Young coworkers using influencing skills in a meeting

Some people seem to be born with the unique ability to persuade others to do things or to think differently about something, without explicitly telling them to do it. This kind of influence in the workplace happens on small scales between individuals, and on massive scales across the globe.

Having the ability to influence others makes a big difference in the success of organizations, since this is a key quality of leadership. Without a uniting vision that people can get behind and believe in, the efforts of a group rarely cause lasting impact or change.

However, leaders and managers aren’t the only ones who need to be capable of influencing others in the workplace. Leadership without authority is a common dynamic in the workplace – think strong personalities, strategic minds, or team members who have the interpersonal skills that encourage others. Influencing without authority is an important skill – one that may lead to authority in its own right later on.

Why Influencing Skills Matter in the Workplace

Collaboration isn’t just a buzzword of 21st century business culture – it’s the recognition that groups can often have a greater impact than individuals, and the encouragement for each employee to share the talents, ideas, and perspectives they bring to the table.

The highest performing organizations in every industry promote collaboration between individuals, teams, and departments to create a better business for everyone.

However, even when someone is working in a highly collaborative environment, they need to understand how to influence others to see the value of their ideas and requests. You don’t need authority to do this – all team members can be trained and encouraged to advocate for themselves – and for worthy ideas from other team members too.

Some of your most creative people don’t have any authority to make others help them complete tasks or execute projects, and they don’t have all the knowledge or resources they need to do it themselves.

A culture that promotes collaboration will help them feel more empowered to approach someone for help, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that person will be willing. They need to be persuaded of why they should be the one to help with the project, join the committee, or otherwise participate in something outside their job duties.

Here’s how anyone can learn the art of influencing others, to shape a decision or guide a result.

What’s in It for Them?

When approaching someone for help with a task or with implementing a new idea, that person needs to see why and how it’ll benefit them in some way.

What’s the payoff?

  • Job payoff – this could be something they would be good at and would enjoy, so it could improve their job satisfaction, or it may provide valuable experience to advance their career.
  • Personal payoff – maybe participating will help them learn something new that they can apply in their personal life, or it’ll simply be fun and interesting to be a part of.
  • Social payoff – this might be an opportunity to get to know other people, and widen their circle of friends and colleagues that they can come to for help when they need it.

The payoff probably won’t look the same for everyone, so if someone is trying to influence a group of people, they need to understand multiple payoffs involved to find the one that resonates best with each individual.

For insight into more skills leaders need, check out our infographic on developing your next generation of leaders. 

Capitalize on Strengths

Maybe the situation doesn’t call for asking people to help with a task, but it requires getting others on board with an idea, goal, or a big change, and to advocate it to others.

Businesses become more agile when they have people who are able to influence others to make changes and push the status quo.

No company can afford to be stagnant, but change is a difficult thing for many people. Those with the ability to persuade and influence others can lessen the discomfort of making big changes, and guide an organization toward a more forward-thinking, change-friendly mindset.

These are the positions from which someone can exert influence without direct authority and convince others of something they’re unsure of:

  • Competency – having the right skills to speak with assurance on the subject at hand, and ensuring others recognize the value of that competency
  • Having valuable information – being able to share information that in and of itself is influential to others’ decisions
  • Experience – being able to talk about previous experience in the same situation, regardless of having the most knowledge or training on the subject
  • Unique viewpoints – seeing the situation in a different way than others can shed light on why changes need to be made and how a better solution could benefit everyone
  • Likeability – simply having a personality that others are attracted to and enjoy interacting with
  • Collaboration skills – effectively working with others through persuading and negotiating to create a win-win solution

Leaders can benefit from knowing how to influence others in a variety of situations, and having a team that is able to persuade people to change and grow will help any business continually stay ahead of the competition.

The Lead By Example video series from The BizLibrary Collection is meant to help employees with little to no authority learn how to lead others. This is hugely beneficial to developing emerging leaders and succession planning.

Your company can’t afford to wait until people are placed into leadership positions before training them on the skills it takes to lead effectively – you can start developing them now.