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Portable Power
Text by Elaina Zuker
Published: Volume 17, Issue 6, June, 2009

Influence skills, when learned and mastered, are a simple yet powerful set of techniques that will help you win support for your ideas and proposals, says ELAINA ZUKER, author of The Seven Secrets of Influence, which has just been published in India

The 21st century has ushered in an unprecedented age of change in the world and the workplace. New technologies are being touted daily; organizations are restructuring, merging, downsizing, acquiring. Communication advances are changing our working relationships and our environments. It’s no wonder that we’re in need of a power tool for success.

It used to be that when you started up the corporate ladder, you were told that in order to achieve success you simply needed to put in your time and to develop your professional and technical expertise. After a while, this began to change and you heard that, ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.’ You began to learn the importance of contacts, and how to build a network of helpful people.

Now we have entered a new era. You can’t count on technical or professional expertise alone. These skills can quickly become obsolete. And you can’t simply count on your network, since high level contacts can vanish overnight with the next corporate shake-up, budget cut, acquisition or merger.

What will guarantee your success is power that you can count on, a set of interpersonal skills that you can practice anytime, anywhere, inside or outside an organization. This ‘portable power’ comes from possessing a set of influence skills that transcend obsolescence or organizational changes. This is the portable power of influence.

Influence is power – the power to motivate, sell, and be more effective, more potent and more productive.

Influence is a subtle skill, a more refined approach than the use of authority or coercion. You get the results you want while allowing others to get the results they want. This means that in order to be truly influential, you must cause a change in another’s behavior, actions, attitudes or values. The desired effect might not always be immediately apparent, as in changing attitudes.

Women have always been skilled at this kind of ‘informal’ power and influence. We connect with people naturally; in most of our encounters; even with those which are casual, we intuitively gain rapport with others.

Many people believe that the ability to influence others is simply a matter of good communications skills. Not so. To achieve enthusiastic cooperation and consistent high performance, successful influencers use a carefully orchestrated, strategic approach.

Some people think that ‘real’ leaders do not need influence skills. After all, the leader can demand that the staff carry out instructions. Wrong again. Today’s employees are less likely to mindlessly obey the old style, ‘top-down’ kind of management.

Finally, the word ‘influence’ is often maligned, especially in government, and thought to connote manipulation. While ‘manipulation’, strictly speaking, means ‘skillful handling’, an interaction can be said to be a positive influence when the influencer has the intention to provide value, add benefit or enhance the experience of the other person. It can be called ‘manipulation’ if there is an intention to exploit or mislead the other, or to misrepresent the product or service. Positive influence has as its result a ‘win-win’ outcome. Both parties in the transaction reach their goals and sometimes even exceed them.

Not everyone has the same communication style. Some people are influenced by solid evidence, and favor reason, logic and an orderly process. Others influence by creating a sense of shared mission. Yet another style offers rewards and negotiates with others.

No one style is better than another. In fact, most of us naturally use a combination of styles.?But until we become aware of which style to use in which situation with a specific person, our efforts will be hit or miss at best!

Elaina Zuker is a businesswoman, consultant, author, lecturer and educator. Among her clients are private and government organizations in the U.S. and internationally.

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