Strategic Planning Organizational Development Learning
Vision Philosophy Mission Values Testimonials

Archive for March, 2011

The Soft Power of Influence

Friday, March 18th, 2011

Recently, I read a blog post by Vineet Nayer at the Harvard Business Review on Women and Soft Power in Business.  According to Joseph S. Nye Jr., the former dean of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, soft power is defined as the ability to influence or lead through persuasion or attraction, by co-opting people rather than coercing them.  Nayer argues that women tend to have a greater capability for soft power.  But he also, rightly, points out that soft power is not an exclusively female characteristic.  Influence, or “soft power”, is a much-needed and under-used skill in the workplace.  Nayer’s point, and the point of my blog here, is that organizations benefit greatly from developing the influence skills across its employee population – men and women alike.

Influence is an essential leadership skill.  You need it to sell ideas, enroll others, and create change.  Influencing others involves appealing to three different sensibilities:  logic, emotion, and cooperation.  In other words, when you influence effectively, you connect with someone’s head (thoughts), heart (feelings), and hands (action).  As you might have experienced from time to time, different people require more emphasis on logic in order to be enrolled in your project.  Others might want to feel a stronger connection to their heartstrings before being pulled into your idea.  Still others might prefer to move to action right away and learn how they can contribute tangibly.  Think about how you like to be influenced and that will help you understand what I mean here.  When someone is making a case that requires a commitment from you, do you notice that you pay most attention to:

  • Logic – facts, figures, and evidence pointing to personal and/or organizational benefits?
  • Emotion – feelings, experiences, and concepts that reinforce an emotional connection?
  • Cooperation – action, roles, and responsibilities that define alliances and relationships?

Perhaps all three are important to you when considering the value of a proposition or initiative.  It’s important to understand the needs of those you are attempting to influence and enroll because it will help you to be more effective when making your case.

To prepare for an influencing session with others:

  1. Set your goals by considering what you need from others and what you want the outcome to be.
  2. Identify benefits and challenges by reflecting on the relationships you have with others, their position of power as compared to yours, and what skills and knowledge they possess that you could benefit from.
  3. Develop your plan and script by outlining how you’ll appeal to the logic, emotion or cooperation sensibilities of others, anticipating their objections, and planning your counter-arguments or responses.

It’s important not to underestimate the value of planning when you are intent on influencing others.  The more time and attention you invest in planning, the greater the liklihood you’ll achieve your desired outcomes.  And, once you’ve conducted your influencing dialog, record and reflect your perceptions and key learning.  The best way to learn how to influence is to practice influencing, and then taking notice of what worked and what didn’t.

Comments: No Comments »
Posted In: Leadership, Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,