Are you getting the results you want with other people?  An effective way to broaden your impact is to add more influence skills to your toolkit.

Each of us has a preferred way of trying to influence others.  Often it has roots in our childhood experience—how our family members got things done. Sometimes, it’s a legacy of our education or management experience—a way we developed that was successful.

For example, my natural style is one of persuading others. I assess a situation, analyze the facts, and advocate a point of view.  This fits with my academic training and business experience and feels logical and comfortable. This style does not work effectively, however, when emotions run high, or when I encounter someone who wants to bully his way to a different result. For those situations, I need different approaches.

The following is a brief outline of five different influence skills or styles and ways you can you use them. It covers the general outline of training I received decades ago from Situation Management Systems and adds my own experiences from years of practical applications. The key is to assess a specific situation and pick the approach that fits.

  1. Shared vision or attraction.

This skill fits where there is potential for common ground. Others will join you when they share common hopes and values. Articulate outcomes of mutual interest and inspire others to participate.

In our conflict-ridden culture, people often assume that life’s a win-lose proposition. If you win, I’ll lose. As people explore their hopes and why they are important to one another, much broader areas of possible agreement arise. This approach uses people’s natural interests to energize action. I have applied this skill to turn many adversarial situations into productive results.

While being gentle as doves, we also must be wise as serpents. If common ground is not possible, pursue other influence skills.

  1. Bridging.

This skill draws out the needs and interests of the other parties. Bridging encourages people to express differing views, listen effectively, and share their perspectives. They learn where opportunities for mutual benefit may exist and what it will take to pursue them.

A successful executive in a client company was a master at this style. He worked very effectively in environments requiring close collaboration. People enjoyed serving on his teams. Customers valued his attentiveness to their needs. In many instances, he placed their interests ahead of his own.

When this executive took on broader management responsibilities, he needed other influence skills. Over reliance on the bridging technique left others unclear about his vision and direction.

  1. Asserting or give and take.

The executive described above developed his assertiveness skill to handle expanded responsibilities. He set clear standards and insisted others pitch in to get timely results.

The executive’s natural bridging skill kept the asserting skill in balance.While crisper in setting direction, he gave employees wide latitude on how to achieve them and helped them solve problems.

Although it takes energy to push an agenda forward, the results create a sense of forwarding momentum. The executive gained new energy and satisfaction as skipper of the ship.

When you are not in charge, assertiveness can be in the form of give and take. You may have different goals than the other party, but you can find things to exchange. This works well in bargaining situations.

  1. Persuading.

Many people think that this is the best way to influence others.  It seems fair. We make the case, and the facts get on the table. My experience tells me, however, that managers overuse it. I see too many people who are doing what seems logical but know in their gut that it isn’t the right solution for them. They need to look within themselves or bridge with others to discover better alternatives.

Logical persuasion certainly has its place. It is highly effective with factual issues and participants who share a common frame of reference.

  1. Avoiding.

This skill works when the situation requires your participation for a solution, others are pressuring you toward an undesirable result, and you are powerless to change them. For example, underdogs may avoid coming to the negotiating table until they’ve gained certain preconditions to strengthen their position.

Identify your dominant influence skill. Note how it serves you well and where it holds you back. Then, assess each situation and pick the skill(s) that serve you best.


Copyright © 2017 Don Maruska