Developing your influencing skills
How you influence other people can be the difference between success and failure in life, but more importantly, in the workplace
You may have heard the expression, ‘How to win friends and influence people?’ Visual and behavioral cues can speak volumes about you as a person and influence the behavior of others around you in a positive and negative way. Honing your influencing skills can mean the difference between being just an employee that is never noticed, or a standout employee that enjoys all the plaudits of success in the job.
This much-talked-about topic of how to develop your key influencing skills was dissected in granular detail in a recent Nexford webinar hosted by Jennifer Bangoura, EdD, Nexford’s Director of Career Innovation, and Ian Santos, an award-winning Sales & Leadership Consultant that’s worked at Jollibee, Colgate, Palmolive, Coca Cola, and GSK.
Experts will say that influencing skills are the ability to bring people around to your way of thinking about something without them being forced to do so. That said, influencing skills don’t work in a silo and come off the back of procuring top-rate soft skills, combined with the ability to communicate effectively and engage stakeholders along every part of the process.
Influencers are all around us
Be they politicians, sports people, YouTubers, TV and movie celebrities, or anyone that a mass audience look up to and develop behavioural traits around, there are thousands of influencers across the world that cause people to behave in certain ways.
Out of the 50 top influencers in the world, top of the heap is Cristiano Ronaldo with more than 500 million followers across his social media accounts, and hot on his heels are Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift, and Dwayne Johnson, known by all as ‘The Rock’. All household names in their own right.
Ian Santos says, “Many aspire to be just like these massive celebrities and become influencers, but most never will by virtue of the fact that they may not be athletic enough, or able to hold a tune. This leaves many asking how they could become an influencer in any shape or form. But you don’t have to be a singer or athletic to be an influencer. If you want to be a good influencer, try to find a way to capture the hearts of someone in terms of getting them to engage with you.”
What does it take to be an influencer?
Whether you like it or not, we are all influencers in our own way. No matter your role in your organization, family, circle of friends, business, or school, one way or another, we exert some level of influence on others. The big question is, are you a positive influencer or a negative influencer? That’s something we must all answer sooner rather than later and it means you must be super cognizant of what you say, the actions you take, and what you write.
Ask many who the biggest influencers are in their lives, and you will get a smorgasbord of answers. Mostly people will mention family members, professors, bosses at work, or motivational speakers to name a few. Proof that influencers in our lives come from different places and origins. Look at the top 100 most influential people of all time and you will see people from the world of politics, religion, science, and even music.
Take for instance Steve Jobs. Most people around the world have at least one Apple product. So, you could say that his influence and impact has lasted even after his own life on Earth. In a slightly morbid way, you almost must start with the end in mind to be remembered.
Developing the skills to influence
It is incredibly important to have influencing skills because it has the power to communicate our message and position. It’s crucial in negotiations, whether personal or business. And you need to practice them.
As mentioned before, we influence by what we say and do by the power of our words, and our actions. So, think about this, do people who you look up to, for example, your leaders, have their words match their actions?
In the same way you need to put the spotlight on yourself. Ask yourself, when you say something, do you actually do it right? So how what we say and do is especially important, how we say and do it is also particularly important. And you can add visual cues to that equation. Ask yourself as well what the visual impact is on others. Actors can influence just by a look or an expression. And the higher your role in life and business the more your words and actions get amplified. Successful leadership today is influence and not authority. Gone are the days where leaders are simply followed because of their title or their position.
So, we are influenced in many ways, either through face-to-face interactions or social media. For the latter you might want to think about how you come across on social media. Examine the things you post on Facebook and the things you write on LinkedIn, and the videos you may post on YouTube or TikTok. So, essentially, the higher the level of trust you gain from people, the higher level of influence you can have on them. Now, this is something that cannot happen overnight. It’s like a relationship that you need to nurture and develop. But once you get a good amount or level of trust, then you’ll be able to be in a good position to influence other people.
5 ways to develop your influencing skills!
1. Build trust
In the same way that massive global brands like Apple, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, or Coca Cola, or Disney or McDonald’s have been able to build trust with their consumers over time, so do you with your audience. Therefore, you might want to think about how you as a person come across as a brand to others. What’s your personal brand? Do you walk your talk? Are you a good example to others, whether it’s in the office or at home or with your friends? So, part of building trust is really, you know, making sure that what we say is what we do.
2. Listen to others
You need to see the world from other people’s point of view, so we can understand them better. You need to be cognizant of their feelings and have a large degree of empathy towards them. So, if you’re able to appeal to the heart of someone or a team or an organization, then you’ll be able to influence them better.
General Colin Powell said, “If your people stop going to you with their problems, then you have failed as a leader, because you have not given them the confidence to come to you with their problems. Part of the role of a leader is helping your people in teams solve problems.”
So, ask yourself, am I someone who people ask help from to mentor them or coach them? Am I the go-to guy? If you’re that kind of person, then you’re influencing skills multiply because you’re able to impact more people by being the go-to person.
3. Be confident
When you present your ideas with confidence, people listen. If you hem and haw, implying that you’re not sure about what you’re saying, no one else will be either. By doing your research, knowing what you’re talking about, and being prepared, you will find it much easier to project confidence and self-assuredness.
4. Be consistent
If you are consistent in your work ethic, your abilities, your attention to detail, and in taking time to engage with colleagues, you will gain a reputation for being reliable. Unpredictability will chip away quickly at your ability to influence. In addition to trusting you and your judgment, colleagues need to know that you are dependable and that they can count on you. That said, you need to be consistent and confident at the same time, especially during challenging times.
5. Be observant
You don’t learn how to be good at influencing without observing other people. Try to learn from those who have come before. Senior ones or the good influencers, in your group, in your team in your company. What inspires you, what motivates you with what they do and what they say. So, try to get the good stuff there.
Though, the biggest tip is you must be genuine and authentic and be yourself. You cannot be another person otherwise you will not come across as an authentic influential person. You have to get the best of both worlds and try to combine it and immerse it into your own personality.
Practice makes perfect
When it comes to being an influencer, everybody starts from zero. So, the more you practice, the better you get at things. If you’re a mentor or coach, you’ll be able to develop your influencing skills more and more. John Maxwell talks about leadership being nothing more than influence. And it’s true. No matter how good you are, or how much technical skill you have, if you cannot influence your team or organization the right way, then you will fail as a leader.
Speak more, listen harder
To become a great influencer, you need to become genuinely interested in others. Talk about their interest, let them speak more than you speak. Always make the other person feel important. And do it with sincerity. See the world from their point of view. Remember that it’s easier to have a discussion with someone who has an opposing view. So, people will be more open to listening to what you have to say, if you are in turn sincerely open to listening to what they have to say. Always be confident in sharing your thoughts, opinions, and position. Do your homework and make sure that what you see is based on facts, not just emotion.
If you feel that you are not a confident speaker, there are ways to get over that and improve on it.
Speak in front of people, if you’re afraid, because it’s one of the biggest fears of people to speak in front of an audience. Start with a small group, start with your closest friends, or even your family members, let them be your sort of practice session. So, if you can speak well and write well, you will have a lot of influence on others.
The final point to being a great influencer is to network as much as you can. Get to know other people from diverse backgrounds, because you get to learn something new, whether it’s online or offline. And the more people you know, the more people will know you as well. If you can speak, you can influence. If you can influence, you can change lives. If you have the power to influence, use it for good.
Mark is a college graduate with Honours in Copywriting. He is the Content Marketing Manager at Nexford, creating engaging, thought-provoking, and action-oriented content.
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