What words or phrases come to mind when you think of influencing skills?
Before I was introduced to influencing skills, the expressions that typically came to mind had negative connotations – phrases like manipulating others, looking out for number one, and playing the promotion game. What I’ve come to realize over the years is that effective influencing skills are none of those things.
Leading through influence is all about positively influencing outcomes at work. It is about affecting change in a positive way that preserves and enhances your relationships with others.
So how do you start enhancing your influencing skills? Learning Strategies Group’s research and extensive work in partnership with clients suggests there are five key strategies you can use to positively influence outcomes.
Strategy 1: Enhance your credibility at work
Imagine someone lacking workplace credibility trying to influence your thoughts, behaviours, and actions. How open would you be to their influence? Workplace credibility is a critical part of your licence to influence.
Demonstrating and building your expertise in your area of specialty is a first step in establishing and maintaining credibility but, on its own, is not enough. Workplace credibility also requires steadfast consistency between your actions and your words and it demands that you deliver on your promises and commitments, always.
Credible influencers also strive to always do the right things for the right reasons. They make hard choices which, when made for the right reasons, enhance their credibility in the eyes of others.
Strategy 2: Build workplace trust
Trust is among the highest forms of human motivation. The challenge with trust is that it is far more easily destroyed than built. Think of a situation where you have lost trust in another person. How did your loss of trust impact the relationship? More importantly, what would it take for them to re-earn your trust?
Building trust involves treating everyone at work by the same set of principles. People value fairness, both for themselves and for those around them. If you are not treating everyone with the dignity and respect they deserve, the trust others place in you will be diminished.
Building workplace trust also involves being loyal to those not immediately present. When someone talks in a negative way about a person that is not in the room, consider what goes through your mind. Is this person talking about me behind my back?
Strategy 3: Create a compelling vision
Creating a compelling vision of the future for you and your team is the cornerstone to aligning action and influencing results. It allows people to know that their contributions are valued and meaningful. Inspiring a shared vision is one of the five practices that leadership researchers Kouzes and Posner examine in their Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership model.
Kouzes and Posner note: “Exemplary leaders don’t impose their visions of the future on people… they liberate the vision that’s already in their constituents. They awaken dreams, breathe life into them, and arouse the belief that we can do something grand.”
Strategy 4: Build authentic relationships at work
It’s probably no surprise that you will more readily be able to influence those with whom you have authentic relationships.
In their article, The 5 Biggest Mistakes You’re Making with Work Relationships, management experts Ken and Scott Blanchard talk about what not to do, such as taking before giving, being an opportunistic relationship builder, seeing relationships as playing office politics, forgetting about results, and limiting your relationship circle.
In contrast, authentic work relationships are based on mutual respect, a balance of give and take, shared experiences and enjoyment. As Kienzle and Dare state in their book on career advancement, “Few things will pay you bigger dividends than the time and trouble you take to understand people. Almost nothing will add more to your stature as an executive and a person.”
Strategy 5: Empower others
At first glance, empowering others may feel scary. You may be worried that the people you empower won’t deliver. However, as leadership coach John C. Maxwell writes: “When you empower people, you’re not influencing just them; you’re influencing all of the people they influence. That’s impact.”
Not only does empowering others expand your sphere of influence, but it pushes others to perform at their best and builds loyalty. It also involves encouragement, expressing gratitude and holding those you empower accountable.
Now, more than ever, accountants and other business professionals need to develop and enhance their influencing skills. As recruiter Robert Half states: “Hiring managers are not impressed with an accountant with just a college degree and solid technical knowledge. Rather, companies look for soft skills such as the ability to persuade and influence…” In today’s world, technical skills and abilities may get you in the door, but it is your ability to lead and influence others that will give you staying power and upward mobility.
Scott Powell, CPA, CA, is the managing director for Canada at Learning Strategies Group.
 James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner. The Leadership Challenge: How to Make Extraordinary Things Happen in Organizations. 2017.
 Ken Blanchard and Scott Blanchard. The 5 Biggest Mistakes You’re Making with Work Relationships. Fast Company. 2012.
 George J. Kienzle and Edward H. Dare. Climbing the Executive Ladder. 1950.
 John C. Maxwell and John Dornan. Becoming a Person of Influence: How to Positively Impact the Lives of Others. 1997.
 Robert Half. A Hard Look at Soft Skills. Global Accountant. 2013.