Influencing others successfully is a complex process. It is not enough to be interpersonally skillful. There is nothing you can do or say that will guarantee success every time with every person in every situation. However, you can help yourself to succeed in challenging influence situations like the ones described at the beginning of this book by considering the entire framework of your influence opportunity. Figure 3.1 represents an effective framework for thinking about influence. There are four elements within the framework. These are
Figure 3.1. Influence Framework
Of course, influence does not take place within a closed system.
External elements such as trends and issues in the environment may also have an impact on the outcome. These elements, over which you have no control, may, however, lead you to change or adapt your approach or timing.
This section will give you an overview of each of the elements in the influence framework. In Part II, each of these elements will be developed more fully, with suggestions as to how you can apply the information to a real influence opportunity.
When thinking about an influence opportunity, the best place to start is where you would like to end up. What result do you hope to achieve by influencing this person or group? How will you know that you have been successful? What will you see, hear, or experience that will let you know you have accomplished your goal?
Sometimes we are embarrassed or ashamed to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we want results - pretty specific results at that - and will be deeply disappointed if we don't obtain them. When we don't approve of our own wish to influence, we might be manipulative or half-hearted about the process, hoping to get away with it without anyone - even ourselves - noticing. And, of course, that doesn't work very well. So if you care about the outcome of a discussion, a meeting, a proposal, a request, or a family council, let yourself know it. When you can do this, you have started along the path of conscious influencing. You won't always be successful, but you will probably find that you feel stronger, less stressed, and more powerful, because you are taking an active role, rather than playing the victim of circumstances or of other people's actions or decisions.
Influence goals are based on needs and requirements that can often be met in a variety of ways. There will be times when you will change your specific influence goal in order to be more certain of achieving a result that will meet your needs. In Chapter 8, you will learn how to design an influence goal that will be a good "star to steer by."
A key element in your influence framework is the relationship you have developed with the person you wish to influence. An influence relationship exists, potentially, when one or both parties have goals that require the support or actions of the other. Not all relationships are influence relationships. There are people with whom we communicate regularly, but whose actions are irrelevant to our own goals. It is possible to have a good friendship with someone without having an effective influence relationship with that person, and it is possible to have a good influence relationship with someone you would not choose as a friend. Since influencing another person is not an event, but part of a process, everything that occurs in your influence relationship affects the future of that relationship. The success or failure of subsequent influence opportunities with that person depends on the influence history you build together. If the other person or group feels that you were not fair or honest in your dealings, you will become less influential.
When you can assess the state of the relationship honestly and accurately, you will know whether or not the other person is likely to be open to being influenced by you. If that is unlikely, you will have to begin by doing the work that is required to repair or rebuild your influence relationship - or decide to influence indirectly through another person or group.
An influence relationship at work or in the community is not necessarily a close personal friendship. You may have few social interests in common or have the wrong chemistry to be friends. The basic criterion for choosing someone with whom to build an influence relationship is that there is some mutual benefit possible if you are willing and able to help or support one another.
In this complex and changing world, building solid and mutually beneficial influence relationships within your organization and profession, as well as outside of it, creates a network of information and opportunity that you will be able to call on throughout your professional life. Building positive influence relationships in your family and community will provide you with a lifelong base of support. Paradoxically, the very time that you need a good influence relationship the most is likely to be the hardest time to start building one. Successful influencers are aware of this; not only do they avoid burning bridges they may need to cross one day, but they put effort into building bridges before they are needed.
Chapter 9 will help you to better understand and to build and improve on your existing influence relationships. You will also gain some ideas on developing new and effective influence relationships.
Influence does not occur in a vacuum. There are always many factors in the situation that can affect the outcome. In general, these factors can be found in three areas.
1. Individual (both yourself and the person you want to influence)
3. Cultural (national, professional, community, or organizational)
You will want to spend some time thinking about how your own needs and vested interests, personality, and behavioral skills affect the context for influence with this particular person, organization, and/or culture.
Once you have established a realistic but optimistic goal, considered the state of the relationship, and analyzed the contextual factors, you are in a good position to select the tactical approach and specific behaviors that are most likely to accomplish the results you hope to achieve.
Direct influence behaviors fall into two categories: expressive influence and receptive influence. Expressive influence behaviors involve sending ideas and information toward others in a way that will engage their interest and persuade them to support you. Receptive influence behaviors involve drawing ideas and information from others in a way that will guide them toward a commitment to action. The influence model in Figure 3.2 shows the expressive and receptive influence tactics.
Neither type of influence behavior is better or worse than the other one. Each of the behaviors is intended to accomplish a particular influence result. Used thoughtfully, in combination, they can lead you toward achieving your influence goals. Over time, often within the same conversation, you will aim to balance expressive and receptive influence energy.
Figure 3.2. Influence Model
Table 3.1 shows the influence tactics and behaviors and what they are designed to accomplish. You'll notice two columns: tactics and behaviors. The intention is what you want your behavior to achieve. The tactic is a summary of the intention. The behaviors are specific ways of implementing the tactics.
Table 3.1. Influence Tactics and Behavior
|Tell: Communicate the desired action||
|Sell: Convince the other to commit to action||
Refer to shared values or goals
|Negotiate: Give the other a vested interest in taking action||
|Enlist: Create enthusiasm and alignment||
|Inquire: Get information or involvement; guide the other's thinking||
Ask open-ended questions
|Listen: Learn real limits or expand the other's thinking||
|Attune: Build trust or increase openness||
Identify with other
|Facilitate: Get the other to take responsibility for action||
Pose challenging questions
|Disengage||Live to influence another day|
Influence behaviors have both verbal and nonverbal components. Facial expression, voice tone, gestures, and the way you use space can all contribute to or detract from the impact of your influence.
Using any influence behavior effectively requires, first of all, being clear about the results you want to obtain - your influence goal. Next, you will think about the person you are going to influence and the influence relationship you currently have with one another. You will consider the context in which the influence will take place: individual, team, organizational, or cultural factors and issues that might affect the outcome. You can select the tactics and then the behaviors that are most likely to be useful under the circumstances and even plan a specific approach. However, during the actual influence event, you will stay alert to the other's responses and monitor whether you are moving closer to or further from your goal - or approaching an alternate result that meets your needs satisfactorily.
Some influence opportunities are focused on personal preferences and priorities. Some, however, involve deep and complex issues that require study and exploration. Influence opportunities that are related to a specific problem that is owned or shared by the other person may require you to develop a thorough understanding of the issues involved.