What leadership skill do most managers want to develop? Leaders in every sector, at every career stage, consistently reply they want to improve their ability to influence others.
Within a competitive business environment, the ability to influence others is key to your success as a leader. How then can we expand our influence—and remain a nice person?
Consider these three practical tips:
1. Cultivate emotional intelligence
Before you can effectively influence others, you need to identify and manage your own emotions—a capacity called emotional intelligence.
Emotionally intelligent people are consciously aware of their emotional state, be it contentment, frustration, sadness, or something more subtle. More important, they have cultivated the ability (call it maturity, if you like) to control or manage their emotions.
Having this self-awareness, they are better equipped to read the emotions of others—and respond to those emotions in a compassionate way.
You can work to improve your EI by dialling up your empathy, asking open questions, not making assumptions, and putting yourself in the other persons shoes (or headspace).
2. Establish trust
If people don’t trust you, they let you to influence them. Putting this another way: People don’t care about how much you know; they want to know how much you care.
A simple way to cultivate trust is to talk less and listen more. Ask tactful questions. Listen carefully and acknowledge what they say.
People respond well when you show you are competent, but they respond better when they know you care about them personally. So demonstrate your knowledge and establish your credibility, but let them see you are genuine and not just focused on your own agenda.
3. Consult and encourage
There's a big difference between compliance and commitment. Rather than pressure a person to do a task, encourage them to buy into it.
Ask yourself: “What’s in it for them? How can they benefit?” Then use questions and reasoning to help them see the benefits. Keep your points simple and back them up with positive examples.
Don’t forget to commend the person for doing well. Few things motivate people more than knowing they’ve done something well and been appreciated for it.
A final word: The difference between influence and manipulation often comes down to intent. Ask yourself: Do you truly believe your request or proposal is in the person’s best interest? If your answer is yes, you clearly are influencing—not manipulating.
Granted, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to influencing those around us. But by working to improve in the above three areas, leaders will be far more effective at winning the support they need to achieve their desired outcomes.
Leaders can improve their ability to influence other people by cultivating emotional intelligence, establishing trust, and consulting and encouraging them.