How to influence people

Influencing skills are important for leaders and managers of all types. No matter what type of team you lead, you’re going to need other people to help you succeed. Knowing how to influence people can make your work easier when you’re trying to make changes that improve your team or even your organisation.

Our workplaces are constantly in a state of change and managers need to be able to lead it. Wouldn’t you rather be making change with a team of influential allies, than pushing change uphill against a horde of resisting people?

When knowing how to influence people will help you

You might be thinking that influencing isn’t a huge part of your role. But when you’re leading people, there are always opportunities to influence. Here are a few examples:

  • Improving the way your team works: If you can get your team on board with the improvements you want to make, they will help you do the work.
  • You want to push back on people that give your team too much work: Sometimes you need to Say “No”. Knowing how to influence people helps. Tip: If you struggle to manage up and push back on unreasonable demands, Thoughtful Leader can help. Check out the Managing Upwards eBook, for tools and techniques to build confidence and help you say “No”. You and your team deserve better… try the eBook today.
  • Changing the status quo: Many teams do things a certain way because “it’s the way we’ve always done them.” To stop this, you’re going to need to make change. You may even need to get your senior management on board with your idea. Influencing skills will help you do this.

There are hundreds more examples of when knowing how to influence people will help you. You get the idea. Now, let’s look at specific ways you can do it.

How to influence people to get things done

1. Influence people by communicating the “Why”

You have probably heard Simon Sinek’s advice that you should “Start with Why” (if not, take a look!). It’s good advice, and it works.

When people understand why you are doing something, they have a chance to feel connected to your purpose. It gives them a chance to see how they fit into your vision of change, and how they can help.

It also gives them a chance to disagree with any assumptions you’ve made which has led you to try to make change in the first place. This is a good thing. Getting opinions about what you’re doing before you do it can help you improve your case for change.

2. Influence people by answering “What’s in it for me?”

People are selfish creatures. I should know, I am one. There are so many competing priorities in our workplaces that it’s easy to see why people need a good reason for change.

This is where the “What’s in it for me?” comes in. If you can help people understand the benefit they gain from what you are proposing, you’ll find it far easier to get them on board with your idea.

If you can’t emphasise the “What’s in it for me?” for somebody, it might be that you need to go back and revisit your original idea. Or it may mean you are influencing the wrong person.

3. Influence people by listening

People like to be heard. The worst influencers will make all the decisions, start to make changes, and then ask what everyone thinks. You need to get people’s opinions early.

Get their concerns on the table so you can address them, or perhaps adjust your approach. Sometimes, you won’t be able to solve everyone’s problem or concern. However, feedback is always useful to adapt your approach and help people feel involved.

If you ignore the opinions and concerns of the people you are trying to influence, You’re more likely to encounter resistance.

4. Influence people by offering help and support

It’s hard to influence someone when you just tell them “this is how it’s going to be”. That’s not influencing, it’s just pushy. You’re more likely to build resistance that way.
A better approach is to provide support, to help them on the journey. When you’re changing something, it can make people uncomfortable. Offering help to ease them through a change can help to improve their attitude.

Our workplaces are becoming far less tolerant of “Like it or go somewhere else” directives. You need to support people when you’re making change, to help them cope with the potential stress.

Knowing how to influence people is a key skill for any leader.

Start with “why”, tell them “what’s in it for me?”, listen to their concerns and offer support. You’ll find it much easier to get things done in your team or workplace.

It may seem like a lot of work, but if you put in the effort up front, you’ll have far less problems down the road.

Got any good tips on how to influence people? Share them in the comments below! I’d love to read them.

Alternatively, if you would like to ask a question or need some help, you can send me a private message through my contact page.