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Understanding The Different Influencing Styles

January 7, 2018

The way in which you behave as a manager and the approach you take will have a marked effect on your ultimate success or failure.

Having a range of approaches and styles of behaviour gives you more flexibility. It increases your options – and your chances of success.

Natural Styles

Most managers have a natural style of influence which they prefer to use whenever possible. More flexible managers also keep in reserve a fall back style, used when the preferred style doesn’t achieve the desired results.

However, there are at least eight identifiable styles of influence – not including aggression, manipulation or force!

Because you are influencing a wide range of people, proficiency in a wider range of styles will ensure more success. Step outside the comfort zone of your natural style and enjoy greater success by practising new ways of influencing.

However, do think carefully which influencing style has the greatest chance of succeeding. Varying your styles too much may give you a reputation for being unpredictable

The Autocratic Approach

You tell them, they agree

Use the push style when:

o You are looking for a quick response

o You seek only short-term commitment

o You are happy to check up and follow through

This approach works best when supported by power, authority, age, knowledge or wisdom. Resistance or objections are minimised. You tell others what you want them to do and they do it.

Do remember though, that autocracy can be a high-risk strategy. It may result in a feeling of ‘You won, I lost’. They’ll get you next time.

The Collaborative Approach

You include others in the decision-making process.

Use the push style when:

o You want to maintain long-term influence with others

o You seek a high level of commitment

o You have no time to enforce the outcome

This approach works successfully without you having any power or authority.

A word of caution, democracy takes time and can result in watered down solutions. Remain consistently collaborative. Don’t give up too early. Avoid imposing too many parameters or conditions – these will create frustration in others.

The Logical Approach

You use clear logical, unassailable arguments, supported by proof.

Use logic when:

o The other person demands evidence and lots of detail

o You are prepared to do your homework

o You are prepared to wait for a reaction

This approach works best when the other person is a logical, linear thinker. Avoid exaggeration and unnecessary emotion. Offer instead facts and figures.

But, you may find this style long-winded and frustrating. You may even be forced to put it in writing. Allow time to prepare your argument, time to explain it, time to wait for a reaction.

The Emotional Approach

You use your natural charm, charisma or enthusiasm.

Use emotion when:

o You want others to feel part of an exciting project

o You want to fire up someone’s motivation

o You are truly enthusiastic about an idea

This approach works when your influence becomes a genuine extension of your own feelings and beliefs. Appealing to the long-term effects of your ideas, you will reinforce their continuing value.

Do remember though that emotional appeal carries risks. It can leave a nasty taste in the mouth. Painful memories linger longer.

The Assertive Approach

You ask directly, clearly and confidently for what you want, or don’t want.

Be assertive when:

o You want to influence autocratic people, bullies, stick-in-the-muds

o You want to influence behaviours

o You need to act and initiate, rather than react

Assertiveness can have a lasting effect, especially on those who least expect it from you. Any resistance is met by your persistence.

Assertive influence carries little or no risk.

The Passive Approach

You win the day by being submissive, by not overtly influencing.

Remain passive when:

o You want to influence others through personal demonstration

o You want to avoid unhelpful confrontation

o You have tried all the other approaches

As you quietly demonstrate desired behaviours, others can see for themselves the value in following your lead. Many potential confrontations with power or authority demand submissive influence, which can pay positive dividends.

The downside is that your submissiveness may leave you with feelings of low-esteem. Can you live with this?

The Sales Approach

You use good old-fashioned salesmanship.

Use salesmanship when:

o You know that the other person expects to be sold to

o You need to show the benefits your suggestion will produce

o You enjoy selling ideas

Draw out their point of view, understand their needs, demonstrate that you empathise; minimise resistance by showing how their ideas dovetail with your own; show how they will benefit.

Do realise though that logical or submissive people often hate an overt sales approach and may work hard to wreck your plans.

The Bargaining Approach

You trade concessions in order to reach a mutually acceptable conclusion.

Bargain or negotiate when:

o You are both equally keen to go ahead with the idea

o You are happy and able to offer a few concessions

o You want to reach a win-win conclusion

Don’t just share the cake – make it a bigger one. Your success as a fair negotiator will help cement the relationship.

Aim too low and you’ll end up even lower. Over collaborate and you may regret giving too much away. Always trade concessions.

The Power Of Positive Behaviour

Who has been a big influence in your life? A parent, relative, employer, friend or neighbour? Chances are that they often did nothing specific to influence you – they just behaved in ways that you took note of and decided to copy.

The behaviour of others can be influenced greatly when they observe the ways in which you:

o Deal with aggression

o Handle awkward customers

o Control group behaviour

o Field tricky questions

o Overcome resistance

o Live by your values and beliefs

o Walk the talk

Behaviours that help the influencing process:

o Continuous maintenance of rapport

o Maintaining good eye contact

o Congruent body language which supports your messages

o Appropriate voice tone which underpins what you say

o Flexibility – being prepared to change your approach, when necessary

o Awareness and acceptance of the needs of others

o Lack of conditional words, which dilute your messages

In Summary: Modelling Behaviour

Ok, suppose you don’t have sufficient flexibility of style. With practice, it’s easy to observe, analyse and reproduce the effective behaviours of other people. If you’ve ever studied any skill under a master, you will already have done this.

Suppose you know a person who uses an influencing style in a particularly elegant or effective manner. You have identified this as something you would like to improve for yourself. By closely observing what works for that person and noticing the effect it has on others, you can begin to experiment by adopting these behaviours and strategies and making them work for you, too.

Behaviour is only behaviour – it can usually be replicated

Copyright © 2008 Jonathan Farrington. All rights reserved

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