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What strategy do you use to influence others? Do you always apply the same tactics? Are you aware of the options to increase your ability to influence?

If the answer to any of these questions is, “I’m not sure”, this blog will be a useful starting point for you.

Regardless of what role you have within your organisation, it’s simply not possible to do everything on your own. Being a leader involves coming up with ideas to pivot your organisation or team forwards; but if you can’t convince your colleagues that your ideas have merit, you’ll be climbing a much tougher hill. Having the ability to influence is a crucial skill that should sit in the toolbox all effective leaders.

Recently, we convened 60+ senior leaders at our 9th Women in BioPharma Leadership event to discuss powerful persuasion and how to build our influence through positive communication.

Before we share top tips gleaned from our eminent guest speaker, Scott Solder, Founder of The Active Bystander Training Company and an expert in language and advanced communication, we’d like to do some myth-busting for you.

Do you believe force is all it takes to influence others? Do you see the importance of tailoring your approach depending on your audience?

Looking at the 4 statements below, which do you believe are influencing myths and which should you apply when faced with a need to influence?

  1. You have to tailor your approach to make it compelling to others.
  2. Once influenced, people stay persuaded.
  3. Influencing others requires both self-awareness and an understanding of those around us.
  4. If you are forceful enough, people will always be influenced.

If you said 2 and 4 are the myths – then you are correct! Myths. Officially. Busted.

When influencing others, it’s important to explore the strategies and skills available to build our ability to influence, whether that’s with – or without – authority. If people believe in and are convinced by the change required, they will be more likely to respond.

Scott and our fantastic WBL community shared some great strategies that will help us do exactly this – here are our three favourites:

The power of the ‘Soft Command’:

Small actions can have a significant impact on the way people behave. When faced with a challenging situation, it’s useful to remember the power of the soft command – that is, how to ask someone to do something without being forceful. 

As a leader, if you feel it would be beneficial for someone to take a specific action, rather than tell them to do it, make it a suggestion – instead of “Go and…” or “You need to…” try giving context first and then replacing the instruction with a soft command such as “Why don’t you…” or “Have you thought about…”. By providing options, you will encourage (but not force) a change in an individual’s behaviour by enabling them to make an informed decision.

Take note of what matters to your people:

To influence others, especially without authority (although this applies in all situations), it’s important to take the time to understand what is ‘valuable’ to the people you’re trying to persuade. 

This can be easily achieved by asking open-ended questions and, most importantly, by truly listening to the answers. If you are tempted to step in or interrupt: W.A.I.T. and ask yourself “Why Am I Talking!” Instead, truly pay attention to what the individual is saying, take note of what matters and use this opportunity to build rapport, find common ground and demonstrate the benefit to them. When people understand what’s in it for them, they are generally more receptive to what’s being asked of them.

Saying no without saying no:

There is real power in recognising when it’s right to say no and Scott showed us that there’s even more power in finding a way to say it positively. If you know that lack of budget means you need your team to prioritise a different project, or that what you’re being asked is outside of your remit, try removing negative language such as “can’t” or “don’t” from your no and offering an alternative solution e.g. Instead of saying: “No, you can’t focus on project X at the moment” try saying: “I need you to prioritise project Y at the moment, let’s bring project X to the table at our next board meeting.”

By offering a solution rather than a simple no without context, you remain future-focused and encouraging the individual you’re saying no to, to apply a growth mindset and understand that there are alternatives available.

So, whether you’re looking to influence your team, peers or senior stakeholders, make sure you take note of what matters to them, apply a soft command and remember that saying no can be turned into a positive.

Are there any other techniques that you would apply? How about spending 5 minutes now to decide on the one thing you’re going to do differently after reading this blog.

The Women in Biopharma Leadership (WBL) network was founded in 2018 by Cormis and Links Life Sciences, with the specific purpose of bringing together the voices of like-minded senior women in the Pharma and Biotech industries.

To find out about our future events or connect with the WBL network, please head to our LinkedIn group.

If you’d like to find out more about Scott Solder or The Active Bystander Training Company, head to their website.

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