question, “Tell me about why it is a nightmare?” The aim here is to get them to unload as much information as possible about the situation and their thoughts about it.
– Listen: This is pretty simple; you need to listen, really listen, to your colleague and speak as little as possible.
– Coach: Now you have your open questions and your listening sorted, you can use the following model to help you make progress through a coaching discussion.
Goal: Encourage your colleagues to define what their desired end state is. Try to express this in a way that means you both know when it is achieved. Use open questions to encourage your colleague to kick the tyres on this goal, for example “Why do you need to solve the issue by the end of the day?” Creating clarity around the goal might realign your colleagues’ efforts, as they realise that they have lost sight of what their objective was in the first place.
Reality: Next, establish how far away your colleagues feel they are from the goal. Get them to call out where they are right now, what the obstacles they can see are and what they have already tried. Ask open questions to try to get as much information about the current state of things out of their head.
Options: Mine for ideas for what to do next. Don’t settle for one proposed solution – it could be right, or it could just be the most obvious. Try to encourage your colleague to surface at least 3 ideas.
As this is solution-focused coaching, this step is where you can mention any killer idea you might have had when your colleague first explained their problem. However, offer this idea only when they have exhausted their ideas and ask for permission first, “Would you like to hear something I tried before and worked for me?”
Will: This is where you encourage your co-workers to make a commitment to an action or actions. Explore the implication and obstacles in the way of the options they have called out previously. Establish whether the will is truly there for them to take concrete action. Ask “What is the first step you will take?” or “What’s stopping you taking that next step right now?”
In this step it is important for you to help your colleagues be honest with themselves. Are they really going to take action? If not, that can be ok, and accepting this without guilt is important.
You need to ensure that your colleagues are open to being coached through the problem in the first place. Usually, if you are talking to a teammate you know well and trust, then you’ll know implicitly that it’ll be fine for you to adopt this approach. However, if you do not know your colleague very well or the level of trust in your team is not as high as it should be, then it doesn’t hurt to ask something non-threatening like “can I help you work through the problem?” so you are sure your coaching approach is welcome.
Cooperation is another factor that has been shown to enhance positive feelings and behaviour. So, agreeing with the other person or doing something for them can be useful in achieving your objectives.
Alan Cohen and David Bradford created a leadership model for their book Influence Without Authority. It’s a process based on Emotional Intelligence with six steps briefly described here:
- Never write anyone off.
- Determine how the need to influence others aligns with your goals and objectives.
- Use empathy to understand and appreciate your colleague’s values and culture.
- Diagnose what drives others: inspiration, task, position, relationship, and/or personal values.
- Adapt to relationships with the various needs of others.
- Work towards give and take where both parties find something satisfying in an exchange.
5. Compliment & Complement
A person who wishes to maintain respect and followership does not exploit their peers’ hard work but rather promotes that person’s accomplishment. They give recognition and credit due to the individuals who are responsible and place the colleagues’ success ahead of their own. Demonstrating that you care enough about others to openly appreciate their accomplishments is critical to being a positive influence in the workplace. If a co-worker reaches a goal they’ve been striving towards – whether it’s work related or not – it’s easy to congratulate them, and even celebrate if the achievement calls for it. On the flip side of things, when a co-worker or employee is having a tough time, empathizing with them and encouraging them is very important. Help them recognize their strengths to course-correct and re-establish focus.
Winning through influence.
Influence leads. It attracts and drives. And, it begins with your ability to appear confident and optimistic, knowledgeable and energetic, and skilled and willing. It strengthens through effective and reciprocal trust and values.
With no apparent personal agenda, you can leverage the will and talents of colleagues for the best outcomes. In developing your personal presence and power, you attract and motivate others. These five tips on how to influence colleagues restore confidence in the earlier thinking of Dr. Lickerman that control over others is basically a function of control over yourself.
TIP: Master the influence over your own behavior, and influencing others will become second nature.