Influencing people to take positive actions is an important aspect of leadership and it’s an important aspect of life. We use this skill in all sorts of instances:
- Maybe you’ve had to influence an employee in your team to change a behavior.
- Maybe you’ve needed to influence a customer to take some action or buy a product.
- Maybe you’ve tried to influence your boss to say yes to an idea.
- Maybe you’re a parent and you’ve had to influence your child to tidy a room.
Lately I’ve reflected on some conversations I’ve been involved in where I’ve had to influence people, and I’ve concluded there are two golden rules for influencing:
Acknowledge the other person’s pain
Make the other person feel important
Golden Rule for Influencing #1 – Acknowledge the other person’s pain
Every one of us is experiencing some kind of hardship or pain, whether it be a minor annoyance or something very serious. For example, we may have a sense of overwhelm, we might be stuck in some way, we may have health challenges or we may be worried about finances. If we listen effectively and ask good questions it’s usually quite easy to see what kind of pain a person is experiencing. Once we see this we can acknowledge it by making it clear to the other person that we understand. Suddenly, our capacity to influence is greatly improved.
Let’s say you’re a leader and you are having a conversation with one of your team members about a fall in performance. Here are two ways you could approach this:
A – “Judy, your results are not good enough. Sort this out or there will be serious trouble.”
B – “Judy, I notice that your results in the last month haven’t been at their normal high level. I understand it must be really hard to operate at full pace when you’re coming back from a period of illness. How can we work together to help you get back to your usual level?”
Approach B will lead to more successful and positive influence as the person understands that you appreciate their circumstances and are willing to help them with this.
Golden Rule For Influencing #2 – Make the other person feel important
When it comes to influencing it’s very important and helpful to keep in mind that everyone we meet has an invisible sign saying “make me feel important”. Every single person has this sign – young, old, rich, poor, male, female, black, white, happy, sad, tall, short. No matter who we’re dealing with, if we’re successful in making people feel important trust grows, relationships develop and it becomes much easier to influence behaviour.
Recently I had a discussion with a manager about attendance at a development program. This person did not want to attend this particular program because he saw himself as highly capable in the skill being developed.
Here are two ways I could have responded to this (B is my actual approach):
A – “This session is for everyone at your level so it’s no use complaining – you just have to come.”
B – “It can be tricky when you’re asked to attend development when you’re already at an advanced level. Some other managers who are also very experienced in this area such as ____ raised similar concerns but all have said they found the session really useful. Having experienced people like you in the sessions actually has made them even better because you are able contribute your knowledge to the discussion.”
By using approach B and meeting this manager’s need to feel important the result turned out very well. Not only was I able to influence him to willingly attend but he made a point of seeking me out after the session to say how useful he found it. There’s no way approach A would not have yielded this kind of positive result.
So there you have it – 2 shiny golden rules for influencing. If you can apply these in an authentic way and with good intentions your influence will grow and you’ll be well ahead in all sorts of situations.
Give them a try and see how they work out for you.