At a recent meeting, I shifted uncomfortably as the presenter shuffled through papers as if he hadn’t seen them before. He spoke quietly with little expression and little conviction, and I had trouble paying attention.
What he said was actually OK, but his delivery wasn’t. If he wanted to influence me, he failed. He seemed to have no confidence, no conviction in his words.
The ability to wield influence depends a lot on in-the-moment delivery. We have to be able to deliver the message well, in tone, volume and clarity. But there’s more than that if we want people to buy in to what we say.
We need to have laid a foundation of trust and credibility.
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In the workplace, it’s usually a given that titles or rank confer authority and power. Sometimes, workers simply have to go along because that’s the way it is, even if the boss seems clueless or nothing but an apple polisher of the hierarchy.
Other times, appointed leaders truly are leaders. They’re influential because they know their stuff and they have the respect of others.
We know, too, that influence often bubbles up from co-workers who have no elevated rank or title. By day-in, day-out actions and words they have earned standing among their peers — not because they know everything, but because they know what’s important.
Stacey Hanke, a consultant and author specializing in the subject of influence, says influence comes from command of the facts coupled with communication.
A key point in Hanke’s book, “Influence Redefined: Be the Leader You Were Meant to Be, Monday to Monday,” is that influence is built on verbal and nonverbal cues. The best message in the world needs delivery to have impact.
It’s also important for the communication to be built on facts more than feelings, Hanke says.
That’s not a blanket statement, in my opinion. Feelings are powerful. They convey passion. They generate response. But my feelings may not be yours; they may generate no empathy or agreement.
So there’s the challenge: getting buy-in without preying on emotion.
Hanke advises that the ability to do that depends on consistent interaction with everyone within the organization. If co-workers understand where you’re coming from, they will put what you say in context. In terms of office politics, that means others know your “agenda” and listen to you with that perspective.
If you’re walking the influence path correctly, your agenda isn’t smarmy or self-indulgent. If you’re building influence correctly, your co-workers will believe your words and deeds are in the best interests of the organization and, by extension, them.
Meanwhile, remember that looking the part, from what you wear to your body language, can be as influential as what you say and do. The old adage of “dress for the job you want, not the job you have” applies to demeanor as well.