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Karen Edwards Blogger

Influencing: A Necessary Skill in Business

Posted by Karen Edwards | November 23, 2015

​Welcome to the November edition of the ÖWLI blog! The start of the holiday season isn't slowing us down! Last Friday we hosted our third webinar of the year and had an outstanding presentation by Selana Rezvani who spoke on negotiating with confidence. We hope you were able to attend! Keep in mind that all of our webinars are recorded, so always feel free to sign up even if you can't attend and you will be emailed a link to the recording. We are also looking forward to events next year beginning with our next book club in January. See the event calendar at the end of the blog for more details and info on the next book selection.

This month's blog is authored by Naomi Werner, VP of Human Resources for Össur Americas. As Kenneth Blanchard, leadership expert and co-author of "The One Minute Manager" said, "The key to successful leadership is influence, not authority." That sounds great, but what does it take to be influential, and how can you improve your influencing skills? Naomi tells us how.

 

Influencing:  A Necessary Skill in Business

Influence is defined as the power and ability to personally affect others' actions, decisions, opinions, or thinking. You may need to influence your customer to try a new product, or to appeal to your peers to follow a new process that they've been doing for years. Or you may need to convince your boss that hiring additional staff will be an investment that will pay off. Influence is one of the most essential skills in business.

Oftentimes when we think about people with influence, we think of attributes like confidence, dominance, persistence, and authority. At first glance you might see these as predominantly "male" characteristics if you allow me to generalize a bit.

However, when you think of influential people, who comes to mind? It may be a former boss, a politician, a celebrity, or a humanitarian. What characteristics do they have? Chances are that influential people have other attributes in common beyond assertiveness.

Influential people are great at building rapport and trust, they have insights about what others value, what their interests are, builds consensus, and aims for win-win situations. They support and encourage others, and resolve conflicts. They are cheerleaders and enthusiastic. You can even say that these are predominantly "female" characteristics.

In addition, influencers are good at listening, analyzing data, using logic to build a case, and coming up with creative alternatives to solve problems. These are reasoning skills. As far as I know, there isn't one gender that has a monopoly on this characteristic.

Take a moment to take this short self-assessment on influencing skills:

Asserting – You insist that your ideas are heard and you challenge the ideas of others.

  Needs Improvement   -    Average    -  Highly Skilled & Confident

 

Convincing – You put forward your ideas and offer logical, rational reasons to convince others of your point of view.

  Needs Improvement    -   Average   -   Highly Skilled & Confident

 

Negotiating – You look for compromises and make concessions to reach outcomes that satisfy your greater interest.

  Needs Improvement   -   Average  -    Highly Skilled & Confident

 

Bridging – You build relationships and connect with others through listening, understanding and building coalitions.

  Needs Improvement  -   Average   -   Highly Skilled & Confident

 

Inspiring – You advocate your position and encourage others with a sense of shared purpose and exciting possibilities.

  Needs Improvement   -    Average   -   Highly Skilled & Confident

 

Where did you score the highest? Lowest? Is it consistent with the gender generalizations above?

If you scored yourself low in any of the areas, don't worry. The good news is that influence can be learned and improved.

Some people have a natural flair for influencing, and others may struggle. Being a first-generation Japanese woman who has worked predominantly for male-led organizations, I have had to consciously work on improving my influencing skills. Growing up I was told not to question authority, not to argue or debate, and to be humble. Don't get me wrong, being humble and respectful when disagreeing with people are good qualities. But sometimes, these expectations can work against you in the business world, particularly in the U.S. After speaking to other women in leadership, I know I'm not alone.

Below are steps that can increase the influence you have on others:

  • Observe people with influence – what do they say and do to get support? What is their body language?
  • Be self-aware of your areas of improvement – ask trusted colleagues for feedback – what are you doing or not doing that is making you less influential?
  • Practice, practice, practice -- purposely ask for assignments that require you to hone those skills; find a learning partner and role-play
  • Make allies with influential people, a network of supporters – not only might their skills wear off on you, but they can be avid supporters of your cause
  • Deposit "money" in the piggy bank – if you regularly treat people with respect and deposit good will in their account, they'll reciprocate by being a supporter
  • Understand perspectives from stakeholders, particularly those who are opposed to your idea —if you can address their concerns and solve their problems, others will more easily follow
  • Use data to make a compelling argument
  • Don't avoid conflict – if you don't address bad behavior (constructively of course), you won't have credibility

And last but definitely not least… don't be afraid to ask for a favor. Women often feel that they have to do it on their own, maybe because they don't want to impose on others, or feel that asking for help would somehow be "cheating".  Part of influencing is being clear and direct about what you need from others.

Thank you, Naomi, for sharing those insights and suggestions and for helping us all to improve our influencing skills!


MARK YOUR CALENDARS:  Reserve a spot on your schedule for the following upcoming ÖWLI events…

Jan. 26, 2016:  ÖWLI Book Club. We are excited to announce our second Book Club choice, "How Remarkable Women Lead: The Breakthrough Model for Work and Life," by Joanna Barsh, Susie Cranston and Geoffrey Lewis. Described as "new "right stuff" of leadership, raising provocative issues such as whether feminine leadership traits (for women and men) are better suited for our fast-changing, hyper-competitive, and increasingly complex world. This will be a motivating and interesting read! The book is currently $8.42 on Amazon, but the FIRST FIVE MEMBERS TO RESPOND TO US VIA EMAIL (OWLI@ossur.com) TO SAY YOU WILL ATTEND will receive a FREE copy courtesy of ÖWLI!!

April 14-16, 2016 (TENTATIVE):  Össur Women's Leadership Initiative Conference, Orlando, FL. More details to come on this event and how to register! We are working hard at getting this in place.

Have you joined our Facebook page? If not, join us today!! Our Facebook page offers a forum for you to communicate with other women in the profession. Please use this page as a forum to ask questions, share informative articles and ideas, and stay up to date on everything ÖWLI. Just search for "Ossur Women's Leadership Initiative." Thanks, as always, for being a part of ÖWLI and continue to submit ideas and suggestions as to how we can help you develop as a leader via email, Facebook or Twitter!

Until December,

Karen Edwards

Director, Össur Women's Leadership Initiative

ÖWLI Quote of the Month:  "With kids, they don't do what you want them to do when you want them to do it. Organizations don't necessarily, either. You've got to learn how to listen. You've got to learn how to influence." – Ellen J. Kullman, former Chair and CEO of DuPont

Talk to us!! Your feedback is welcomed and encouraged! Please let us know what you think of our initiative, share your ideas, share your victories, or just say "hi" by emailing us at OWLI@Ossur.com.