Do you ever wonder if you are as influential as you could be? Are you using the right influence style for each situation? Many leaders use one approach for every situation. Sometimes this works, most times not. However, by developing greater flexibility and range with influencing, you bring the right style per situation.
By using different body parts with different influence styles, you can quickly assess whether you have the full toolkit of conversations that a leader needs to influence people in almost every situation.
- Left Brain: The left brain is the seat of facts, logic, analysis, information, and data. When you are an authority, or when you know facts that matter to the other person, relying on the left brain can help you convince someone that an idea makes sense. However, most leaders overuse the left brain. There are limits to facts and logic. For instance, it is hard to win over someone’s heart with a PowerPoint presentation. Example of when to use it: “I’ve crunched the data and I’m really sure that we have a nice opportunity to expand our business in South America. I just need to get my team on board.”
- Right Brain: The right brain is where we process images, stories, metaphors, and pictures. It is the gateway to the subconscious. By using more stories and images, leaders can reach people at a different level than with the left brain alone. A good example is: remember The Men’s Warehouse and they used the founder in the commercials? And he’d say, “You’re going to love the way you look.” That’s a reason, but it’s using emotion. Here we’re getting more compelling agreement. The right brain is also great for a teachable moment. It’s saying, “You know, let me tell you a story when I was young and what I learned.” It can be used in almost any of these different approaches to influence.
- Gut: The gut is our center. It is where we go when we take a stand, negotiate, assert appropriately, create a contract, or set boundaries. When we influence from the gut, we tell someone what we like and don’t like about their performance, tell them what we expect, and offer incentives to encourage them to comply. An example, talking to a direct report who always comes late to meetings, “I really need you to come on time for our meetings. If you don’t, I can’t cover for you anymore when your managers asking where you are.” I just want them to agree. That’s what the gut’s about. It’s about compliance. It’s about a contract. We want to preserve the relationship. Set a clear goal for what you want from them and use this approach to negotiate compliance.
- Heart: In situations where we want authentic commitment and not just compliance, it is not enough to tell or assert. We have to be a little bit vulnerable. Here, the conversation shifts to asking for advice and help, listening to the other person’s aspirations and goals to craft a solution, and being flexible about how things get done. The leader doesn’t have to be wishy-washy, especially on the final goal, but is open to new ideas about how he or she can be better, and how to get to the goal. This is where you start asking questions, “Tell me more. What are you trying to achieve here? What’s important to you?” This is the most powerful one for me, because this gets true commitment. An example might be, If I’m trying to re-engage someone, I might say, “Listen, I can’t help but notice something’s changed in your attitude and I’m really concerned because you’re so important to the team. Help me understand what’s going on.” I listen. They say, “something happened at home.” And I say, “Well, tell me, what can I do?” They might say, “my spouse is having health issues and I need to be away from the office more” and I might say, “We have a policy that certainly can give you a one month leave of absence.” That’s what heart is. Listening to the other person and coming up with solutions that help the situation.
- Spirit: The spirit is about our shared values and experiences. Here, we appeal to our common ground and the bonds that hold us together. Use this approach to form a team and create a feeling of alignment. The spirit is bringing together common values, common ground, alignment, relationship capital. The language changes to ‘we’. With the left brain, it would be ‘you’ but in a logical way, using facts and data. Gut is ‘I’, it’s what I want, what I’ll give you, what I’ll take away. Heart is ‘you’. What will it take for ‘you’ to commit? What do ‘you’ need? I’m listening. Spirit is ‘we’. We are going to accomplish.
- Vision: Vision is about where we are going. Here, the leader paints a compelling, inspiring picture about where we can go together, and then invites others to jump in and build on the vision. This is the approach to use for a team that is kicking off, or when a push is required to get people to move forward despite challenges. If you combine the right brain, spirit, and vision together, you can make a compelling case that gets a team aligned in a powerful, authentic way. Some examples, this is where politicians who want to get elected, preachers, team coaches, are really good. “Here’s what we have in common. Here’s where we’ve been. Here’s what we believe in. Here’s where we’re going.” Be careful though, this approach does not include next steps and can frustrate employees if you don’t follow this approach with next steps and how to get there.
- Legs: The legs are used when conversations start to go poorly, for instance when the other person gets emotional or when your strategy isn’t working. This doesn’t mean that you give up and retreat but does mean that you take some time to excuse yourself, let both parties rethink their positions, and come back together. The Harvard Negotiation Project calls this “Going to the Balcony.” It prevents a meeting from spiraling downwards. Say our meeting’s going wrong. How would you get out of that meeting? Not to avoid, not to run away, but to come back. The other person says, “No, we have to finish this now.” And yet they’re angry, your emotional, and you say, “Well, I really need to take a breather and calm down. Let’s come back in an hour. This is an influence that helps you salvage the relationship before something is said that tanks your chances.
Remember, you can influence people more effectively when you do it one person at a time. Also, influence is not just a one size fits all. Flexibility is critical. Different approaches for different outcomes. Lastly, this works whether you are speaking with a board member, colleague, or family.
Please reach out if you would like help mastering influencing, happy to help!
Also, I invite you to download my FREE influence approach planning tool by clicking here.