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Friday, October 08, 2010

KALÖN WOMEN: Influence: Do You Have Any?

Guest Author: Dickie Sykes

Having worked in a corporate environment for many years and running a department, I know that it is virtually impossible to get anything accomplished without a certain amount of power and influence. Power and influence feed off each other and in most cases the more power you have grants you greater influence over others and the more influence you have garners you more power. Research has found that one of the most important determinants of leader effectiveness is success in influencing people (McFarland, L., Ryan, A., & Kriska, S., 2002). The same tactics that help leaders become influential helps job candidates. Firefighter applicants’ that used soft tactics like rational persuasion and ingratiation were correlated with positive interview ratings (McFarland, L., Ryan, A., & Kriska, S., 2002). Employers often consider leadership skills when selecting applicants for managerial and supervisory positions. Therefore, everyone should learn skills that enhance their ability to influence. The question is how do you attempt to influence others to get them to do what you want them to do?

Social influence involves doing something that affects someone else in one way or another. In business how do you get others to do what you want? Every day, managers confront situations in which they attempt to influence others so that their behavior is consistent with organizational objectives. When I ran a department the tactics I used most often to influence others were inspirational appeals, consultation, rational persuasion and coalition building. I used rational appeal because it is based in logic. When I discussed the logic behind expanding my departmental budget, staff and responsibility, I researched the company’s responsibility as it related to federal EEO laws and where we were falling short; in addition to, the changing demographics and ethnicities of our labor and vendor pool and what we needed to do to meet our corporate goals and objectives. The logic was there in black and white; therefore, I used rational persuasion to make my point.

When you go on your next job interview or have a business presentation use rational appeal as it is based in logic. Before you arrive, know where the company is falling short (you must do your homework) and provide them with solutions. At this point, you’re in big picture mode and don’t have to provide them with explicit details but have some just in case. If the company asks you to go into more detail, bam, you’ll know you have their interest. This is the perfect opportunity to plant the seeds for your next interview. Why does this approach work? It is logic that can’t be denied. Within your logical appeal, insert an inspirational story that meets with your target audience’s values and ideals. When I mixed rational persuasion with my inspirational spin (I can sound like a Southern preacher) it was a powerful mix.

Keep your focus on what’s best for the company; if you’re excellent at what you do, there will be plenty of opportunities later to express your wants and desires based on the value you brought to the company. Right now, let’s get you hired. During the interview process, have a laser sharp focus on what’s best for the company. Package and express your transferable skills in a way that meets with what the company's needs (greater revenue, sales, clients, customers; improved brand, better PR; you get the point) what their looking for (the job description) and what you bring to the table (quantifiable skills, success). I kept my focus on my previous employer’s brand, image and EEO laws. I ensured our reputation remained positive and influential within the communities where we conducted business and that we adhered to federal EEO rules, regulations and guidelines. I sought the support of others and brought high profile people to the organization which afforded me a larger budget and expanded my influence. Two additional influential tactics that can be used during the interview process is ingratiation and coalition- building with a twist.

Find out as much as you can about the company and the interviewer and ingratiate yourself to the interviewer. Ingratiation is getting a target person to do what you want by putting him or her in a good mood or be getting him or her to like you. No matter how smart you think you are, I know we all think we’re geniuses but people still hire who they like and trust and that will never change. Coalition-building during the interview process is letting the interviewer know the type of network or coalition you have in-place and can bring to them. Everyone is drawn to power, to influence, so if you have a network of great relationships, drop a couple of names within your inspirational story. Don’t overdo it and sound rude, arrogant or cocky; sound self assured and proud of the professional network you’ve been able to create. Sound confident in the coalition and team builder that you are. It’s a delicate but doable balance.

The power I began to have to influence others came from several sources: my position automatically gave me a certain amount of credibility and influence and following a few techniques which I’ve described here such as rational persuasion, inspirational appeal, ingratiation and coalition-building. Whether job interviewing or delivering a business presentation or seeking a raise, include a few influential techniques in your career toolbox.

Dickie Sykes is the President of DGS Consulting LLC. To learn more about the company log onto or contact them at or 404 567-5790.

References: McFarland, L., Ryan, A., & Kriska, S. (2002). Field Study Investigation of Applicant Use of Influence Tactics in a Selection Interview. Journal of Psychology, 136(4), 383. Retrieved from Business Source Complete database.

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