In most of the leadership coaching I’ve done, the theme of influence stands out. People who want to improve their leadership skills almost always understand that they need to expand their ability to influence others. But their efforts translate into simply trying harder at using the same old skills, often to little incremental effect.
A number of years ago, I took a fantastic course on Consulting Skills through PDI (Personnel Decisions International). Included in the course material was some intriguing information on influence tactics, based on the research by Yukl & Falbe. We did a fun little exercise in which the participants guessed what the effectiveness of various tactics would be in gaining commitment vs. compliance vs. resistance of those we were trying to influence (the targets). What I and others in the course came to realize was that we each heavily relied on one or two tactics and wielded them consistently regardless of their actual effectivness. I rated rational persuasion at the top of my list. Why wouldn’t it be? That’s what typically works on me! Isn’t everyone like me? Ahh…the short answer is “no”.
Rational persuasion is not the top tactic in terms of effectiveness. Negotiation? Huh-uh. Ingratiation? Pressure? No and no. Inspirational appeal is number one in gaining commitment from others. This was an ah-ha, and made a lot of sense once I thought about it. But inspirational appeal does not work in all cases. The real ah-ha here is this: all tactics work in some cases. Therefore, the key to increasing influence is to learn to wield a number of tactics and recognize when and with whom they work. In this manner you can really increase your influence quotient.
Try it. Invest 30 minutes to google and read up on the various influence tactics (search Yukl & Falbe to start). Then, start paying attention to the tactics you use. Observe others using different tactics. Try some new ones out on your own. Give yourself some room to stumble, but keep on going. Soon, you’ll find you have an increased IQ!