Want to increase your influence in the workplace? Read this
The ability to influence people and decisions in the workplace is a highly desirable skill sought by professionals throughout their careers.
If you are someone new to your role, or someone who tends to listen rather than speak up in meetings, you may be surprised to learn that people aren’t just born influential – it is a complex skill which can be learned.
Every species exhibits broad-level behavioural trends, and humans are no exception. Despite the fact that everyone in your workplace is unique, there are also many patterns and thought processes that are common to most individuals, most of the time. With a little science-based insight you can more effectively upskill yourself and your workforce when it comes to influence.
The complex skill of influence is made up of smaller individual skills that can each be practised and mastered separately. To help with this I have studied over 200 peer-reviewed journal articles from institutions around the world, detailing nine universal principles for increasing your influence in the workplace.
What if I am already influential?
If you feel you have done well in life and can remember several times when you were charming and clever – eventually getting your own way – this is actually a far more dangerous place to be in than feeling you have no influence at all.
The number one factor that prevents you from improving your skill in influencing others is the belief that you are already good at it. Failure can help us learn what went wrong. In contrast, lack of success is not obvious. As long as our current approaches result in the absence of obvious failure then the behavioural patterns we use today only become more likely to be the same approaches we use again in the future.
In contrast, when we use objective, evidence-based, soft skills models that have been developed on the basis of scientific studies and dedicate ourselves to practicing these regularly, we have the opportunity to examine what could be possible, even if we have never tried that particular approach before.
With that in mind, here are nine universal principles of persuasion to increase your influence:
9 universal principles of persuasion
- Status Status in the workplace is determined not only by formal authority but also by context. The key is to make others aware of any experience, qualifications, or past successes you have that are related to the decision at hand. You will need some tact so you are not perceived as bragging – but if you can manage it, you will increase your status.
- Social Imitation Our choices are heavily influenced by those of people around us or like us. When people receive information about what others have done in the same situation (particularly those they identify with) they tend to modify their own preferences in the same direction.
- Affiliation Our decisions are influenced not only by those of people we like, but also by people whom we feel are like us. Creating a sense of affiliation between yourself and other people can help to tip decisions in your favour.
- Value Framing Value framing increases your influencing power by modifying your audience’s perception of worth. you can make a benefit appear more valuable by expressing it in terms that have inherent power, or a price seem less significant by comparing it to something more expensive.
- Effort Humans globally behave as if they are programmed to expend the absolute minimum effort. When you need something from another person, dropping the amount of effort required will increase your chances of success.
- Reasoning People are far less influenced by logical reasons than by positive emotion or the prospect of reward. In fact our chances of persuasion decrease the more logical reasons we give.
- Inertia In many situations, human behaviour occurs in a predictable sequence. With practice, you can identify the chain of behaviours most likely to occur then use the flow to your advantage.
- End-Goal Focus People have limited energy with which to make decisions. Focus your energy and efforts against achieving one outcome – not against trying to win all arguments at the meeting.
- Execution Practice the aspects of execution and delivery most strongly linked to persuasion: an upright posture, familiar words, and a voice that matches the emotion of the message.
When it comes to influence at work, you don’t have to be the best influencer there ever was.
Your goal should be to develop your skill so that your success improves relative to what it was before you started applying scientific approaches such as these nine principles.
Dr. Amanda Nimon-Peters is currently Professor of Leadership at Hult International Business School. Dr. Amanda’s book Working with Influence: Nine Principles of Persuasion for Accelerating Your Career is available from Bloomsbury and Amazon.
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