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Influencing others is a skill that you can develop and improve. Here are some of the fundamental things to consider. By Duncan Brodie FCMA, managing director of Goals and Achievements.
As management accountants and business partners, we know that achieving results is about much more than just recording transactions and monitoring performance against budget. In our role, we have to influence and persuade in a wide range of different situations. A few of these might include:
Like any interaction, there are no guaranteed success strategies that work every time. But there are some foundational things that you can do to boost your effectiveness.
Be clear about the result you wantIn any situation where you have to influence or persuade, it is vital to get absolute clarity about the outcome or result that you want. Spending the time to do this up front will be time well invested. For example, going back to our example of getting a member of the team to change behaviours, you need to be crystal clear about the behaviours that you want before you enter into a dialogue.
Step into the shoes of the other partyPeople who are effective at influencing or persuading will not look at the challenge in a one dimensional way. They will really seek to understand the other party or parties’ perspective. Stepping into the shoes of others can give you real insights into:
One of the simplest strategies for doing this is to ask yourself a series of questions and answer these from the perspective of the different parties.
Plan ahead whenever you canIf you know that you are going into a situation where you are going to have to influence or persuade, make a point of planning your approach. Consider the boundaries, how you are going to open the discussions and the impact that you want to make.
Listen to the other partyStephen Covey in his book ‘The 7 habits of highly effective people’ refers to the habit of seeking first to understand. What he is essentially referring to is the importance of listening rather than focusing on getting your point across. Too often, our desire to be heard gets in the way of listening effectively.
Aim for win-winIn any situation, your ideal is a win-win situation. When both parties win, you are much more likely to achieve what you want. This might mean that you sometimes find a middle ground that brings together the best parts of all parties’ contributions. Do not fall into the ‘my way or no way’ trap.
Be focused but flexibleYou have an outcome that you want to achieve and others will have too. You want to retain your focus and at the same time be flexible enough to adapt when it is obvious that this is necessary. See yourself as a branch rather than the root of the tree. The former is moveable while the latter is fixed.
As you progress in your career, your ability to influence and persuade will significantly affect the results you achieve. The good news is that, with practice, this is a skill that you can develop and improve.
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