The landscape of business is evolving. Now, more than ever, professionals in organizations need to develop and enhance their skills at leading and influencing others without direct authority.

In this post, we’ll explore why this is becoming so critical and we’ll introduce a model that you can use to help enhance your influencing skills.

What words or phrases come to mind when you think of influencing skills? When I was first introduced to influencing skills 15 years ago, what immediately came to my mind had negative connotations - things like manipulating others, tricking others, and playing the promotion game.

What I’ve come to realize over the years is that effective influencing skills are none of those things. It’s all about positively influencing outcomes.

Effective influencing is about affecting change in a positive way that preserves and enhances your relationships with others.

So why are we talking about this now? What is it about today’s business climate that makes leading by influence such a critical skill?

We are seeing three trends in the workplace:

A continued move towards flatter organizations. Companies like Google and General Electric are leaders in this trend and as companies seek to improve their responsiveness to customer demands and to create efficiencies, more are moving in this direction.

As organizations flatten, there are fewer hierarchical layers, thus requiring the need for individuals to influence one another without that direct authority.

Matrix organizational structures continue to place challenging demands on individuals. Let’s be clear, matrix structures are not new. They’ve been around in some form or fashion since the 1960s and have long been seen as a challenging organizational form to manage.

As business becomes more complex, the need for people to work in cross-functional teams within matrix structures is becoming greater.

Each individual within these cross-functional teams brings a particular skill set and represents a unique perspective. The need to be able to influence fellow team members is a survival skill necessary to make these structures function effectively.

Finally, for the first time in history, we have a four-generation workforce, including Baby Boomers, and Generations X, Y and Z, each with vastly different work behaviours. Generations Y & Z made up of individuals born between the years 1978 and 1999, currently represent 38% of the workforce.

Their affinity for technology and leadership preferences require a different approach from leaders. These individuals bring phenomenal skills to the table and prefer to be treated as equals in the workplace rather than members of an organizational hierarchy.

Their affinity for technology has a tendency to allow them to bypass layers of management to get the answers they need. These generations require a more influential approach to leadership as opposed to a reliance on positional authority.

In today’s world, technical skills and abilities may get you in the door, but it is your ability to lead and influence others that will give you staying power and upward mobility.

In partnership with our clients, we have designed, developed and refined a 5 step model for enhancing your influencing skills built around credibility, trust, vision, relationships and empowerment. Over the next five blog posts, we will explore these in turn.