Influence is the ability to move your ideas into others’ action. Unfortunately, for many, attempts to influence others result in colleagues, direct reports or external counterparts feeling pressured, coerced or manipulated into compliance. So, how can managers and leaders influence others so that support is given willingly? The answer is through a balanced and flexible use of both receptive and expressive influence tactics and behaviours – our ‘influence-muscles’.
Analysis of our recent influence situations using a simple on-line assessment can identify the influence-muscles we tend to rely on, those that need to be developed and those that may be used differently to gain a better result. Then, through targeted isometric exercises, managers can develop and hone their weaker influence-muscles.
For example, during a recent training, a senior manager found that she relied too much on expressive tactics to get commitment: she would use a ‘tell’ style to communicate the desired action and her reasons for wanting her colleague to commit to an action.
Meanwhile, her colleagues’ responses to our on-line assessment showed that they would prefer the manager to use more receptive behaviours. She realised that, by posing challenging questions and being more sensitive to his priorities and perspectives, she could guiding team members’ thinking more carefully. She also identified a need to communicate more enthusiastically and to help the person see how it was in their best interest to take on the extra responsibility.
She identified five specific focus areas for her personal development and then set about honing these influence-muscles using her own work-based influence challenge.
In a meeting or influence conversation, the ability to select the appropriate receptive and expressive influence tactics and behaviours in the moment is the hallmark of the high-performance manager. To gain the willing support and commitment of others, managers first need to develope and hone their full range of influence-muscles if they are to achieve peak performance.
Anthony Brophy is Hong Kong partner of Barnes and Conti and licensed facilitator of their leading international program Exercising Influence™.