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How to Influence People at Work

Oct 12, 2023

How good are you at influencing others?

It’s essential to recognize that we influence people constantly throughout our daily lives, often without even realizing it. Whether it’s convincing a two-year-old to go to bed or persuading a colleague to collaborate on a project, we are constantly in the act of influencing. The reality is, most of us are not particularly skilled at it.

Often, we focus on what we want and attempt to persuade others without considering their perspective, needs, and receptiveness to influence. 

Influencing takes place both at home and in the workplace, but the dynamics at work have evolved significantly. We’ve transitioned from the era of command and control to a time of distributed leadership, flat organizational structures. 

We now possess less positional authority and must rely more on our ability to engage and persuade people.

What is influencing?  

For me, it’s about the ability to affect someone, the way others are behaving or to affect an outcome, but without using force or formal authority. We’re not there to make people do things. We’re there to find a way to help them to see why and how they could do it. And if you think about the people you know, who are influential, think about how they go about it.

How do they exert influence in situations? Maybe think about their behaviours, their attitude that they come with, how they treat people, and just jot a couple of those things down. What is it that you see them doing that helps them to be successful influencers?

Here is a simple three-step approach to influencing others. 

Step 1 – Define your goal

Begin by clearly articulating your goal or desired outcome. Too often, we focus on what we want without considering the broader context, the people we’re influencing, or the vision we’re trying to achieve.

It’s crucial to inspire others by helping them see the difference they can make, understand the benefits of their involvement, and grasp the consequences of not participating.

Start with the “Why…” 

Download our three-step strategy and learn seven ways you can apply to influence effectively.


Step 2 – Identify your current state

Understand the current situation and the factors that might help or hinder you in achieving your goal. Instead of focusing solely on your perspective, stand in the other person’s shoes. Consider their feelings, thoughts, and concerns related to the situation. Effective influencing involves building rapport, fostering understanding, and demonstrating empathy

Use a coaching approach to engage them in a constructive dialogue about their resistance and concerns. Truth is, everyone willingly goes through resistance, but the people with empathy and curiosity always leave the conversation with greater insights.

And even if they’re very resistant to what you’re trying to influence them on, don’t lose sight of who they are. They are resistant because of things that are important to them. Appreciate people. Thank them. Share what you see are the attributes that are really powerful and impactful for them.


Step 3 – Take action with an appropriate strategy

Choose the influencing strategy that aligns with the person you’re trying to influence and the situation you’re in. Here are seven strategies to consider:

  1. Logic and data: Present a logical and data-driven argument, especially when dealing with individuals who value evidence-based decision-making.
  2. Coaching approach: Build rapport through active listening, curiosity, and empathetic questioning. Encourage the other person to express their concerns and needs.
  3. Create a common vision: Collaborate with the person to establish a shared vision and determine how your proposal aligns with their goals.
  4. Relational approach: Focus on building strong relationships, trust, and mutual respect. Engage genuinely with others, demonstrating care and respect.
  5. Bargaining: Negotiate by offering something in return for cooperation. Find a win-win solution that benefits both parties.
  6. Impact: Use emotional appeals, shocking data, visual images, or compelling stories to create a powerful impact and stir emotions.
  7. Coercion: As a last resort, instruct someone to act, but use this sparingly and be prepared for potential negative consequences.

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To sum up… 

As we follow this three-step strategy, it is good for us to think about our own behaviors.

Show appreciation, be kind, and maintain your willingness to change and adapt. Influencing is a skill that can be continually refined, and the more human and respectful you are in your approach, the more successful you’ll be as an influencer. If you’ll like more example, I share them on my podcast. You can listen to this episode on Apple or Spotify. 

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Jean Balfour ICF Accredited Professional Coach and Managing Director of Bailey Balfour

Jean Balfour

Founder & Programmes Director


About the Author

Jean Balfour is Managing Director of Bailey Balfour and Programme Director of our ICF Accredited Coach Training Programmes. Jean is passionate about helping people to have good conversations both at work and at home. She believes that coaching is a life skill and that you never regret learning to coach.

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