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Why It Is Important to Build Influencing Skills at Work

An expert is asked to contribute during an executive meeting in the hopes of bringing everyone on board with a new idea.

A newly promoted manager needs to initiate a complex project with their new team.

A mid-level leader must negotiate an extended contract with an important client.

What do these have in common?

All of these involve key people needing to influence others to action. Each scenario requires buy-in and trust, cooperation and collaboration, and a healthy dose of psychological safety. It can take a significant investment of time and energy to be able to cooperatively influence others in this way, especially without leveraging authority or status over them. But the end result of being influential versus being authoritarian engages others and can produce important business results.

What Is Influence?

To “influence” someone to change means to sway, persuade, and inspire through indirect or intangible ways. Influence is about collaboration to shared objectives. It is NOT an excuse to dictate, manipulate, cajole, or otherwise coerce others into cooperation. Positive influencing uplifts everyone involved.

If you want to be a true leader at work, then you need to be an influencer more than a boss or subject-matter expert.

Why Is Having Influence at Work Important?

Leaders who carry no assigned power within an organization must learn how to influence stakeholders, peers and supervisors through cooperative means. The best thing about leading in this way is that you don’t need to hold an official position over anyone to still cooperatively guide them to action.

Having influence could be important for…

  • Collaboration: Whether on a single team or across many departments, collaboration requires cooperation. Influencing skills facilitate agreement among everyone and help overcome resistance to change or new ideas.
  • Negotiations: Whether with clients, colleagues, or leaders, negotiation is often necessary in the workplace. Influence can change outcomes and create mutually beneficial relationships.
  • Resolving Conflicts: When you bring together a group of diverse people in the office, there are bound to be conflicting opinions. Influential communication can persuade each party to find common ground, de-escalate conflicts, and inspire deeper working relationships.
  • Change Management: Implementing change is difficult but necessary for organizations to thrive. Having influence will inspire others to adopt changes sooner and with less resistance.
  • Career Advancement: Moving up in work often involves leadership influence. When you show others that you can lead effectively, you become an even more valuable member of the organization.
  • Relationship Building: Professional relationships with clients and colleagues are what an organization is built on. Influencing to build relationships means communicating effectively, actively listening, and understanding where others are coming from.
  • Creativity and Innovation: Open communication and an environment of psychological safety are what lead to creativity and innovation. Along with influence comes trust, and trust is what builds psychological safety.
  • Personal Development: Work isn’t all about how the company grows and benefits; we should be growing and benefiting from our work too. Gaining influencing skills means developing emotional intelligence, communication skills, and interpersonal skills.

Increasing your influencing skills is critical if you want any of those activities to go smoothly. When workers and mid-level managers influence leadership, other managers, and workers to action via cooperative means, it benefits everyone.

Learning How to Influence Others

When it comes to learning how to influence others, it’s important to intentionally take active steps. We can’t just show up to a meeting and expect people to follow us. We need to work to build it. We lead through influence by selling our ideas and requests which requires tapping into shared wants and needs.

In his book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni discusses the two types of trust: predictive-based and vulnerability-based. Predictive-based trust occurs because you have faith in someone’s competence or reliability. Vulnerability-based trust occurs when you genuinely feel psychologically safe to express yourself candidly with that person. Being vulnerable can result in increased trust and therefore increased influence with others.

In Matt Norman’s new book, Lead with Influence, he emphasizes that “To have influence, you have to show up, speak up, have hard conversations, learn, and grow.” You can change ways of thinking, build trust, and impact others when you lead through influence.

Dale Carnegie based his philosophy on winning friends and influencing people. Whether it’s learning to lead others in business or in life, being an influence rather than a boss can lead to increased cooperation and beneficial relationships.

Leaders who carry no assigned power within an organization must learn how to influence stakeholders, peers and supervisors through cooperative means. The best thing about leading in this way is that you don’t need to hold an official position over anyone to still cooperatively guide them to action.

As an owner of the Dale Carnegie Mid-Atlantic franchise, McKonly & Asbury is able to offer an extension of services to our clients and friends of the firm, expanding our expertise in the areas of leadership, team building, and people development as Dale Carnegie offers programs in leadership, management development, customer engagement, service, sales, communication, and more.

About the Author

McKonly & Asbury

McKonly & Asbury is a Certified Public Accounting Firm serving companies across Pennsylvania including Camp Hill, Lancaster, Bloomsburg, and Philadelphia. We serve the needs of affordable housing, construction, family-owned businesses, healthcare, manufacturing and distribution, and nonprofit industries. We also assist service organizations with the full suite of SOC services (including SOC 2 reports), ERTC claims, internal audits, SOX compliance, and employee benefit plan audits.

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