How to Influence Others in Business

Above all else, it’s critical that you influence your clients and employees.

A lot is made of “influencers” on social media…those who amass huge followings and can impact a brand’s sales and public opinion simply through posting their opinions.

That’s not what we’re talking about here.

Post COVID, our responsibility in business is to genuinely and organically influence our clients/teams to enhance their commercial lives. It’s taken me a while to come to this recommendation but I believe it’s the most important gift we can give our clients and teams. If you’re really concerned about making a difference with your clients/colleagues and becoming/maintaining your position as a trusted confidante, you’ll action my advice.

Influence with Heart, Not Self-absorption

Many social media influencers are primarily concerned about their own image/brand. This level of self-absorption is poison in the business world. Any, and I mean ANY, act of selfish influencing will be discovered and given a scarlet letter. When a client thinks your recommendations are based on moving your (not their) agenda forward and making your company look good (again, not theirs), it won’t be long before you are shown the door. This level of accountability is ever-present…and you need to move through the world always aware of that.

Influencing Can Be Done Silently

The goal is to influence in such a way that you forge a positive/high touch experience such that your relationship transforms. And while our tendency may be to talk, give our opinion, and demonstrate our knowledge…many times, that’s not what’s needed to get the outcome you want.  For example…

..last month, while coaching an executive after she had gotten a difficult mid-year review, I realized the importance of listening to her more deeply and empathetically than ever. During her playback of the review, I listened for her level of responsibility. And while she did accept the feedback she had received, I realized I needed to extend the inquiry longer to listen for her desire/declaration to stop this set of behaviors. At this point, I noticed how much I wanted to take control of the conversation and just go to the “cure.” Sound familiar?

Instead, I chose to listen, remaining quiet enough so that she added several thoughts to her initial take on the review. A few short, well-timed probing questions helped. Finally, she arrived where I needed her to be when she said, “I just have to change this.”

Bingo! I got what I needed. I had influenced her! She signaled a willingness for a cure that would transform this behavior because she said so, not me.

Wait for the Signal, Then Act

I cannot stress this enough: your client/your colleague must say something that signals they are open to your recommendation. At this point, you have influenced them! And now you can move on with your solutions.

This is when you immediately forge a side-by-side relationship with them to mutually craft a cure. In this lies the honor of respecting another person and their frame of reference. And that’s a very positive influence.