The challenges of influencing in a modern, virtual workplace
Communicating and collaborating with our colleagues via chat and email has become the norm and the opportunities for influencing others and positioning ourselves as leaders in our organisations have become more scarce than ever before.
Giving a presentation or facilitating a team meeting is usually done via video conferencing software, rather than in front of a room full of people. This poses a unique challenge: without face-to-face contact, we are missing the subtle body language cues and nonverbal behaviours that give our social interactions depth and meaning.
Getting people to listen and engage with what you’re saying depends largely on your ability to project leadership presence. This can be difficult when you’re speaking to a camera instead of a person sitting in front of you, and will require you to really tune in to your body language and use everything at your disposal to signify confidence and authority.
Stand tall, speak up and allow your credibility and expertise to take centre stage. After all, if you don’t believe in yourself — how do you expect anyone else to?
The seven weapons of influence
First published in 1984, Robert Cialdini’s Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion went on to become essential reading for anyone involved in advertising and marketing.
Cialdini studied people who had the ability to influence others, wanting to find out the secret to their success. He identified the following key elements, which are referred to as ‘principles of persuasion’ or ‘weapons of influence’:
● Commitment (and consistency)
● Social proof
When you need to be able to influence and motivate others, Cialdini’s principles are a great place to start. You can read more about them and how to apply them to your own situation here.
Tips on influencing without authority
Learning how to wield influence over others begins with understanding the psychological principles behind the influencing process. Study Cialdini’s principles of persuasion and use the following tips to guide you on your journey:
1. Control is given naturally to leaders
Think of ways you can increase your leadership presence, even without an official title. Project confidence, position yourself as an expert, but don’t strive for total control — it can often make things more difficult.
Take a look at this article “How to stand out as a leader in a remote or hybrid workplace” for more information on how to develop your leadership presence.
2. Achieve a level of expertise in your field
Work on your continuous professional development and never stop adding feathers to your cap. People are much more likely to listen to you if you know what you’re talking about, so use your knowledge and expertise to back up your plans and recommendations.
3. Continuously disseminate useful information to colleagues
This follows on from Cialdini’s principle of reciprocation, which asserts that people will be more likely to help you out if you’ve given them something useful in the past.
4. Act with honesty and integrity
If you are seen as an honest, genuine person in your day-to-day interactions, then your colleagues will be more inclined to support you when you need them to.
5. Solve problems with an excellent attitude
You can’t avoid problems cropping up at work, but you can control how you respond to them. Demonstrate a calm, positive, ‘can-do’ attitude and you will energise others and inspire them to follow your lead.
6. Leverage authority by assuming opportunity for it
There are always going to be situations wherein the absence of formal instruction from a manager or supervisor someone has to step up and take the lead. Whenever the opportunity presents itself, take the initiative and be that person.
Most people are naturally inclined to follow rather than to lead, so if you consistently step up and take charge, you’ll start to be seen as a natural leader among your peers.
7. Thank people in public
Everyone wants to feel appreciated, and it doesn’t feel good when our efforts go unnoticed. By thanking people in front of others, you will bolster their self-confidence and increase their feelings of goodwill towards you. People are more likely to support and agree with you when they genuinely like you.
8. Find mentors in other leaders
If you really want to learn how to influence without authority, it makes sense to learn from the best. Find a mentor or coach who has extensive leadership experience and try to understand and apply their strategies to increase your chances of success.
9. Understand your core values. Do they align with the company values?
Your core values underpin everything you say, every expression you make, everything you do, and have a huge impact on your success — both at work and in your personal life. When your core values and those of your colleagues are in alignment with the company values, synergy occurs and energy, morale and productivity levels tend to increase.
This synergy helps to guide and reinforce behaviours that foster a proactive, innovative, values-based culture within your organisation.
The importance of values-based leadership
Values-based leadership improves communication, strengthen relationships and drives performance throughout your entire organisation. It is built around the philosophy that people are primarily motivated by their core values and live largely in accordance with these beliefs.
In order to stay true to your core values, you must first uncover them. What do you stand for? What’s important to you? Why does one thing matter more than another? Where do you draw the line?
Core values can include things like:
Everyone will have a different set of core values, depending on their personality and what’s important to them. Staying true to yourself and making decisions that align with your core values is the foundation of successful leadership, no matter what your title is.
Ensuring your core values are reflected in how you present yourself and how you communicate with others is a crucial element for persuading and influencing them.
The ‘Three Power Bases of Persuasion’: Ethos, Pathos, Logos
The art of persuasive speaking is a skill that can serve you throughout your life, and it is an essential component of influential leadership. 2351 years ago, Aristotle identified three elements that are essential for persuasive speaking in his book The Rhetoric. The ‘three power bases of persuasion’ are ethos, pathos and logos, which translate roughly to ethics, emotion and logic.
Power Base 1: Ethos / Ethics
Ethos relates to your credibility and overall character, i.e. how trustworthy you appear, how much authority you exert and how much respect people have for you. This ties directly into value-based leadership.
The words we say, the way we say those words and how we look when we deliver the message must be congruent with our core values. This is how we stay true to ourselves, it is how we connect authentically with others, and how we build our credibility throughout our company and within the marketplace.
In other words, how people perceive your credibility and overall character will depend largely on whether or not you are staying true to your values and whether or not these values align with theirs.
Power Base 2: Pathos / Emotion
Pathos refers to how successfully you are able to appeal to people’s emotions and get them to understand and accept your point of view. The art of storytelling is an incredibly strong tool that will allow you to communicate with others in such a way that what you are saying resonates with them and connects with them on an emotional level.
Power Base 3: Logos / Logic
Finally, logos refers to the logical and rational elements of an argument, i.e appearing knowledgeable, presenting evidence in support of your views and getting your message across in a coherent manner. This is where expertise comes in.
It’s difficult to appeal to the logical and rational elements of someone’s mind if you don’t have a complete understanding of the subject matter. Understanding their viewpoint and the challenges they face in respect to the subject matter is crucial when it comes to appealing to someone’s logical mind and without the right level of expertise, this is nigh on impossible.
You can use these three ‘power bases’ along with your core values to shape how you influence and communicate with others. You’ll need the right balance of all three in order to win people over, but you can start with whichever one you are naturally drawn to.
Try to think about the bigger picture — begin with the end in mind and start crafting your unique values-based leadership style from there.
Effective leadership involves acting in accordance with your core values, communicating clearly and openly with others, and presenting yourself in a way that commands respect, not mere compliance.
When you take the time to develop these skills, you will become the ‘go-to’ person in your organisation — the one people know they can rely on and trust to get issues resolved— and you don’t need an official title to be that person.