Searching for the true meaning of influence, and how procurement professionals can, and need to, become better doing it. Article by Gordon Donovan.
I have recently completed my masters, and my dissertation looked at influencing within procurement and how to develop these skills.
This article looks at the published literature around influencing. The next article will review the opinions of top influencers and consider what their key traits are, and how these skills can be developed.
Much has been written about the need for the professional skill sets required by procurement professionals to change. According to CIPS over the last 5 years, the skills required have changed as the table below: [i]
For Procurement to achieve its goals, more work needs to be done to align to key stakeholders and understand the business operations, in order to become a true strategic partner.
This means moving up the value chain to ensure that the function is involved much earlier in the decision-making processes and clearly demonstrating how active involvement adds tangible value to both the bottom and the top lines.
In order to do this, Procurement as a function needs to expand its ability to influence, and procurement practitioners need to expand their own personal influencing skills (along with other soft skills).
So what do we mean by influencing and what are the different ways we can influence?
What is Influence?
Influencing skills, have been defined as the ability to get people to do what you want[ii], or changing people’s behaviour to act in your favour through the use of persuasion[iii], or wielding effective tactics of persuasion[iv].
How can we Influence
We all have differing influencing styles which generally will fall into any of the following:
- Asserting – where you insist on your ideas being heard, and you challenge the ideas of others.
- Convincing – where you put forward ideas and offer logical reasoning, which convinces others of your point of view.
- Negotiating – where you look for compromises and make concessions, in order that you can reach an outcome that satisfies your greater interest.
- Bridging – where you build relationships and connect with others, using listening and understanding to build coalitions.
- Inspiring – where you advocate a position and then encourages others to come round to the idea by sharing a sense of purpose.
Dale Carnegie[v] wrote, that in order to become effective influencers, we need to influence people at an individual level. He also argued that the steps for effective influencing are:
- If you want to make a good first impression, smile.
- If you want others to like you, don’t criticise them.
- If you want others to gladly do you favours, show your appreciation frequently.
- If you want to be interesting yourself, be interested in others.
- Show your appreciation for others by talking about what’s important to them.
- We like people who show their appreciation and remember things about us, like our names.
- Avoid all arguments – they cannot be won.
- Never tell others they are wrong, they will only resent you.
- Whenever you are wrong, admit it immediately and clearly.
- To be convincing, get others to say “yes” as often as possible.
Emotional intelligence is the capacity of people’s ability to recognise their own, and to understand and recognise others’, emotions, and use that information to guide behaviour and therefore influence.
Daniel Goleman argues that just having one persuasion skill alone, and deploying just one, may not be good enough to gain influence. He argues that being influential is having the ability to sense what other kinds of appeals will persuade key decision makers.
Critically, Goleman argues, it is noticing when one tactic isn’t working and when to switch to a different one which adds impact to an individual.
So what are the persuasion skills?
Manningham and Robertson[vi] identified 6 persuasion strategies from their research:
- Reason – the use of logic or facts to justify a request
- Assertion – making a direct request and using emotion to underline our need
- Exchange – the trading of one thing for another
- Courting favour – being friendly or positive with people
- Coercion – the implication of negative outcomes on not agreeing
- Partnership – gaining the support of people both within and outside the organisation.
In developing this research on persuasion tools, Reynolds developed the Persuasion Tools Model[vii], based on work by the psychologist Kenneth Berrien. It links negotiation and persuasion style, to emotional intelligence (EI), and in some ways echoes the work of Manning and Robertson
In this model, the horizontal axis represents influencing, which Reynolds states is a measure of your overall persuasion capability. The vertical axis represents the level of intuition required.
Two main thoughts are drawn from this research:
- That deploying one persuasion tactic as part of a plan is not enough; and
- Influencing, when it happens, happens with one person at a time.
In the next article, we will identify the traits of top influencers and how we may develop these skills.
[i] CIPS (2015) Advanced Diploma in Procurement and Supply; Chapter 4 Skills for Category Management
[ii] Mullins, L. (1996). Management and organization. 4th ed. Pitman
[iii] Manning T; Robertson B; (2003),”Influencing and negotiating skills: Part I: influencing strategies and styles”, Industrial and Commercial Training, Vol. 35 Iss 1 pp. 11 – 15;
[iv] Goleman D (1998) Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ; Bloomsbury Publishing
[v] Carnegie D; (1937) How to win friends and influence people: Simon and Schuster
[vi] Manning T; Robertson B; (2003),”Influencing and negotiating skills; Part II: influencing styles and negotiating skills”, Industrial and Commercial Training, Vol. 35 Iss 2 pp. 60 – 66;
[vii] Reynolds, A. (2003) ‘Emotional Intelligence and Negotiation,’ Hampshire: Tommo Press