Contrary to popular belief, successfully influencing the decisions, opinions, and actions of others is not about manipulation or command. In fact, studies show that coercive influence and the use of punishment can be detrimental. Instead, in order for influence to be effective, it has to inspire and convince— for this reason alone, many refer to influence as an art, not a science.
Influence is critical for success inside and outside the lab. According to the Center for Creative Leadership, influence is a fundamental skill, ranking as one of the four most important for leadership. For lab professionals, mastering the art of effective influence helps you achieve results on both an individual and collective level.
Power structures are changing, and influence is no longer directly reserved for those with high titles. As lab and patient care increasingly shift towards team-based models, it's more important than ever for staff at all levels to develop effective methods of influence.
Lab teams require the presence of colleagues who can move initiatives forward. As teams with effective influencers flourish, their collective actions and accomplishments often attract recognition and support from executives. Having the ability to influence others can also be rewarding on a personal level: Employees who demonstrate that they can implement big changes using limited resources are extremely valuable to companies, and they have a leg up when it comes to promotions and salary negotiations.
Here are four ways to cultivate effective influence methods that you can put into practice in the lab today.
According to the Center for Creative Leadership, there are three types of influencing tactics: logical, emotional, and cooperative. In their quest to inspire genuine commitment among others, influencers often employ a combination of these three methods.
Many lab professionals likely feel comfortable with logical influencing, an approach that appeals to someone's intellect and reason. Others may gravitate toward emotional appeals, in which you seek to connect a person's core values to the task at hand; and others, particularly employees who are not managers, might prefer to take a cooperative stance, seeking input from different stakeholders.
Wherever you may fall, don't discount your tendency towards that one style over another. Instead, play to your strengths.
Scientists have a wide range of technical skills, from collecting and interpreting data to putting complex findings into context. Because their core competencies are so data-driven, scientists often communicate differently than non-scientists, especially when it comes to arguing an opinion or settling a dispute. Relying solely on data to resolve an issue may work well in some scenarios, but you need to be able to adapt your approach based on the audience and professional setting.
To garner more influence, try cultivating a communication style that is versatile. When having a discussion, listen to the logical points that others make along with the underlying emotional ones. When you are willing to engage with multiple viewpoints, colleagues perceive you as someone who makes thoughtful decisions and genuinely respects other team members.
For colleagues to commit fully to new initiatives or directions, it's essential to create a lab environment built on trust. All lab professionals, not just managers, should strive to foster a environment where ideas are heard, consensus can be reached, and forward momentum can occur.
A simple place to start is by not over-promising and under-delivering, and following through on commitments. This goes a long way in letting others know they can trust and rely on you. Create psychological safety when brainstorming by fostering an environment in which all team members know they are free to share ideas without judgement.
Making connections up, down, and across the organization chart is essential for influencing from whatever position you are currently in. Create a list of people within the company you'd like to get to know. Ask for introductions and arrange coffee chats or lunches. Keep a running log of who you have spoken with. When a colleague receives an award or has a finding published, congratulate him or her. Though obvious, these soft touches go a long way.
As you create meaningful connections with colleagues over your work—from developing new processes to improving testing accuracy—you establish yourself as an engaged team member who has a stake in the industry's future. Building an internal network not only helps expedite collaboration and approval, but can also improve your career prospects and help stave off the loneliness of solitary lab work.
To some lab professionals, the idea of being influential doesn't align with how they think about their working style. But there are all kinds of influencers, and not all of them speak loudly or charismatically command the attention of the room. While it's true that certain people may be naturally gifted at communicating their ideas, influence is a learnable skill—one you can develop and strengthen with practice.
4 Keys to Strengthen Your Ability to Influence Others
by Center for Creative Leadership
The ability to influence others is a fundamental skill that leaders must master in order to be effective.
Five Steps to Increase Your Influence
by Susan Tardanico
When was the last time you thought about how you influence others -- how you change minds, shape opinions, move others to act?
Exerting Influence Without Authority
by Lauren Keller Johnson
Congratulations—you’ve been asked to lead a change initiative! But there’s a catch—its success hinges on the cooperation of several people across your organization over whom you have no formal authority.