Learning to influence people is another skill that you will need to master as you get comfortable with line management. You can, of course, tell people what to do but it is far more effective if you don’t need to. Influence allows you to impact people by persuading them. It has been said that leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it and our training course for new line managers incorporates a lot of elements of leadership.
Positive influencers inspire action in others. If you can do this then your team will work towards the team objectives enthusiastically and things will happen quickly, combine leadership traits with the art of storytelling and you wiil be an effective and motivational leader.
Below we look at the two key areas that you need to look at when thinking about your influencing skills and finish by looking at the additional complexity in cross-cultural influence.
Influence does not just stop at your team. You have the potential to influence a whole network of people both above you and below you in your organisation.
The number of people that you can influence will have a direct impact on your ability to get things done.
If you have the opportunity to build your sphere of influence beyond just your direct team within reason you should take it. Building relationships and influence is a long-term game so start early to enjoy the benefits of building your sphere of influence.
Sitting on industry committees and other internal committees (Eg in-house charity teams) will bring you into contact with people well beyond your day-to-day work and allow you to build your sphere of influence well beyond your direct team.
It is difficult to influence someone who doesn’t trust you.
In the short-term people trust you when they believe you are being authentic. Let your passion and feelings show a little. This will show people that you are being authentic and make them trust you, opening them up to what you have to say.
Obviously over the longer-term people will judge you on your actions not on what you say. This is where you need to make sure that you say what you say you will so that people have confidence in what you say.
The ability to show that you have thought things through from the perspective of whoever you are speaking to will make a big difference.
This will show that you care what they think of the idea and that you value their opinion.
Learn to present things so that people can see that you’ve considered the issue from multiple points of view, including their own, and you will be much more likely to persuade them.
This is especially true if they don’t agree or like what you say. Explaining to them that you have thought about their point of view will show that you have considered them when you were making the decision that you are now advocating for. They will feel that you value them regardless of the decision.
Communication is a two-way street. It is about being a great listener as well as being able to express yourself clearly and concisely.
Learning to listen actively and carefully is key. To get people’s buy-in you need them to feel that they have been heard and understood. There is nothing more demotivating than a manager who ignores what you say.
On the other side being able to express yourself clearly and confidently is also key. Many people struggle with this when they step up into a new manager role. They lack the confidence to express themselves really clearly and make themselves understood. If this is you then don’t be afraid to seek help. Assertiveness training can help a great deal with this.
At the beginning for conversations that you are nervous about it is well worth writing notes of the key points that you want to make before the meeting. This way you only need to focus on making your points well and can relax about remembering to make the right points.
People are most easily influenced by people that they like most. One of the things that people respond well to is when people take a genuine interest in them.
Taking a few minutes to ask someone who they’re doing, and how their weekend was, shows that you are interested in them for more than just what you can get from them. It will get them to relax and open up a bit. It will also put them in the right mood to be receptive to your ideas.
Influencing can look simple on paper but it’s tricky. People who are good at it make it look incredibly easy but for most people learning to influence is a long journey. However, the impact that it can have is immense and so it is well worth the work to get there.
When stepping into a manager role, you need to avoid the assumption that everyone will be familiar with the way you communicate. This is doubly true when working with people from different cultures.
People from different cultural backgrounds will probably communicate in a very different way. Your influencing skills will now need to be effective with a diverse workforce.
The key to this is communication. The points above on trust, empathic reasoning and showing that you care stay the same. It is your communication style that you will need to adjust.
After all, you can’t influence someone you can’t communicate with.
The keys to cross-cultural communication are:
Many cultures have different levels of formality and informality. Remember no one is right or wrong but be aware of the way you introduce yourself and open meetings.
Maintain a level of professionalism that can’t be misinterpreted and when in doubt tend towards the more formal rather than less formal.
E.g. Establish the use of first or full names as usual and not nicknames.
Your normal conversational speed is not ideal in most formal work settings.
Even when English is a common language between people it is usually helpful to slow down and make sure that you are speaking clearly. This avoids miscommunications and gives you time to gauge whether your audience is taking everything in.
Similarly, don’t be afraid to prompt others to slow down if they are speaking too quickly.
Speak Simply And Steer Clear of Double Questions
Speaking simply is the best way that you have of ensuring that you are understood.
Asking two questions at the same time is never clear in any culture so try to avoid this.
To receive clear answers, cover one topic at a time.
E.g. “Shall I go over that again or shall we move on?”. If someone hasn’t understood the whole sentence they make say ‘Yes’ to the wrong part of the question.
Try changing it to “Is there anything you need me to clarify before we move on?”
Not only can slang confuse people, but it can also be misinterpreted. Don’t complicate any language or cultural barriers further will slang and words that can be misinterpreted.
E.g. The word “Cool!” is informal and has different meanings. Respond with “Great idea!” or “Thanks!” instead which are very clear in their meaning.