Colin Gautrey is an author, trainer and executive coach who has specialized and is recognised as an expert in the field of power and influence for over ten years.
Vera: What is does it mean to be influential today and why is being influential important?
Colin: Influence is about getting people to do, think or feel differently. So, unless everyone is already doing what you want them to do, you need to be able to influence them somehow. Today, the opportunity to influence more and different people is vast, yet you need to be more flexible in your approach, especially when seeking to influence people in different cultures.
Vera: Is there a distinction between “being influential” and being an “influential person”?
Colin: It may be just semantics. However, “being” seems to imply doing something. If you get it right, you can set things up so that you are able to influence without doing anything at all, apart from being known. That is what I call being an “influential person”. A very effective position to be in!
Vera: Over 10 years of helping people influence better, what would you say are the key challenges people face in building important relationships?
Colin: Overcoming their own inner bias towards others. Humans are programmed to make assumptions, and for a very good reason – they aid survival. However these assumptions, and the attitudes they stimulate, especially if they are negative towards the other person, will mask the facts and make it more difficult to build a high quality relationship.
Vera: So someone wants to increase their influence, what’s your advice on how what they might do?
Colin: Wow, where to start? There are many things and that is one of the reasons I have spent so much time writing my blog. But to keep things simple, the first strong piece of advice is to work very hard indeed to truly understand the other person’s position.This will help build trust and empathy, while also allowing you to understand how best to help them to commit to what you want them to do.
Vera: Influence like trust can be lost. What can one do to recover when they find themselves in such a situation?
Colin: Acknowledge that it has happened, first to yourself. Look critically at how you have contributed to the loss (be it influence or trust). Then you need to objectively analyse the whole situation, putting the emotion to one side for a moment. Then you can start to plan what steps are necessary to maximise the prospects that you can rebuild.
Vera: There are more and more young people wanting to make their mark sooner rather than later. How can they achieve more influence especially with their older colleagues?
Colin: As a father of three, I see my children at their influential worst when they make me feel that they are disrespecting my position. That doesn’t mean I am always right, or need to feel respected, but it gets their influence off to a bad start when they don’t demonstrate that they understand where I am coming from. Actually, this doesn’t just apply generation gaps; it is always a good idea to acknowledge the other side’s position. In some cultures this is more important (or even critical) than in others. From a young person’s position, it is then important to be adding value, rather than trying to just sweep away us older people. We have far more power and capability than many youngsters realise!
Vera: The many books you’ve written on influencing includes one titled “Positive influence for women” What are the challenges in influencing that women face that men don’t and what are your suggestions on how they might address them?
Colin: This is a complicated area and I strongly suggest that people check out my free email course on this subject (www.learntoinfluence.com/ewomen). In the main, it is important to recognise that the challenge is really about influencing from a minority position. This challenge is not just relevant to gender differences; exactly the same applies to minority based on race, colour, nationality, qualifications, experience – in fact any feature that makes individuals feel like they are different and on the outside of the main group. In all of these minority situations careful, objective analysis is required to determine what the most effective strategy is likely to be. And this needs to focus on how to overcome the real or perceived differences enough to open the main group up to your influence.
Vera: Influencing is a process but there are situations when one needs to seize a moment to gain recognition with someone. Would you call that an act of influencing and how would one do that?
Colin: Sure it is an act of influencing because it is creating a change of some sort in the mind of the other person. This sort of thing is usually referred to as the elevator pitch, and that takes preparation and courage. The most important tip I can give is to make sure you have a very keen sense of the value you are able to offer and how others can benefit from that value. Not only does it equip you to better seize the moment, it also does a great deal to build your general confidence levels. Additionally, you performance will rise too.
Vera: Your work is focused on helping people influence others. What about the other way round when others seek to influence us; what are the ways that one might engage to achieve win-win results?
Colin: Just make sure you listen carefully to what others are saying to you. Suspend your initial reaction long enough to evaluate their real agenda. Then make a clear decision and deliver it in an encouraging way. I have to say, that I am very alert to other people attempting to influence me, because you never know, they may well have something really useful for me!
Vera: How can organizations create an environment that facilitates strong relationship building?
Colin: There is only one reliable way to do this. Start at the top and make sure that the top people in the organisation are living and breathing the value of fostering strong relationships. Only then can you really lead by example and help the whole organisation to see the behaviours you want, and also, root out undesirable behaviour. Putting values like this on the way, pointing to them and saying that is what you want people to do is pointless if you don’t also demonstrate those behaviours.
Colin Gautrey is an author, trainer and executive coach who has specialized and is recognised as an expert in the field of power and influence for over ten years. He combines solid research with deep personal experience in corporate life to offer his audiences critical yet simple insights into how to achieve results with greater influence. Based in the UK, Colin has a wealth of experience in various disciplines including Mergers and Acquisitions, International Strategy, Information Technology, Sales and Leadership Development. He also has considerable experience working with a wide range of industries and professions. Colin adopts a highly ethical approach to influence and encourages those he works with to find practical ways to build trust, foster collaboration, and gain mutually beneficial results. Learn more about Colin’s work at www.learntoinfluence.com