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Six Conversations Every Leader Needs to Master to be More Influential

By developing greater flexibility and range in your approaches to influence, you can accelerate your leadership impact, demonstrate your value, and go from goal to result with less resistance and strengthened professional relationships.

We all know those amazing communicators who are able to get their colleagues to hear and support their ideas, motivate others to think or act differently, and inspire positive change. When they speak, others listen… and agree! How do they do it? Maybe they're born with it? Maybe it's influence. The most successful leaders have mastered this critical leadership skill that eludes most of us mere mortals.

Most of us have a natural approach to influence that we like to use —logic, negotiating, listening and engaging, or inspiring with a vision. The one we use is most likely the one that that works best on us. However, if we only use one approach in every situation, that’s like trying to fix a car with only a single tool.

The most effective influencers employ a variety of different approaches and know when to use the best approach in each situation. Before exploring those different approaches, let’s highlight two things you want to consider when deciding which one to use. First, you should get clear on what outcome you want to achieve in the conversation. Are you are seeking understanding, commitment, agreement, compliance or other action? Second, you want to use your emotional intelligence (EQ) and consider the unique preferences of the person you are trying to influence. What do you know about them and about what motivates and matters to them? It is important to remember that there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to influence.

By using this toolkit of six different influence approaches, you can select the right approach for each situation and have greater success at getting the results you seek, while strengthening the relationships you need.

Left Brain. The left brain is the seat of facts, logic, analysis, information, and data. When you are an authority, or when you know key facts that matter to the other person, relying on the left brain can help you build another person’s understanding of your idea and convince them that it makes sense. This works especially well if the other person is known to respond well to logic and facts. However, keep in mind that many of overuse the left brain, especially in Western society, and there are limits to our ability to win over people with facts and logic. So, consider ways that you can “spice” your argument up a bit to gain agreement.

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 creating images with words, effective influencers reach people at a different level than with the left brain alone. By using the two in combination, we can help others more fully understand and support our ideas.

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, clearly articulate what we need and expect, and offer incentives to encourage them to comply. We say, “Here’s what I need from you, and here’s what you’ll get from me if you do it.” It’s a direct, no-nonsense approach that works best for those who appreciate directness and in situations where you simply want compliance.

Heart. When we want authentic commitment and not just compliance or agreement, it is not enough to explain or assert. We have to be a little bit more open and vulnerable. With the Heart approach, the conversation shifts to asking for advice and input, listening to the other person’s aspirations and goals, and being flexible about how things get done. Using the heart doesn’t mean you are wishy-washy, especially on the final goal you are aiming for; it means you remain open to new ideas about how you and the other person can get to that goal by working together.

Spirit. Here, we appeal to our common ground and to our shared history or experiences with the other person, to the bonds that hold us together. We say, “We’ve confronted similar hurdles together before and come out on the other side. I know we both want to have the same success here.” Use this approach to build alignment with another person or to motivate them to become a co-champion of your idea.

Vision. Vision is about where we are going. Here, the influential 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.

By developing greater flexibility and range in your approaches to influence, you can accelerate your leadership impact, demonstrate your value, and go from goal to result with less resistance and strengthened professional relationships.



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