This may be the reason why you haven’t got that promotion yet!

It was around 10:15 am this morning and I got a call from Rach, one of my mentees. She was stuttering which got me worried (she has a very sick parent). “I just got my promotion letter!” she yelled. Rach has been expecting that promotion for almost 18 months. I started working with Rach around 4 months ago to coach her for the next steps in her career. Rach is a bright woman but during our assessments and discussions, she realized that she struggles with communicating and conveying her knowledge to others. I had zero doubts about her technical capability since she was topper from Toronto’s best university. After some deeper discussions, Rach realized that the issue was not lacking knowledge but lack of INFLUENCE that she had in her organization! 

As I celebrate my student’s success, I reflect on the work we did on her influencing skills and decided to share this post with you.

Influencing happens at all levels in an organization. Ever wondered why it is easier for some people to get their vacation approved than others? Ever wondered how that person got a project even when he even does not have the right credentials? Why everyone listens to her presentations and nods when she is presenting while people want me to cut my briefings short? These are the most common questions my students ask me. Your influencing skill is one of the top indicators of your career growth. Research shows that many technically competent employees miss chances of climbing the corporate ladder solely because of their lack of influence in the organization. Merriam-Webster dictionary defines influence as “the act or power of producing an effect without apparent exertion of force or direct exercise of command.”  There are multiple facets of influence and all are equally important. Let us explore them one by one:

Influencing happens at all levels in an organization. Ever wondered why it is easier for some people to get their vacation approved than others? Ever wondered how that person got a project even when he even does not have the right credentials? Why everyone listens to her presentations and nods when she is presenting while people want me to cut my briefings short? These are the most common questions my students ask me. Your influencing skill is one of the top indicators of your career growth. Research shows that many technically competent employees miss chances of climbing the corporate ladder solely because of their lack of influence in the organization. Merriam-Webster dictionary defines influence as “the act or power of producing an effect without apparent exertion of force or direct exercise of command.” There are multiple facets of influence and all are equally important. Let us explore them one by one:

The logical aspect: We all naturally trust the people who are logical thinkers and have solutions based on real reasoning. They have answers to our questions and answers that we cannot challenge because they are supported by data and research. This goes even for the people who we do not like personally. We still can’t say no to them as their solutions make sense and are actionable.

The delivery/communication aspect: How facts are delivered is another key to influencing people. You may have the best argument and it has even been backed by solid research but when you can’t grab your audience’s attention. This happens all the time as organizations have very technically strong people but when it comes to communicating, they fail to generate audience trust. This facet includes your confidence, body language and a tone of voice that commands attention.

Emotional Aspect: Although emotions can cloud your judgment, we inherently are more comfortable with people who are empathetic. Human beings are biased animals. You may have great logic and communication skills, but if you are unaware of people’s feelings in the room, they may still disregard you completely. Please note that it doesn’t mean you have to be a touchy-feely-fluff ball! But just being aware and sensitive and respectful towards the audience sentiment is very crucial.

Interactive aspect: This is where your influencing skills will be tested. Your arguments are solids, backed by solids reasons and you communicated them with authority. You are even being sensitive toward your audience. Bravo! Now, there are few people who have solid counterarguments and they are respected individuals in your team. In these cases, the most critical aspect of influencing is how you interact with people and unite them around common grounds while keeping harmony and agreement among people.

All these aspects are extremely important in themselves but remember that to be a great influencer, you need to use these in alignment with one another. A great empathetic communicator won’t be able to fully influence if he doesn’t have enough logical solutions. At the same time, a genius problem solver will have zero influence if he can’t convey his solutions to the audience.

Please remember knowing the aspects of influencing skills is not enough. You must learn, practice, and apply them every day. I guarantee you, that’s what most leaders you admire have been doing!

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