Skills to influence others are crucial to personal and professional success, especially in local government. At the elected official level, influencing skills directly impact your success at championing issues important to you and your community. At the management level, strong influencing skills make you a better leader and help ensure effective service delivery.
We influence others every day, whether we’re doing it intentionally or not. Every interaction is an opportunity to identify others’ behavioural and personality styles and learn how to optimize your influence. Effective influence requires an awareness of your natural style, plus effective skills to enable your influence to be received effectively.
4 Styles Used to Influence Others in Local Government
Aggressive Driving Styles
Aggressive individuals like to use a fast pace and force to achieve outcomes. They are often comfortable in bargaining to achieve success, without needing to reflect or think quietly.
Passive “Pulling” Styles
Passive individuals like to use a slower and quieter approach to achieve an outcome. These individuals use non-coercive tactics such as seeking to motivate, enthuse, and involve the other person. They often use careful listening techniques.
Analytical types like to use evidence, experience, and facts and figures to achieve a logical outcome. These individuals seek to use the logical balance for and against a reasoning. There is generally a strong focus on the task at hand.
Emotional or “People” Styles
People types like to put relationships before anything else (including the task, the goal, facts, ideas, etc.). These individuals tend to build an understanding of the other person and achieve a degree of personal and emotional empathy as a priority.
Which is Your Style?
Think about which style is your “natural style,” the one you rely on most often. Consider how you adapt your style to the situation. Are you using a style which allows others to hear and understand your perspective? Influencing, like every other skill, can be learned.
Many people are intuitively good influencers; they can easily influence or change others’ thinking. Changes in thinking can result in a change in behaviour, which in turn can change attitudes.
There are a number of skills to influence others in local government, including communication, listening, persuasion, assertiveness, negotiation, conflict resolution, and problem-solving.
4 Steps to Effectively Influence Others in Local Government
Trying to improve a skill (such as influencing) head-on can feel daunting. Focus your efforts on improving the primary skills that lead to strong influencing instead.
Step 1. Focus on your listening skills
Identifying the facts and underlying meaning of what others are saying, listening not to respond, but to truly understand. “What do they know or believe that makes them see this differently than I do?”
Step 2. Be conscious of how you seek clarification
Demonstrate curious questioning to gain a deeper understanding of what someone is saying. Use phrases such as, “Can you help me understand?”
Step 3. Be self-aware about how you’re giving feedback through verbal and non-verbal cues
This requires self-management of your body language and facial expressions to demonstrate an openness to changing your own perspective.
Step 4. Demonstrate understanding by effectively summarizing
Reflect the other person’s point of view back to them.
Start improving your influencing skills by practicing these cornerstone influencing methods – listening, seeking clarification, giving feedback, and summarizing.
Make note of whether it successfully impacts your ability to influence others effectively in local government. As Kenneth Blanchard, author and management expert said: “The key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority.”
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