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5 Ways to Hone and Use Your Influence Effectively

Whether you’re looking to advance professionally or in your organization, being “people savvy” is an important skill to have. This skill is also known as influence. How can we use it more effectively and, of course, in the right ways?

Brandon Towle describes two different kinds of influence that we can have on our relationships and in our work, and I’ve expanded slightly on his definitions here.

  • Effect – causing another to in some way change the way they work, think, or live

  • Impact – creating an indelible or core-level shift that alters the trajectory of that person or thing in a measurable or significant way

Both are important.

What effect do you want to have on others? Another way to ask this is, what do you want them to think, feel, and do as a result of the interaction with you?

And what impact do you want to have on colleagues and, more broadly, on the world around us? In an organizational setting, each of us needs to be able to first influence people in order to achieve the organization’s or industry’s overall sustainability goals.

Here are five ways that you can effectively hone and use your influence with others.

  1. Set a positive intention for your more challenging relationships. When we have an intention such as “listen to understand” or “better outcomes through different viewpoints,” we are establishing a set point for our interactions with others. You can expand this approach beyond relational goals too. The Stanford Social Innovation Review has written extensively about the value of intentional influence -- including why our individual values are important foundations for achieving the outcomes we’re looking to establish through our interactions with others.

  2. Find out what people care about. There is nothing as magic to another person than an honest, open question about something that’s important to them -- a project they’re on, a hobby they have, a topic they’re passionate about. The same insights that apply for working with customers apply to people overall -- coworkers, friends, family members. When you focus on developing the relationship by building genuine rapport, you can enhance your influence. Of course, you should always build rapport from an ethical foundation; no one likes walking away with the feeling that they just interacted with a “used car salesman.”

  3. How are people rewarded? Use your powers of observation to notice what kinds of rewards are pulling people forward in your organization or in their careers. Drawing on these insights can provide a way to build relationships with colleagues authentically. Check out my recent blog post on Exchange-Based Tools for Moving Your Green Career Forward to learn about the five kinds of “currencies” that are frequently valued in organizations. They also often map over to people’s interests.

  4. Am I hearing, or am I listening? Sometimes we’re present but a million miles away. Or we’re just waiting for the other person to finish so we can talk -- or convince them that our idea is better. Just listening has great value in establishing influence. In fact, 48% of the success that top consultants have, when compared to those of average consultants, resulted from having “great communications skills.” It was by far the highest-rated skill in the study, conducted by James A. Alexander, Ed.D.

  5. Let go of outcomes. This is perhaps the most challenging aspect of building influence -- because it is a building process and doesn’t happen overnight. It requires a level of mindfulness and presence that can be difficult in our broader culture that often emphasizes quick results.

We must have conversations that are valuable for connection alone, in addition to those that focus on problem-solving. Interacting with colleagues and clients using a “Be Here Now” awareness is another good way to let go of outcomes.

See these great resources for developing your mindfulness as a leader and bringing mindfulness to work, from Mindful Magazine.

Bonus: 7 Ways to Build Influence in the Workplace, by Jayson Demers

Can we help with building and sustaining the skills you or your team need to advance professionally? Reach out to Beth Offenbacker, PhD, CPCC, ACC, at or via phone or text at 703-623-4811 to discuss if our Executive/Leadership Coaching or Talent Management services are right for you. We work with professionals and organizations that have a sustainability focus in their work. All services are customized to your needs.

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