Influence And Persuasion At Workplace (Part 2)

The Practical Workbook to be the “Influencer”

This article is the second piece in a 2 part series about how to improve Influence and persuade better at the workplace. The first Article helps identify the relevant factors contributing to one’s Influence.


Photo by Julia Craice on Unsplash

Bulletproof logic does not always work.

The most brilliant and brightest ideas often fail to see the light of the day. There are too many times in our lives, we wish our words had meant more. But human conversations are seldom based on pure logic and rationale.

Who you are, and how you say matters almost as much as What you say

 

In the first Article of this series on Influence and Persuasion, I have highlighted the principles that affect your capability to influence. The article is my take on the famous book “Influence” by Dr. Robert Cialdini.

Rehashing the pillars of Influence again:

  • Leverage Judgmental Heuristics to get your opinion heard

  • Reciprocity is of course a Two-way street

  • People like to be consistent and appear committed

  • Social Proof speaks

  • People listen to those they like

  • Authority speaks for itself

This article Uses the principles, based on thorough research, and provides you a workbook of how to build up your Influence in your workplace.

Just because it takes years to build, is no reason to not start now


 

Build Deep connections



If your good work is your message, your social Capital is your messenger

Your Social Capital is like the Intra-product cash that you can only use within the Product.

Imagine this scenario. You are about to deliver an important feature and to get over the last mile, you need additional team members. Your boss asked you to coordinate with the Engineering Manager of the other team, a team which has its own priorities. Do you think your mere official request would get you the extra resources you need?

Added bonus, your Social Capital also transmits and amplifies the hymn of your achievements! Hello Promotion!

How to build Social Capital?

Everyone has their own methods of building connections at work, but here is what works for me:

  • Set up meetings just to catch up with folks, or even drop a Hi in chat once in a while. It shows people you care.

  • Preference to deeper conversations than Small Talk (Cheat Sheet)

  • Reciprocating support. We all need each other. Support and Favors are like boomerangs.

  • Discussions over coffee chats usually do not stay limited to work. You talk about the world, the weather, the politics, and anything that interests everyone.

You and your work are not always judged merely by the outcomes you deliver, but your awareness and intellect speak for your work too.

Speak up your mind, but nicely



The promise of marks for class participation often makes an MBA classroom a fish market. People use loud voices, aggressive gestures to argue and get their points heard. In all this cacophony, he stood out a colleague in the classroom.

He would get up from his seat very calmly. Before anything the first thing he will do is to appreciate the points of others. And while everyone was basking in the glory of getting their points right, he would in the same cool and calming tone ask questions and make statements that completely overturned the discussion.

He had struck the right cord, the correct resonance between intelligence and authoritativeness. Contrary to our existing mental model, voice and aggressiveness do not power our ideas.

How to speak up nicely?

I am no authority on the perfect ways to communicate and I strive to get better with every passing day, but the below certainly help:

  • Listening and simultaneous processing the flow of communications leads to meaningful two way communication

  • Try to set your intent clear before getting to the meat. Express the intent using phrases like “I had a question”, or “In my opinion”. It allows the listener to take a step back, know what to expect and respond accordingly.

  • Be especially careful when you argue with a person. Find out the perspectives of points which you agree to and communicate the same. This reduces the resistance the other person could put up when you counter her/his point.


Everyday is “Bring your unique perspective to work” day


People read JK Rowlings because of her unique story. People listen to Steve Jobs because of his unique Storytelling skills. We are enthralled by uniqueness. It challenges the listener to think and people like people who make them think.

In a world segregated into herds, to have a unique opinion brings much respect. It helps people set (like a solidifying jello) in their minds the fluid hazy impression of you they had.

Replicating this behavior also helps establish the heuristics that will always help you — You = Unique and right perspective.

How to deliver unique perspective?

I do not have many tips to help you with this one, but a general rule of thumb is to always have an engaging discussion. You would be surprised what listening intently does. Of course, it is a given that you need to be good at your work to have an engaging conversation about it. Reading and lots of Reading to gain a perspective, and having an opinion is a must in most roles, but definitely holds true for Product Management roles.

Kings bow down too…


However good you are at your job, there is always a chance somebody is better. Confidence is good, cockiness is not.

Twenty people were sitting across a big oval table in an extremely chilly conference room. Our lead was standing with a black marker drawing big boxes on the huge whiteboard introducing the architecture to a group of software engineers from different levels. Very meekly, my colleague who was one of the junior most folks, raised his hand.The lead smiled and asked him to go ahead. In the same meek and self-doubting voice she asked an innocent question that was baffling her.

The next words my lead spoke were “you are right, this approach would not work” and his next action was to erase a subset of the boxes from the board. There were no arguments, no justifications.

Even if you are the expert, the best in the trade, you are not invincible. And you should be ready to accept this truth publicly.

Humble and accepting behavior is the cornerstone to being perceived as the authority on a subject. You are so secure in your competence that you know other people countering your point won’t subtract from it.

How To be better?

  • Knowing to pick your battles is a valuable skill. Always keep an eye for your expected outcome.

  • Everyone around you is great or has the potential to be great. Be accepting of others’ opinions. And if you think people around you aren’t great, its time to make a change.

  • Always counter logic with logic. One of the mentors I most respect once said “If it is between you and I then seniority wins. If it is between our data and logic, we can have a discussion


Master StoryTelling and Presentation

If you just learnt a new concept or idea, and want to communicate to teach it to other, highly likely that you will use complicated language or parrot out the concept.

Some effort, you have somewhat understood the concept. If you need to explain it to others you will use simple language.

More familiarity and expertise in, the concept for you is so simple that you will spot instances and stories that are parallel or similar to it. These my friends would be the stories that will take you somewhere. There is no doubt that the way you present is important. Presentations become bulletproof with stories.

While I whole-heartedly understand and accept the fact that Stories are important, I am not the best storyteller and have a lot to learn.

How To be a better storyteller?

Because I am not a good storyteller, I can not tell you how to become one. But here is the path I plan on following:

  • Listen to famous storytellers. Steve Jobs seems to be the undisputed winner on this front. His commencement speech at Stanford is unprecedented.

  • Drawing analogies to a parallel situation also sounds like a story if you do not have one ready.

  • Find opportunities to practice your storytelling skills. (if you are game, here’s my article)


 

It was some years in my job where I realized that fluent English does not equal good communication.

Effective Communication is about making the person in front of you understand exactly what you are saying, and then because your communication has an end goal of acceptance of your ideas, persuasion becomes extremely important.

I learnt my lessons with a few badly delivered features which were anything but what I wanted, and frustrating meetings where my audience adamantly refused to understand what I was trying so hard to communicate.

I intend to keep working on my skills, learning from experts and as I embark on this journey sharing the ideas with you.

I hope to update this article and write many more on the subject as and when I get new ideas and learnings.

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