How To Influence Your Staff

Any power that a leader has is pointless unless it is used to influence others to implement decisions and to make change happen, facilitate action and achieve goals. A weak leader has the position but is unable to get anything done through his or her staff.  

Not every attempt at exerting power will work: staff may choose to ignore the attempt especially if they see that there is nothing in it for them. The skill of a good leader is recognising which strategy will work in each situation.

Excellent leaders use a variety of strategies and combine them to get the results that they are seeking. There are a huge number of ways in which leaders exert influence, in just the same way that you exert influence upon your friends and family to steer a certain path that you would like to achieve.

There are, however, a basic 6 Principles of Influence which all leaders use to varying degrees. Most of them rely upon the use of soft power rather then the hard, blunt positional power that your job title brings with it.

  1. Appeal to a vision or higher purpose: sell the concept of change or action in terms of a new vision or set of circumstances. Let the staff see the meaning of what they are required to do; a good example is using stories of delighted customers talking about the value that they put onto superior customer service.
  2. Be rational in your message: use facts, data and logic to sell the issue that you want to be tackled. Your proposed idea then looks like a very sensible approach and the very best way in which to solve the problem or drive through change. All people put faith in data and information rather than just a hunch or a “best-guess” approach to leadership. Make sure that you fully use your technical knowledge but be careful not to blind the recipients with too much content. Where there are doubts good leaders smooth this over through projecting their credibility.
  3. Get people to like you: people always warm to those they like and are more prepared to put faith in that person, rather than someone they do not like as much. Having an effective personal relationship and rapport with people is very important and can help your influencing skills considerably. This shows respect, an ability to find common ground and creates a good community spirit which can further be used to get change programmes delivered and adapted quickly.
  4. Use reciprocity: share your resources (time, influence, services or emotional support) with others so that they in turn will give this back to you. There is always a strong sense of obligation to give back something to those they have received from. Many people see this aspect ad the critical success factor in whether you can really influence anyone!
  5. Develop allies: identify and work with those who can help you to accomplish your leadership goals. Take specific time to talk through plans and to understand their needs and ambitions. The meeting of minds on key topics is a key success factor in business and being close to a wide circle of contacts pays off when developing policy and bringing in change and revisions to organisations.
  6. Ask for what you want: be very clear what it is that you are seeking and openly ask for this. This may include being forceful to get your outcome so do not be afraid to get into that area if you need to. Effective political and strategic change can only come when your views and opinions are fully expressed. And explicitly communicated.

Always be prepared to work on the 6 Principles of Influence outlined above but recognise that, given the specifics of the situation that you find yourself in, some might be more effective and a quicker route than others towards achieving your end goals.

Good Luck!

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