Sarah Osteen is a leadership coach and works with organizations frequently around communication issues. A common topic is the concept of persuasion and how to use your power and influence to change the ideas and behaviors of others.
Sarah defines power as your “willingness and ability to influence behaviors or someone’s values or attitudes and the belief in others.” Influence (as a noun) is more about “your ability to actually get others to change their behavior.”
Understanding the different types of power and which ones you have, even “at the bottom of the food chain within your organization” can make a difference in your career and your own job satisfaction. Everyone has connections. You have certainly helped others with some kind of expertise “that might be perceived as very small to you, but in a certain situation it can be incredibly valuable.”
I think there are a lot of kind of unhappy people out there who feel as though they are kind of at the whim of the success of the organization, they are under the thumb of senior executives and there’s not really a lot of latitude for them. And the reality is that there is. And once you start thinking that way, I’ve seen people change their whole attitude about their career and feel much more devoted to it.
How do you put that power to work? Sarah described three types of common influence strategies.
- Rational persuasion
- Inspirational appeal
Rational persuasion is influencing others based on facts and data. No reasonable person will argue that facts and data aren’t helpful. But this approach is more effective when combined with others.
Consultation could be asking someone else in the organization to be involved in the planning of a project which can help get their buy-in. The flip side of that is collaboration, offering your assistance ‘in implementing a change so that you can have a hand in it. You’re not just presenting logical facts, but you’re actually rolling up your sleeves and getting involved.”
Sarah thinks the most valuable strategy to connect with rational persuasion is an inspirational appeal “or using storytelling to connect with somebody around why this matters.”
You can make an inventory of your own power. Position power stems from your rank within an organization and the authority that comes with that. You may have the power to reward or coerce people into the behaviors you seek.
Personal power is based on your expertise. Regardless of your title, you know things and have skills that are valuable to others.
Referrent power is simply that people like and trust you. Along with expertise, this is an ideal combination for being able to persuade others to come along with your ideas.
Surprisingly, you can increase your power and influence simply by showing genuine interest. Asking questions for understanding or raising a hand for projects outside of your normal tasks can demonstrate to others that you have something to offer.