Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Art of Influence

You can't get anywhere in business without the ability to influence people -- convince them -- to follow, to lead, to just do what needs to get done. This may be obvious to a whole lot of us on reflection, but you'd be surprised how many of us don't actually practice the art of influence to get things done. Often, due to time constraints or impatience, we fall back to the standards that should work, but hardly ever. Appealing to logic, correctness and authority often fails, and the reason it does, is because people are naturally distrustful of change. Whatever you're trying to convince them to do is not something they're already doing, so why should they do it now because you want it done?

People do what you want them to do because they trust you -- and trust doesn't come free, it comes with work -- it's earned. The only way to earn trust is by establishing relationships with individuals -- which takes time. Trust is capital that you need to have in the bank for when you need withdrawls. When you need to influence someone is the wrong time to try and build trust by establishing relationships. Obvious stuff, right? So how come more of us aren't working on relationships?

I'm often reminding folks that something may be the obvious and correct thing to do, but it will never get done if the individuals you need to help from don't like you -- ie., don't trust you or don't have a relationship with you. However, people who trust you and have a relationship with you, will help you accomplish the wrong thing if you ask them to. Influence is incredibly powerful, and CIO Magazine has a short article that profiles four individuals stories on how they influence others. It's not a bad read to remind us why influencing skills are good to have.

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