In many instances, successful employee engagement and collaboration among colleagues can mean the difference between making or missing a deadline, sticking to a budget, or just simply getting the job done. This success, or lack of it, comes down to an element of interpersonal psychology that notably impacts every one of our relationships: influence. Our ability to influence others can be a powerful professional asset when we understand how to use it, or a glaring social weakness when we don’t. Sharpening your knowledge of the subconscious structure of influence can not only increase your confidence on the job, but can heighten your productivity while reducing your overall stress. In his book The Uses and Abuses of Influence, leading social scientist Robert Cialdini outlines four ways you can accomplish this task.
- Create a Network of Reciprocity – “Here’s why it matters to both of us.”
The idea behind reciprocity is that someone is much more likely to do you a favor if you’ve already done them a favor, or have made it clear that their favor will be returned to the future. Establishing reciprocity between yourself and a colleague can be as simple as responding to a kind “Thank you,” with “Of course, you would do the same for me,” instead of the all-too tempting “No problem.” Anytime you’re being thanked sincerely, you’re also being imbued with influence over the person thanking you. The next time someone thanks you in the workplace, remember that at that moment is the perfect time to plant the seed of partnership, a starting point for developing a mutual bond of cooperation and productivity.
- Build Rapport with Common Ground – “You like me, you really like me!”
Although some influence takes place in the form of coercion, it’s important in more cases than not for those whom you hope to influence to actually like you. While it may not always be possible, or even ideal, for colleagues to share a wealth of personal admiration for one another, it is important for the sake of getting work done that they be able to communicate openly and honestly. Almost all people find themselves more inclined to cooperate with those who share similar opinions and interests. When this common ground can be elevated to include aligned ambitions and ethics, the possibility opens up for more effective collaboration and heightened productivity.
- Leverage the Power of Public Commitment – “Do we have any volunteers?”
When you want to mobilize people in a certain direction, creating a call to action within a group setting can often yield great results. When we feel included in a kind of collective identity, we all have a tendency to make commitments that we might normally avoid. Not only that, but after we commit to something in front of others, we feel more compelled to follow through, and often do, when we otherwise might have neglected to. A similar pattern occurs when we are prompted to write down a commitment, especially when we have an incentive to track our progress.
- Expand Your Sphere of Influence With Social Proof – “Trust me.”
This involves the process of encouraging cooperation among those who are more hesitant to participate in a particular collaborative effort. If someone is unsure about joining your team or supporting your idea, appeal to their innate desire for inclusion by recruiting more willing candidates. The bigger a movement, the more quickly it draws members, and no one wants to be the last one left out. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that social proof comes in both a positive form and a negative form, which has been shown to be counter-productive. To avoid making your job more difficult, encourage others by showing them what you do want, and not what you don’t want.
Hopefully these tips have helped provide you with the extra knowledge you need to utilize your influence more easily and effectively as you manage up, down, and across your organization. Manipulation is not the goal, but rather an intimate understanding of how we can and do affect others, as these seemingly subtle aspects of our professional relationships are often the very factors that determine their effectiveness.
For more information about employee engagement, leadership development, and executive coaching, please contact Christina Holloway today.