Business Perspectives

The art of influencing others in your professional life

How do we positively influence others in our professional life – in our business life, our professional life? If we are going to advance in our career to the highest level that we can achieve, it is imperative that we develop the ability to influence others – our customers, our clients, our superiors, our colleagues – in positive ways.

I received an email from one of our former graduates the other day who was frustrated because she did not receive the promotion that she was sure she was going to be offered. But, one of her colleagues received it instead. She was wondering what she could have done to have convinced her employer that she was the most deserving of that promotion at the hospital where she works.

I told our graduate about something that Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Harvard School of Business, has written. I then directed our graduate to an on-line source at Power, Influence and Persuasion in Organizations. Kanter gives these four pieces of advice:

1. The power of presence: She says that 90 percent of success in life comes from just showing up! Digital and other remote forms of communication can be efficient, but there’s much to be said for being there face to face with others during meetings or other discussions with staff and superiors.

2. Speaking up – the power of voice: This means more than just talking. It means being articulate, putting your spoken ideas into words in an effective manner. She advises that if you are uncomfortable with speaking in public, or at meetings, get a coach, take lessons, or join Toastmasters or Toastmistresses.

3. The power of partnering: Success depends to a significant degree on building good relationships inside and outside of your place of employment. We must learn to "play well with others" in order to succeed.

4. The power of persistence: If you tried, and what you were proposing wasn’t accepted, keep at it, make adjustments and surprise the naysayers. All successful people deal with self-doubt or rejection – was I good enough, did I say the right thing, am I designed for advancement? Successful people keep going – persistence pays off in the end.

Other suggestions on how to influence others in positive ways that can help those who desire to advance in their professional life:

1. Confident people tend to be leaders more so than those who lack a sense of confidence, who, in turn, present themselves in an insecure manner. Put on a face full of confidence. If you don’t feel confident, act confident, and by acting confident you might very well become confident!

2. Know the person you are desiring to influence. As Dale Carnegie has said in his book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, "Talk to someone about themselves, and they’ll listen for hours. Talk about yourself, and they will stop listening." People will start liking you if you show interest in them first. Get to know them. Make yourself likeable. You will gain their trust.

3. Ensure honesty by being genuine and absolute. Be absolutely genuine when working with others. Gaining trust and respect will go a long way toward leading you into higher realms of leadership in your place of employment.

Rosabeth Moss Kanter says, "There have been excellent large ideas that couldn’t get off the ground because they lacked the support needed at the right moment. On the other hand, some really good small ideas have revolutionized our lives.” The suggestions above may have made the difference if they had been implemented correctly.

And, as Dale Carnegie states: "There are four ways, and only four ways in which we are evaluated by the world (and by our superiors and others we desire to influence). We are evaluated and classified by: What we do, How we look, What we do, and How we say it." If we want to influence others in positive ways, those four are important to live by.

Ray Hull is a professor of communication sciences and disorders at Wichita State University.

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