Influencing – How to use soft skills to get hard results

May 28, 2012 | By


Blindly sticking to one approach and using it as your default influencing approach is rarely effective. It is always best to consider the circumstances, the people and the problem and then select the appropriate approach in order to reach the most effective outcome. Nigel Melville, President and Chief Executive of American Rugby puts it like this, “You have to move up and down the continuum of approaches, the real skill is in judging when to use them, and how.”

You need to be able to judge the correct approach for the situation. Do you need to gain commitment or compliance? If you need commitment then you have to invest time in understanding all the different perspectives and typically participative, inspirational and to some extent rational should be used. If, however, compliance is what you are seeking, the assertive and rational approaches are most appropriate. The problem with compliance however, is that there can be unintended consequences. It can lead to a situation where there will be few challenges, little questioning and no creativity. Ultimately, this leads to lack of engagement, low levels of initiative and poor morale.

As we have said, no one approach is more effective than any other. To be a really effective influencer you need to be able, firstly, to assess a situation, then diagnose the most appropriate approach and develop your skills in all four approaches. This means that you may find yourself using a range of the approaches in any given influencing situation rather than a single approach.

We believe that most of us get ‘stuck’ using our preferred approach. If you explore different approaches and techniques you can develop the ability to vary your style to suit the situation and people and thus become even more effective. If you only stick to one approach it’s a bit like a golfer playing with one club instead of the fourteen in their bag. You might get round the course, but you are never going to be a great golfer!

Excerpted from the book The Leader’s Guide to Influence: How to Use Soft Skills to Get Hard Results (Financial Times Series) written by Mike Brent and Fiona Elsa Dent.

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