The Art of Influencing
Feb 27th, 2018
What does it take to have influence? In a recent BBC TV interview with Andrew Marr and Emmanuel Macron, I found myself sitting up and taking notice of the French President. I was impressed by the clarity of his message, the conviction of his beliefs and the authentic way he responded which gave me an insight into the real person behind the title. He demonstrated his leadership through his ability to communicate with authority, humility and ease and I still remember his key messages. He instilled confidence that he would achieve what he had set out to do.
Many of my conversations with clients are about influencing – and their ability to do this well has a considerable impact on their success as leaders. Gravitas is key – the word gravity derives from the word gravitas, and someone who possesses gravitas has a gravitational pull. People are drawn to them and want to listen to what they have to say. Gravitas for me is the ability to communicate with authority, rooted in genuine expertise, without ego, and to deliver.
Whether the situation is your first major presentation in a new role, a key decision you need agreement on at board level, or driving your career path, influence is a critical skill to hone. Everyone can develop their ability to influence. I invite you to think of a current situation that you need to influence and apply these guidelines. Let me know how it goes!
- Have conviction
To have the gravitas to influence, a person needs the inner strength to accept and honour their responsibilities, and a strong belief in what needs to be done. Gravitas requires knowledge, conviction and values. Conviction grounds your message – a literal gravitational pull. Be clear on what you believe needs to be done, why, and how you will deliver it.
- What do you want and why?
I am mentoring someone who has done considerable work piloting a project that will have significant impact on the public sector organisation that she works for. She is compiling a report that has exceptional data that will help convey her message for the project to be approved. When I asked her what she personally wanted from this, she spoke of how much she would love to play a continuing role in this project although it was outside of her remit. She had not planned on communicating this although this was very important to her and her personal experience would add significant value. Be clear on what you want and position your request with factual evidence on the benefits this would have to the organisation.
- What do you want your audience or stakeholders to do?
Identify the key people you need to influence and what you want these people to do as a result of your request. Use a stakeholder map to identify who is interested in your proposal and who is in a position of influence – you need both – and put in place the necessary steps to get them individually on-board. Spend time standing in their shoes so you are clear on how they will benefit from what you are proposing. Equally how might it adversely affect them? Honesty about the facts and implications of a certain course of action will increase trust and demonstrate your understanding of the potential challenges with considered solutions.
- The power of 3 – clarity of message
A useful technique in any situation is the rule of 3 – be it a conversation, meeting, or presentation. Give thought to the 3 key messages you want to make and you want people to take away. People remember numbers and it assists you to keep your message succinct. I noticed that Emmanuel Macron used this when he explained the 3 most important things of being President – and I still remember them.
- Be gracious
Many people think influencing is about you doing the talking – explain your vision, share it, tell people, convince. I encourage my clients to do the opposite – the strongest influencers are curious, ask questions and listen. The most effective leaders show what I call Fierce Grace – a combination of tenacity and personal humility. Recently I have been working with a client who is in line to be the successor to the CEO – a strong performer with a clear vision and knows how to get results. But his highly directive approach is impacting how some others view him and his suitability for the role. He is now learning to adapt his approach to focus on others, be interested in their perspective, and listen in order to encourage more productive and engaging board discussions, and influence the outcome.
- Show the real you
I often share with clients the Alfred Hitchcock quote: “If I won’t be myself, who will?” Today we see first-hand the impact that over-programming and training has on, for example, a politician’s influence and credibility. People are becoming immune to stock answers, tactics to avoid the question and stage-managed body language with the subsequent impact on their willingness to listen or believe. Let people see the real you. When you are clear and confident, have real-life stories and examples that convey your message with conviction, you can deliver in a way that is true to who you are. I felt I had an insight into Macron’s character as a result of the interview I saw.
Gravitas is a leadership trait. Leaders influence through their conviction and can communicate their message and cause clearly in a way that makes people think, see their point of view, and engage. As a leader in an organisation, recognise the individuals who have the desire to shoulder responsibility without ego and provide them with the opportunities to develop their skills, extend their expertise and influence. I was impressed recently with a 17-year old British student who was present at the Florida School shooting and was talking on TV about what needs to be done to make sure events like this are not repeated. The impact he had on the interview panel, and I am sure all who listened to him was palpable. These are the influencers and leaders of the future upon which your organisation will depend.
Albert Einstein once said that “The leader is one who, out of the clutter, brings simplicity.”
Clarity and structure bring simplicity, humility and authenticity bring engagement, and the result is a person who can influence others to bring about the change they seek.
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Please contact Oona Collins at www.potentialplus-international.com for an exploratory conversation.