Influence is a concept that exists at the very core of effective leadership. The use of management controls and standard operating procedures (SOPs) can take an organization only so far—effective leadership requires an individual who understands the power of influence and how to harness it to serve the larger purpose of an organization.
At this point, you may be wondering what we mean by influence. Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary describes influence as “the act or power of producing an effect without apparent exertion of force or direct exercise of command,” as well as “the power or capacity of causing an effect in indirect or intangible ways.” In the world of management and leadership, influence can be described as the application of power with the goal of accomplishing a specific purpose, such as a project or task.
Effective influencers recognize what is important to others both as part of an organization and as individuals, taking into account their values and beliefs.
OnPoint Consulting collaborated with Dr. Gary Yukl on a study of influence behaviors, published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, which details 11 influence tactics. The tactics were identified by participants at the executive, direct report and colleague levels who responded to a questionnaire about their experiences working for or with 223 leaders at organizations across the U.S. The tactics are broken down into three categories according to their level of effectiveness.
Based on the findings of our research, we believe the four most effective tactics include:
- Rational/Logical Persuasion
- Inspirational Appeals
Let’s explore each of these influence tactics in more depth.
1) Appeal to Logic and Facts
This was the most frequently used tactic identified by the study and questionnaire results. The idea behind this persuasive tactic is that it provides logic-based arguments and evidentiary support to demonstrate the feasibility and relevance of key initiatives and task objectives. Taking this approach, a leader explains why a task is necessary, how a specific method would be most efficient and beneficial, or how a recommended course of action is most cost effective.
This method is helpful in several ways. While it helps you to enhance your credibility with your team or supervisor, it also helps you gain establish a greater level of trust with those key players as a person who is knowledgeable and capable.
2) Appeal to Values and Beliefs
Everyone loves feel-good moments of inspiration—a personal story, a touching quote, or an inspirational TED Talk. But why are they so effective? It all boils down to an appeal to values, belief and emotions.
In leadership, the idea behind this concept is to promote a clear, inspirational vision of how to accomplish an objective or promote a goal by appealing to the values and beliefs that are most important to those individuals or the team as a whole. Our research found that high-level leaders are most likely to use inspirational appeals.
In an Entrepreneur article, former U.S. Navy Seal Jeff Boss suggests 9 leadership guidelines that effective leaders can use to inspire their teams.
3) Consult Group Knowledge, Increase Team Buy-In
Some managers are hesitant to consult their employees for fear that it will negatively influence their credibility or standing as a leader with their team. But nothing could be further from the truth: By consulting with team members and seeking their input, leaders can help those colleagues become more vested in the project or initiative, resulting in their increased buy-in and commitment.
By leaning on the experience, knowledge and expertise of your colleagues and direct reports, you also can increase the quality of your initiative and expand your own professional knowledge base.
So be sure to consult with members of your team: ask them to raise any concerns about your proposal or idea and suggest improvements. According to our research, leaders who use this tactic are often rated as being highly effective.
4) Collaborate to Reduce Compliance Challenges
Being helpful can go a long way to foster an environment of collaboration within your company or organization. Not only does it create a more productive work environment, collaboration also can help to reduce challenges faced by your employees who may be struggling with barriers associated with complying with a particular request. If you know an employee is struggling to meet a deadline due to other priorities or a lack of resources, ask what you can do to help. This can be accomplished by offering to assist with a report or project, or making one of your team members available to provide assistance.
By collaborating with people on your team, you are lending your knowledge, services or assistance to them with the ultimate goal of making it easier for them to comply with your request—and, ultimately, this will help your company become more effective and productive.
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