How To Influence People In The Workplace


In the workplace it is common to use a professional tone when addressing others. For example, if you need other people’s input to complete your project, you might send out an email with your schedule, and the words “Please plan accordingly.” Great. Very professional.

The problem is that words like that don’t do much to influence other people. They don’t motivate others to do what is necessary to help your project. And when others aren’t motivated, their own projects will take top priority, leaving yours to get buried and be left undone.

Think about how you react to requests from others. When you get an anonymous request from another department that doesn’t tie in with your current short term goals, you are likely to push it to the bottom of the stack.

But if a person that you know well walks up to your desk to ask you a favor, it is hard to resist. You may grumble that you are busy, but more likely than not you will make an effort to get the task done.

Here are some tips to break down the wall of professionalism in the workplace and enable more collaboration.

Connect With Others

Instead of sending a cold, impersonal email with the message “Please plan accordingly”, a better approach is to make a personal connection with other people. Sure, send out the email with your schedule. But follow it up with a visit to your co-worker’s desk, or a phone call if they work remotely. Chat for a moment, establish a connection, then ask if they can work your needs into their tight schedule.

You may think that you don’t have the time to take these extra steps. But it is better to take the time now than to let your project slip because you neglected the personal touch.

Build Rapport

Your co-workers are human beings and need to be treated as such. You might get away with anonymous dictates like “Please plan accordingly” when people have no choice but to do what you say. But for people who have a choice, even it if is only to prioritize other tasks over yours, you are better off with a more human approach.

Think about it. You are more likely to do a favor for a friend than for an anonymous stranger making a cold request. If someone cares enough to visit you at your desk you will automatically feel closer to them.

You should work to build rapport when you don’t need special consideration from others. Stop to chat for a moment at the coffee station. When passing people in the hall, have a friendly word.

Your goal should be to personally know every person that you need to work with, and even others that you don’t. The more people that you have a personal connection with, the better off you will be when you need something.

Write Persuasively

Double check your emails. Are you using an overly pompous and cold “professional” tone? Is there some way you could warm it up and make it more personal? Better yet, is this a conversation or point that could be more easily made by walking over to the person’s desk, or chatting in passing in the hallway?

In your emails try not to use cold, anonymous statements like “This needs to be done”. Instead, say something more personal, like “I need this from you.”

Know Your Customer

Pay attention when receiving requests from others. This can be a great chance to build rapport. Perhaps you can walk over and go over the details of what they have requested, to make sure you truly understand what is wanted.

Make sure that you deliver by their requested deadline, and perhaps have a quick follow up chat. Stick your head in their office door and tell them “I just sent you the report you requested.” then smile and go on your way.

Make Time For Others

Busy professional people often think they don’t have time to make connections. They think that taking an extra half-hour to have lunch with a co-worker, or fifteen minutes to take a coffee break together, can’t be worked into their busy schedule.

But by building relationships with key people now, you will save time in the future. When you need to ask that person for something in a crunch, you won’t need to take so much time to establish the relationship then. They will understand what you need, and feel personally invested in making it happen.

Ask other people to go to lunch with you, even if it is just to the company cafeteria. Don’t sit at your desk everyday gulping a sandwich because you are “too busy”. Understand the importance of the human connection, and make time. Even if you only have lunch or coffee with someone else once a month that is twelve more connections each year that you wouldn’t have made otherwise.

Praise Where You Can, But Be Authentic

It is good and helpful to call out things that you admire about other people, but do it in moderation. When overdone, it will sound insincere.

You might start a conversation with some small talk like “I liked the point you made in the meeting today.” But only say that if you really believe it. Don’t just pay compliments gratuitously.

People feel happier and more disposed to help you when they feel like you appreciate them

Remember Never To Criticize Publicly

This shouldn’t need saying, but if you have something to say that could be construed as critical, don’t walk over to the desk of a person sitting in an open area, like in a cubicle, and say it there. Instead, invite the person to a meeting behind closed doors.  Nothing critical should be said in public.

Remember the saying “Praise publicly but criticize privately.”

As you tailor your communications to be more personal, you will see people start to react more favorably. You will be surprised at how far these little personal touches will take you.


Putting In The Work


To achieve your goals there is no way around it. You have to put in the work.

There may be some strokes of brilliance along the way that catapult you toward your dreams, but most days it’s a simple matter of putting in the work.

Some days that is easy. Your goal for the day happens to be exactly what you want to work on, and everything flows.

But other days aren’t so easy. You find it hard to get started. You get distracted easily. You may have a task to do that is outside your comfort zone.

Here are three tips to help you cope with these common pitfalls.

Getting Started

For simply getting started, nothing beats a good routine. Every day I sit down at my desk.  I open my daily work journal and write down the one or two of the most important goals for that day.

I open my highest priority item to work on. I decide on my first small task, and write it down in my journal. I take the first step toward the task, then the next, and the next.

Sometimes you may have a reluctance to actually take the first action. In times like that it can help to discipline yourself to work on the task for only five or ten minutes. That is often enough to break up the log jam and allow yourself to flow.

Combatting Distractions

There is no doubt about it, we live in a world full of distractions. Your cell phone, email, and interesting articles on the web all compete for your time.

If you work at home you may have other distractions from children, pets, or household tasks that need to be done.

The first trick to combatting distractions is simply to get started. If you get started and get in the flow it often takes something jarring like the phone ringing to break you out of your concentration.

If you do find your self wandering — perhaps you needed to research something on the internet, then got lured into reading other non-related things — you need to pull yourself back.

Here is where I find it useful to have written down my small task in my work journal. Often if I get distracted I lose my train of thought, and have difficulty picking up where I left off. My work journal reminds me what I was trying to achieve.

Another tip is to only check your email after you have finished a task. That will be a natural time to take a break. When you come back from the break, follow the steps on getting started again, and hopefully you will be in the flow again in no time.

Outside Your Comfort Zone

For many people a large part of their work takes them outside their comfort zone. This can be especially true for solo entrepreneurs, who have to do everything themselves.

A creative person like an author, artist, or software developer usually finds the actual creation of their product to be the easy part. They have the skills and mindset necessary to do the type of work required to create their product.

The difficulty comes when having to promote the product to other people.

It can help to think about the creation process as giving birth to something new. Once it has been created, you have to launch it into the world.

As a good creative parent you need to expose your work to many people, in order to find the ones that it will click with and resonate with.

Many of the people you expose it to won’t be a good fit. But you mustn’t give up, until you help your work find its place in the world.

When outside your comfort zone it can often be useful to distance yourself from the emotions. Pretend you are doing the work for somebody else.

You can also put on a different persona. Many people at work act very differently than they do at home with their close friends or family.

Treat your own work the same way. It can be Software Susan who writes the code, but Business Susan has to get out there and promote the work.

The only way to achieve your dreams is to put in the work. Often, the biggest challenge keeping you from success is the need to do things outside your comfort zone.

Play with these tips and see if they help. If you have additional tips to share, please write them in the comments.