I’d like to share an early career experience I had trying to influencing others. It didn’t go well.
As a young product manager, I had the opportunity to present a new product idea to our division’s leadership team. I didn’t know many in the team, so I put my head down to come up with a convincing, data-driven case. I spent many days and nights working on my presentation to convince them to give me the green light to develop the product. But, when I reached the end of what I thought was a strong pitch, they said, “no.”
What? Where had I gone wrong?
From that experience, I realized that influencing isn’t solely about creating persuasive arguments or fantastic presentations. It is, in fact, more about the people you must convince, how they think and feel, and what your relationship is with them.
The Big Two Myths About Influencing
Now, many years later, I can see that my efforts to influence were misfocused. While I was developing the perfect presentation, the perfect logic, the perfect arguments, and the perfect business case, I completely missed the mark because I believed in the two big myths about influencing:
It’s all about you and how persuasive you are
If you take away one thing from this blog, understand that it’s **not** about you. To influence others, whether remotely or in person, you must get outside of yourself. It’s about the person or audience you are trying to influence. It’s about assessing their needs, requirements, and emotions, tapping into those, and showing empathy to understand their perspective. It doesn’t matter how articulate you are or if the facts are in your favor. If the other person feels the discussion is centered around your agenda, it will be challenging to persuade them.
It’s about saying all the right things, all in a single meeting
Influencing is not a ‘one and done’; it is an ongoing process. It is rare that one statement or new fact changes someone’s perspective or opinion. It’s also unlikely that people change their mind after a single discussion or meeting. Change comes slowly; it’s best to think about this as a marathon rather than a race.
Think about your own experiences when others have been trying to influence you. Did you feel the other person was concerned about your perspective, concerns or bias? Did a single fact change your mind? Did it happen after one meeting? Chances are you considered many different factors over days or weeks before altering your position or opinion. It’s no different with those you are trying to influence.
Building Strong Relationships – The Key to Successful Influencing
Relationships are essential to our personal lives. But many people presume relationships matter less in our professional lives because so many businesses run on ‘data’ and not ‘‘emotions.’ That assumption is wrong. Personal relationships matter in all aspects of business, and you should give priority to building solid associations. Relationships, building trust and maintaining lifetime connections are at the core of being able to influence effectively.
3 Ways to Build Stronger Relationships to Increase Your Influence
There are many critical skills to learn and master to better influence and develop long-lasting relationships. Here are a few to help get you started:
1. Take time to check in and touch base
Seeking out peers and superiors to see what they are thinking, and exchange ideas is a powerful way to influence them over time. This can take the form of a phone call, a meeting or just an email to inquire as to what they are thinking and where their heads are at. By creating an ongoing dialog with those you wish to influence ensures you have multiple opportunities to advance your case. And, to the people you are trying to influence, it shows that you care about them, their feelings and opinions.
2. Ask for advice
Seeking (and giving advice) are critical to influencing others. The Harvard Business Review has written about this extensively in “The Art of Giving and Receiving Advice”. Asking for advice is not as easy as it sounds because it is a two-way exchange. HBR writes, “ When the exchange is done well, people on both sides of the table benefit. Those who are truly open to guidance (and not just looking for validation) develop better solutions to problems than they would have on their own. They add nuance and texture to their thinking—and, research shows, they can overcome cognitive biases, self-serving rationales, and other flaws in their logic.”
3. Offer help
One way to become better connected with others is to offer help. Doing whatever you can to help someone else, especially if it will take you a just few minutes, can return big dividends. Such favors could include making an introduction, giving advice or providing feedback, or even commenting on or sharing someone’s content within your network.
Do You Want to Sharpen Your Influencing Skills?
Attend one of TalkShop’s “Influencing and Managing Remotely” workshops to learn the 7 Secrets to Becoming a Powerful Influencer. You will learn how to identify your stakeholders and create a communication and influencing plan for each stakeholder to maximize your ability to get what you want, whether working remotely or in a hybrid office environment.