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April 08, 2019

Ways to Influence the Actions of Others

Whether you’re an official titled leader or you’re a team member wanting to exhibit leadership, you’re probably needing to influence the actions of other people – to get them to complete tasks, make decisions, and meet deadlines.

Leaders of every style and type hope to be a catalyst for the forward action of others and the accomplishment of team goals.  And in many cases, your personal success is tied to whether your teammates are making progress with their own portion of the work.

But – if you’ve ever tried to exercise this type of influence, you know how difficult it can be! So, what are the strategies various managers and leaders try? And what’s the impact of these approaches?

Here are 7 different ways a leader might try to influence the actions of others:

Encouraging: “You can do it! Go for it!” This approach is about cheerleading – providing positive reinforcement that can help an employee or colleague push past his or her own doubts or stuckness.

Supporting: “Let me know how I can help you in accomplishing that.” Offering support can be a powerful way to get others into action, especially if you sense that someone is struggling or feels isolated in trying to solve a problem or complete a task.

Suggesting: “You might want to get going on that. Have you tried this method?” This method of influence is about giving someone a gentle nudge, and providing them with one or two possible pathways to pursue.

Motivating: “What interests you the most about this project? You can work on that.” Motivating others involves connecting them to what excites or interests them about the work to be completed. How do you find that out? You have to ask them, utilizing open-ended questions.

Persuading: “Here’s why this task is important. What seems important to you?” To persuade someone, you’ve got to help him or her see the reason behind doing something. What’s the “why”? Is it compelling?…for them? Master persuaders first listen for what others care about and value, and then use that language when explaining why something is important to accomplish.

Manipulating: “If you don’t do this, others won’t like you.” This is an underhanded approach that capitalizes on the fears, insecurities or emotions of others in order to get them to take certain action. Fears can be powerful motivators, which is why manipulation often makes its way into many of our organizations and institutions.

Telling: “Do it, because I said so.” This strategy is only really available to formal titled leaders. They can compel others into action using their positional power and authority (and the potential threat of repercussions).  This approach can work in the short-term for creating action in employees, but loses impact over time because it doesn’t foster authentic connection, intrinsic motivation and true engagement within employees relative to their work or their leader.

Which method, or combination of methods, seems most effective to you?

Dwight D. Eisenhower said that, “Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he or she wants to do it.” What approaches from above would yield this type of leadership?

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