I had this really cool thought while on the treadmill the other day. Now, I have to tell you, being on a treadmill is not my favorite thing in the world. However, it has become an important part of my workout routine as my wife and I train for our next half-marathon in October.
So I am jogging along at about a 4.7 miles per hour on the treadmill. My trainer calls this my base pace. That means that it is a pace I could theoretically keep up for 30 minutes or more if I had to do it. So I am jogging along at my comfortable 4.7 pace and my trainer Cynthia says, "Okay, everybody I want you to establish a new base. I want everyone to go 0.1mph faster."
What! Get me out of my comfort zone? Are you kidding me?
But you know what I did. I took my speed up 0.1mph
That's when I had the thought: Cynthia has influence over me. Here is this petite female trainer giving me instruction over a microphone with 36 other people in a class at 6:15 in the morning, and what do I do? Exactly what she said to do. Why did I do that?
It is because Cynthia has influence over me.
Because I work for myself, I am able to make my own schedule when I am not traveling for training, and therefore could theoretically go to the gym whenever I please, but I don't. Why? Because even though I have a flexible schedule, I choose to go to the gym when I know there will be a trainer working who I like. This may sound like just a personal preference of mine, but it's more than that, and this kind of behavior probably shows up more in your life than you realize. My trainers’ likability and the friendship they show me along with their expertise in physical fitness that can make me a better runner makes me want to learn more from them. Likability and authority are actually keys for influencing others.
As I was thinking about Cynthia’s influence over me in that moment it reminded me of what Robert Cialdini talks about in his book "Influence.” Cialdini has identified 6 influencing strategies that people use with each other.
Here is a summary of those strategies.
Reciprocation: This is the idea that we do things in return for each other. Always share your strengths to help others, and return the favor when they do the same, even if your reciprocation is just a "thank you very much for your time." Let the kindness always end with you.
Scarcity: "The rule of the rare," you can have influence when things like time and budget are scarce to be found. Help those around you see the urgency and the resources that are available. This type of influence must be used with integrity. When used wrongly it can hurt people and cost you your influence. The scarcity in the situation must be real. Don't create a deadline that you don't intend to stick to or fail to mention some possible solutions in order to create the appearance of scarcity.
Authority: This type of influence doesn't have to do with positional power like the word may suggest, but reverential power. Showing that you have the right data, an expert perspective will influence others. When you're the expert though, don't stop listening to others or you will lose your influence. If you walk in the room thinking you are the one with all the answers your expertise will not be heard.
Commitment: This is the starting point of influence. If you are an influential leader, then those you lead will generally be committed rather than merely compliant. If you ask them to do something that's going to cost them some sacrifice you may see if they are committed or compliant. If they're committed they will do it with enthusiasm, if not they may not do the task at all or they may do it begrudgingly. If you find they are compliant with your influence, reflect on how open you have been with them about your larger vision for the future of your work together. To gain commitment you must show them where they're going.
Likability: As I mentioned earlier, building a friendship to build influence is important. Likability matters. A phrase I hear sometimes from clients is "I don't care about being liked, I just want to be respected." If that is you, I challenge you to take caution with that thought. When you are liked, you can gain as much influence as when you are respected.
Consensus: "People-proof over people-power." As you gain rapport with others and show that you have valuable knowledge, it will increase the success and value in others. It will be because of what you delivered, and this makes you more influential.
Personalize One of These Strategies
Think about something you are trying to get done, maybe a change you are trying to get made, or a goal you are trying to help a team to reach. Think through the influencing strategies above and identify the one you would like to try to implement to help you achieve your goal.
We all have different personalities that leave us with our own strengths and weaknesses, but for others to benefit from our influence, we must grow and adapt to better lead with influence in many types of relationships and situations. What kind of influence do you see on this list that comes the most naturally to you? The least? Leave a comment and let's chat about it!