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by Harold Scharlatt (a senior faculty member at the Greensboro campus of the Center for Creative Leadership)
In a world of complex, sprawling organizations, authority isn’t what it used to be. Sure, you may be the boss, but your title isn’t enough to get people to do what you ask. And your command is further diluted when you work in a team, collaborate across boundaries or rely on multiple partners and stakeholders.
That’s why personal influence is an essential leadership skill.
Influence is, simply put, the power and ability to personally affect others’ actions, decisions, opinions or thinking. At one level, it is about compliance, about getting someone to go along with what you want them to do. But you often need genuine commitment from others to accomplish key goals and tasks.
True commitment means you have succeeded in influencing people so that they’ll endorse and truly support you or your task or plan. And in today’s turbulent economy, when you’re so often implementing big change, cutting back on resources or dealing with tough challenges, you need all the commitment, or engagement, you can get.
When you influence people so they reach a place of genuine commitment, working relationships begin to improve. You see greater sustained effort and resiliency. Your colleagues become more efficient, creative and focused.
How can you influence others, and move them from resistance to compliance to commitment–especially when you have only the limited organizational authority of so many leaders today? The Center for Creative Leadership, with the help of our former faculty members David Baldwin and Curt Grayson, has found that there are three kinds of influencing tactics: logical, emotional and cooperative. We call them influencing with head, heart and hands.
A logical appeal taps into people’s reason and intellect. You present an argument for the best choice of action based on organizational benefits, personal benefits or both.
Most of us know how to tout the organizational benefits of our ideas or plans. We explain the reasons for our proposed actions objectively and logically, with factual and detailed evidence for their feasibility and importance. We explain clearly and logically why these actions are the best possible. When challenged, we explain how potential organizational problems or concerns can be handled.
Less routine, but still common, is the personal logical appeal, explaining how a requested action is likely to benefit a person’s career long term. You can take it a step further by helping the person gain more visibility and a better reputation within the organization, or by making a job easier or more interesting.
An emotional appeal connects your message, goal or project to individual goals and values. Link your request to a clear and appealing vision the other person can fully support. Describe the task with enthusiasm, and express confidence in the person’s ability to accomplish it.
Of course, to make an emotional appeal you must have some relationship with and understanding of the person you’re appealing to. A misguided or uninformed emotional appeal can backfire. Generally, an idea that promotes a person’s sense of well-being, service or belonging has the best chance of gaining support.
A cooperative appeal builds a connection between you, the person you want to influence and others, to get support for your proposal. Working together to accomplish a mutually important goal means you’re extending a hand to others in the organization. It is an extremely effective way of influencing. Building cooperative connections may involve collaboration (figuring out what you will do together), consultation (finding out what ideas other people have) and alliances (drawing on whoever already supports you or has credibility you need).
The most effective influencers know how to utilize all three approaches: logic, emotion and cooperation. To maximize your personal influence, you’ll want to evaluate your own style of influencing. What tactics do you use most? What could you do differently? For example, if you rely exclusively on logical appeals, you’ll miss the chance to engage people through their emotions, values and relationships. If you overemphasize emotional or cooperative appeals, you may leave out the data and rationales that will make your case.
Once you are more aware of your influencing style, you’ll be able to become a more versatile–and more effective–leader.