Influencing is a ‘must have’ skill for many individuals in organisations today; whether you are a leader or ‘specialist’ in your field. The challenge, however, is that many companies are becoming increasingly complex and it can be hard to keep track of whose who and what they do. Let’s not forget that the demands on employees today only seem to increase and there are only so many hours in a day.
Like many participants in Excel Communications’ programmes, you may at times find yourself scratching your head wondering how you are going to influence in such a challenging environment.
Because people are so time short today, one of the most common mistakes we find people make when they want to influence is that they don’t take enough time to plan. As a result, the conversations they have don’t have the desired impact.
I’ve a number of planning steps that will help you improve your success when it comes to influencing.
Set Specific Outcomes
I know this sounds obvious, yet it’s an easy mistake our trainers frequently see. Sometimes people set an outcome that is far too vague, for example;
“I want to design a new influencing training programme.”
While that may seem a good idea, if I want to bring some of my colleagues on board with the idea, I would be bombarded with questions such as:
- Who is the new programme for?
- Who do these individual need to influence?
- What’s the problem that needs addressing?
While I could carry on, I think you get my message!
Instead, be clear about what outcome you want to achieve. Influencing is about creating change, be that a process, how a colleague behaves or the actions they take.
Using a SMART goal setting process will help you turn, “I want to design a new influencing training programme,” into something like;
“I want to have designed and piloted a new influencing programme for technical experts who lead projects and struggle to influence executive level decision makers by the end of quarter 2.”
Not only will this help you focus, but it will also help you to communicate with stakeholders which brings me on to my next point.
Know Who Your Stakeholders Are
You may be thinking ‘this is my big problem’ and I can appreciate why you might think this. However, if you have some understanding of your stakeholders and you action the other strategies covered in this article, you will be able to influence the stakeholders you’re aware of and uncover others who may be pivotal to you achieving your outcome.
Knowing who your stakeholders are is critical. Understanding what role each stakeholder plays is equally important too!
Not everyone will be part of making the decision; some will support your idea. Others will want to block it for whatever reason, and some may be happy to observe from the sidelines to see how you get on.
Before you launch into having conversations with the apparent internal stakeholders, take time to ‘map’ out who in your organisation would have an interest in what you are proposing. Then consider which external stakeholders may also have a vested interest.
While you may begin to realise there are quite a few, it’s helpful to prioritise based on their level of interest, and how much what your propose will impact them.
Understand Your Stakeholders
Once you know who your stakeholders are, your next step is to understand more about them. Here’s what’s helpful to know:
- What do they think of the current situation?
- What are the implications of this?
- Who do they believe is impacted by what’s happening?
- What is important to them about resolving the issue / changing the situation?
- Who do they see as essential stakeholders who would support change?
- Who do they think may resist a proposal?
- Who may be key ‘behind the scenes’ influencers?
Notice I haven’t mentioned that you share your idea yet. At this point let’s say you are doing your homework.
Adapt Your Communication Style Towards Your Stakeholders
Having gained some understanding of who you want to influence, it’s also worth taking time to think about what kind of communication style your main stakeholders have. Think about each stakeholder and which of these may relate to them?
(Please note these are simple examples of a more detailed communication model. My aim here is to get you thinking.)
A person who is ‘task’ and ‘results’ focused and likes to have control
Someone who is ‘people’ and ‘ideas’ orientated and is keen to explore what your idea will mean for them
Alternatively, are they great with detail and data? They want to get things right, including making the right decision!
Or is it someone who prefers consensus when making decisions and is keen to understand the implications of a new idea for their team and colleagues?
The takeaway message here is that you will be far more successful proposing your idea in a communication style that works for your stakeholder rather than what is comfortable and works for you.
These four simple steps will, when implemented consistently, make a significant difference in your ability to influence successfully.
About Excel Communications
Excel Communications has a 30-year history as a global leadership and communication skills organisation dedicated to exceeding the expectations of clients through the training and development of their business and people.
We have a team of expert trainers delivering programmes across four continents in multiple languages. Isn’t it time you got in touch? Call us now on +44 (0) 1628 488 854.