I have been doing research on how to develop influence skills, as part of my own executive development and as research for my coaching program on influence. Over the Easter weekend, I came across a fascinating group of studies that links influence skills to executive performance and income. The core findings from the research makes complete sense to me – the better you are at influencing others, the greater your earning potential. What is influence?
Influence is essentially your ability to get people to do something that, without your intervention, they may not otherwise do.
What is your influence style?
Adapted from the work of Kipnis and Schmidt (1988), there are four key influence styles.
- The Shotgun Influencer – This person is not strategic about how they influence others. They use influence tactics indiscriminately and rather than influence well, they tend to rely on assertiveness to get things done.
- Ingratiator – We all know this person. They influence people by being friendly and nice, but they tend to be average at best when it comes to using other influence tactics.
- Bystander – This is someone who doesn’t know much about influence, or at least doesn’t use the skills. Instead of attempting to influence others, they stand by and watch.
- Tactitician – This is someone who uses a variety of influence tactics to get things done, and they chose which influence tactic they will use depending on the situation.
The link with executive performance, income, and influence skills
Kipnis and Schmidt (1988) found that people who used a Shotgun style, got lower performance ratings and they had the most stress and tension at work. This makes sense to me, if you rely on assertiveness to get others to do what you want, you won’t be popular and it probably won’t work much of the time. You will get stuck when you try to influence others, and you will likely get demotivated and frustrated.
The style that was linked to the greatest earning potential and best performance ratings was the tactitian; however, they defined it as someone who tends to rely on rationality as the primary influence tactic. In later research, it was discovered that the higher up the ranks you are in an organization, the greater the probability that you rely on rationality (writing a memo, using logic, or making a plan) as a primary influence tactic.
Later research shows that the most skilled executives have a range of influence tactics that they use. This increases their effectiveness and performance ratings because it allows them to adjust their influence style depending on who they are trying to influence, and the context of the situation. For example, if you want someone to help you, you may use ingratiation and be friendly. If you are doing a performance evaluation, you may use rationality and assertiveness. If you are talking to your boss about a new proposal, forming a coalition with others may be a good way to influence someone and reinforce your point. All of these adjustments in your own behaviour, make you more effective at work, and the better you are getting things done, the more people will want to work with, and for you.
- Kiplin and Schmidt (1988). Upward Influence Styles: Relationships with Performance Evaluations, Style and Stress. Administrative Science Quarterly, Vol. 33, No. 4 (Dec., 1988), pp. 528-542
- Porter, L., Angle, H., Allen, R., (Eds) (2003). Organizational Influence Processes: Second Edition. ME Sharpe Press: New York.