How To Be A Better Influencer

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How do you get people to do what you want them to do?

One of the things I remember of my MBA program is having philosophical conversations about various influence tactics.  To put that in plain English, we used to sit around and talk about how you get people to do what you want them to do.  My MBA program was made up of students that went right into graduate school after completing their undergraduate degree as well as older students that had been in the real world for a while.  The program was probably split fairly evenly between those two groups.  I vividly remember the younger students clinging to the belief that people would do what they wanted them to do because they would be in a management position.  In other words do your work because I said to do it and I am your manager that has the power to fire you.  That sort of pressure approach is certainly one technique that you can use.  Demands and threats can be very effective for a short period of time, but I think the impact starts to erode over time.  The employees either realize that you cannot fire them all, or they simply stop caring whether or not they get fired.   It is an ineffective technique in my opinion, but I know that there are managers out there that have made a career of using threats.  Know anyone like that?

There are a number of other influence tactics that can be employed by managers.  I would like to discuss a few of them today:

Rational Persuasion:  This is my favorite way to get people to do what you want them to do.  I use logical arguments and facts to persuade people that my request is not only a good idea, but one that will produce the desired result.  This helps employees to learn and improves their decision making skills.  It also helps them to have a little faith in you as a leader.  When they understand why you do what you do, it makes them to feel like they are part of something and they will work that much harder to ensure it is successful.

Inspirational Appeal:  Another technique that I am fond of.  To get the employee to perform a specific action, you appeal to their values.  If they are client advocates then you explain how performing the action will be of benefit to the client.  If they are a salesperson focused on commission, convince them that the action will result in greater commissions.  You have to know your employees fairly well to employee this technique, but if you do then this is far more effective than using threats.

Legitmating:  This is a technique where the manager uses the company’s policies or practices as the motivation to get the employee to perform the required action.  This is how you get people to come to work on time, to stop surfing the internet, and to wear the appropriate attire in the office.  I still prefer Rational Persuasion or Inspirational Appeal to this technique, but it can be effective for some situations.

Take some time and think about these three techniques.  In what situations would they work well and in what situations would they not work well?  Do you ever use threats to motivate employees?  Could you use one of these three methods instead? 

I have a couple of other methods I will go over with you tomorrow, but I welcome your thoughts on these motivational techniques.


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