In today’s highly matrixed workplace, your ability to influence others can be the key to your professional success. In a previous blog post, we asked questions and provided links to influencing style assessment tools — all in the effort to demonstrate why learning about influencing styles, including identifying our own primary style, is critical to personal effectiveness. The bottom line: Since we naturally default to the one (sometimes two) styles that work best at influencing us, our influencing ability and our effectiveness to influence others will remain limited until we develop influencing style agility, achieving the ability to use any style comfortably.
Once we have identified our style and learned about the others, the next step is learning how to recognize when a style is being used ineffectively. As some readers of our previous blog wisely commented, everyone has used all of the influencing styles at one time or another. This underscores the fact that no style is inherently bad. In fact, any influencing style can be used effectively as long as the influencer fully considers the situation — the people involved, what’s at stake for everyone, and the organizational culture in which everyone is operating.
But influence becomes ineffective when individuals become so focused on the desired outcome that they fail to fully consider the situation. While the influencer may still gain the short-term desired outcome, he or she can do long-term damage to personal effectiveness and the organization, as it creates an atmosphere of distrust where people stop listening, and the potential for innovation or progress is diminished.
Because a style’s effectiveness or ineffectiveness is completely situational, it’s tricky to recognize when a style you are using isn’t working. Since the same argument or presentation can be «heard» differently by different people, recognizing when a style is ineffective requires enough interpersonal insight to accurately judge how your appeal is being perceived.
In order to gain agility between styles — and make sure that you’re using each effectively — take a moment to consider situations where specific influencing styles are ineffective. We’ve provided a breakdown for each of the five styles below:
Rationalizing: Rationalizing can be ineffective when it makes others feel overwhelmed, that their perspectives are not being heard, or that the influencer values data more than their feelings. This can happen when the influencer repeats the same factual argument, ignores value-based solutions, or fails to consider the emotions or feelings of others. These behaviors can be perceived as competitive or self-serving, and may generate a competitive response.
Asserting: Asserting generally won’t work when people feel pressured — especially when asserting statements start to feel like aggressive, heavy-handed, or unreasonable demands. This can lead to resistance or resentment accompanied by passive aggressive or negative behavior, which can result in compliance when the influencer really needs commitment. In other words, people may say they are in agreement with the influencer, but when the time comes for action, they may not behave the way the influencer had in mind. The asserting style is especially ineffective when one is influencing up or there is need for collaboration.
Negotiating: Negotiating is being used ineffectively when people become confused about the influencer’s key position. This can happen when the influencer negotiates too much, loses sight of the bigger picture, or gives up something that is seemingly critical to his or her long-term strategic interest. When an influencer gives in to the demands or needs of other stakeholders to avoid conflict, it may communicate that the influencer is less concerned about an issue than they really are. When one is in an inferior position or there is nothing to exchange, the negotiating style is especially questionable.
Inspiring: Inspiring isn’t working when people feel misled, especially when there is a lack of trust at the start. This can happen when people are influenced toward a common ground only to discover there is none; others may assume that the influencer has a hidden agenda or an overall lack of transparency. All of this erodes trust, causes suspicion, and costs the influencer future credibility.
Bridging: Bridging is ineffective when the influencer uses what he or she knows about the stakeholders’ interests during the influencing process to the extent that they feel manipulated. Instead of connecting people to one’s position, the influencer may be making them suspicious about his or her motives. This can happen when there is too little common ground or open conflict at the outset. The influencer may be perceived as self-serving or insincere about the interests of other stakeholders. More so, when bridging includes a push for collaboration when the prerequisites or time doesn’t allow it, this can lead to distrust in the organization.
It’s clear that unless we take the time to learn enough about the different influencing styles and take notice of the situations around us, we run the risk of damaging our personal effectiveness in the short term and harming our organization in the long run.
Can you tell when the influencing style you are using is ineffective? How are you going to improve your influencing abilities?