Influencing is not a single “thing”. People who have influence, who are influential, do it by way of a collection of skills, processes and mindset that get them from where they are now, to where they need to be next. They understand that influencing isn’t a one-off event (mindset) but an ongoing process and that planning and preparation are key.
During recent discussions with delegates (whether those at the beginning of their careers, or more senior technical experts who understand that the key to getting things done is their relationships as well as their technical skill set) we’ve spent a bit of time talking about and in fact practising how to demonstrate personal authority. We’ve discussed three things:
- How you look
- How you sound
- How you display your credentials
Taking these in reverse order, you may remember an earlier blog from 2015 in which I wrote about my very good friend and excellent dentist. She displays her credentials by way of the 14 certificates on the wall of her practice room. She understands the clout that they confer upon her and people’s perceptions of how well she practises the art and science of dentistry. Having them present means that she doesn’t need to look for opportunities to tell people about what she does – the story is there in front of their eyes.
For most of us, we don’t have that luxury, so working with these various groups during the last six weeks, we have discussed the need to have at one’s fingertips a mini personal “pitch” that outlines, relevantly, the skills, experience and attitude that demonstrate one’s authority when it counts.
How you sound is also important. Irrespective of people’s views on the UK’s decision to begin air strikes in Syria this week, there has been widespread agreement that Hillary Benn’s speech in the Commons on Wednesday, was impressive on a number of counts. His delivery – starting off calm, measured, reasonable but building to a flourish that really emphasised the importance of its message – was part of what earned him a standing ovation. Other MPs’ delivery – those threatened or indeed overwhelmed by tears – sadly lacked that same authoritative stance. Emotion is important in helping us to experience and demonstrate empathy with others, but times such as this call for a more impartial-sounding style in order to emphasise the gravity of the situation.
And finally. How you look. This is a contentious subject, no doubt. Turning up for that all-important pitch in smart casual? Not good. Dirty shoes on any occasion? Ditto. Too much make-up, or none at all? Ditto and ditto. We work across a number of different sectors. We know that when we’re out delivering we dress up, not down. You need to be able to gauge what’s appropriate and adapt your style appropriately. ‘Nuff said.
But do all three in the right way at the right time and you’ll go a long way. Of course we’re taking it for granted that you’re great technically. If not – go and read a book, get some mentoring, go on a course. And then combine all of these elements for a knock-out effect!
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about the author
Nicky Denegri is our Senior Consultant. If you would like to know more about this subject, drop her an email and we will be in touch.