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How to Influence People at Work

How to Influence People at Work

Want to call the shots? Give up the glory and open your ears

Carly Chynoweth | The Times

Build rapport

1. People enjoy doing business with people they like, according to Katherine Grice, a senior associate at Impact Factory, a communications training company. “Take time to ask about children, partners, holidays and so forth. Rapport is like the WD40 of business – it smoothes the way.” A solid, long-term foundation is more effective than a spritz of quick-fix charm.

Earn respect

2. Tracey Richards, a senior consultant at PTP, a training company, believes that most people want to be liked but would be better off being respected: “People assume that being popular means being more influential, but respect is more important. Most people think about how other people see them and adapt their message, their delivery and their body language to making other people think well of them, rather than concentrating on the message on the table.”

Demonstrating leadership will help to build trust and respect, Terry Brake, the president of TMA World in the Americas, a talent development company, said. “Show that you know what you are doing and that you are bringing a sense of order and cohesion.”

Get your message right

3. Be clear with yourself and others about what you are trying to achieve. “State your message concisely so that you do not waste [people’s] time,” Ms Grice said. “Sometimes under pressure we add a lot of extraneous words, such as ‘I hope you don’t mind’ or ‘if it’s not too much trouble’, which makes us less clear. Get to the point.”

Get things in context

4. Understand the context in which others are working. Being sensitive to the cultural and professional constraints under which people operate will help you to tailor your approach to avoid creating unnecessary hurdles for what you are trying to achieve, Mr Brake said.

Open your ears

5. The degree to which you listen to other people will have a significant effect on your power to influence people, Brian Leggett, Professor of Managing People in Organisations at IESE business school, said in his book Developing Your Persuasive Edge. “Without listening to our audience, it is difficult to match our message with their needs,” he wrote.

Mr Brake said: “Listen not just to what is being said, but to what is not being said.” Listening will help you to discover what motivates people – you can then use this information.

Reciprocity matters

6. Doing something helpful for another person will make them much more likely to want to do something for you in return, Ms Grice said. “A study showed that a Big Issue seller who held the door open for people outside a shop sold significantly more copies than other sellers.” Equally, when presenting an idea to people, explain what is in it for them, not simply why it is good for you or for the company.

Get the timing right

7. Choose your time and place carefully,” Ms Grice said. “Would it be better to talk to them over a coffee or to arrange a meeting when they are feeling less pressured?”

Give up the glory

8. Be prepared to give up the glory. It is often easier to get something done if you are not adamant that you need to get the credit for it. And do not get emotionally attached to your ideas, Miss Richards advised. This could stop you from being able to critically evaluate ideas offered by others, or to see how a number of different suggestions could be stitched together to find an effective solution.

The element of style

9. The way you look and act makes a big difference, according to Professor Leggett. “Delivery is very much tied up with non-verbal communication and style. There is no one style that is appropriate for all occasions.” It is possible to adapt your style to suit particular circumstances, but it is not always a good idea. “If [you] are not working from a principle-centred set of beliefs, style-change can be dangerous. It emphasises uncertainty.”

Don’t manipulate

10 Guide, do not dictate or manipulate. Show people where you want them to go, but let them work out the path themselves, Kevin Carroll, the author of The Red Rubber Ball at Work, said. “Never be heavy-handed. You are directing people, but then you have to … allow them enough freedom to figure out their own process. If you abuse your influence, it might work for a period but it will be short-lived because people will resent the way that you are doing it,” he said.

Cialdini’s six principles

Reciprocation People are more likely to help those who help them

Commitment/consistency The message must be consistent with an existing commitment

Authority People are more willing to take notice of someone with authority or expertise

Social validation People are more willing to take notice if they see evidence others are, too

Scarcity Holding the key to scarce information or opportunities boosts influence

Liking/friendship People like to say “yes” to those they like

Source: Influence, by Dr Robert B. Cialdini

Courtesy of © 2009 YellowBrix, Inc.

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