Your LEADERSHIP TOOLBOX…should have these 2 skills

As a leader in business your ability to Influence and Negotiate both internally and externally is critical to your business success. These skills come natural to some however I would argue without consistent sharpening even the "negotiating prodigy" can be deduced to mediocrity.  If you aren't a prodigy in soft skills like influence and negotiation it takes time to master and requires continuous training, practice, and execution. I teach influence/negotiation skills to some of the world's top companies and that's not bragging, it's more of a microcosm of a skill deficit among today's leader. There is a misconception out there that someone's position at work or life strengthens their ability to influence and negotiate. That misconception is real. Yes, the CEO of corporation has a great deal of what I call "plastic influence" because of the respect the position bestows. However, unless that CEO has earned the level of influence with subordinates and peers required to maximize their full leadership potential...they'll only obtain "plastic influence". This is also true for the non-CEO, perhaps two of the most difficult competencies to really master are influencing and negotiating.

The State of Influence

I hope what was noticed is that I did not title this section “How to Influence”, I believe there is far too much inaccurate information out there on the subject. Preaching the idea that there is a magic bullet or one single way you can become an influencer is just downright a con. Today’s social media environment is saturated with the term influencer whether that signifies a movie star or famous athlete…everyone wants to be of influence. Similar to how some tout themselves as a leader you often find people that are anointed influencers especially in today’s corporate world, mostly anoint themselves. Simply, my belief is in order to be an influencer one has to be influenced. You’re probably saying to yourself that doesn’t make sense and on the surface that appears to be the case…but indulge me. When I say one has to be influenced what I’m saying is that value has to be recognized on both ends. As an influencer I first must recognize what you value and how that value influences me in return. Influencing is really a reciprocal process because both parties have to receive some energy in order for that behavior to proceed. Here’s an example, I was working with a CEO of a small manufacturing company of about 600 employees. The company was fairly successful in spite of the fact that there was heavy turnover, almost a revolving door of people leaving and new people coming in. Constant instability and internal turmoil. The CEO saw this as just the normal hardships of running a business and because business was going well didn’t feel the need to address the issue. I can remember this situation like it was yesterday, upon meeting with him during our schedule appointment one of his employees rush into our meeting frantically. Apparently, some of the workers decided to walk away from their jobs…yes just picked up their things and left. It was the strangest thing I’d ever seen because it happened out of the blue and it was just an odd occurrence. Mind you I’d met most of the workers previously having done workshops with them so this surprised the hell out of even me let alone the CEO. After respectfully excusing himself from our meeting which I understood fully (lol!), it came to be that some of his employees felt betrayed. Practicing what I called earlier as “plastic influence” the CEO felt his title/position afforded him the luxury to maintain a sense of influence over his employees, but that was the problem it was OVER his employees and not thru them. He never really valued his employees because he didn’t equate his success thru them…influencing is a reciprocal process. The lesson learned that the CEO and I discovered during that situation that in order to influence one has to be influenced.

Influencing thru Negotiation

During my negotiation skills training classes I stress the importance of leadership. Having been through many business negotiations in my career (e.g. company mergers & acquisitions, licensing etc), what I find is that there is very little leadership involved. While some look at negotiating as a “Game of Thrones” the true art of negotiating is again reciprocating value. Yes, we’re back at that word again and why it’s the answer to influence and negotiating. I preach to my classes that in order to get what you want in a negotiating situation you must be in tuned with the value your partner wants. This idea that me winning and you losing is not negotiation…that is sport. The Gordon Gekko’s of the world see negotiation as a sport but in reality very few negotiations are successful when one party’s goal is to take advantage of the other. Influence can play an important role in the negotiation process, especially at the office. Perhaps the most difficult negotiation situation is not with a customer…but with a fellow colleague. Many of my negotiation classes are customer focused, however the discussion often deviates into the company’s corporate environment. When dealing with a peer at the office the negotiation process often takes a personal angle because there is an innate relationship that exists. Every person within an organization has a responsibility unfortunately what happens is that responsibility overshadows everything else…including your responsibility. Where responsibilities often collide is when one responsibility cannot succeed without the other’s consent. We see this all the time when comes to project management when the project manager has to get things done thru others who don’t necessarily see the same priorities. Now, the project manager see themselves in the eye of the influencing and negotiating storm. The key here is identifying what value I can provide to those who I need to get things done.    

Key Takeaway

VALUE is the golden key that opens the door to both being a powerful influencer and effective negotiator. Both skills require a reciprocation of value that takes leadership. Leadership as mentioned earlier has been absent in today's negotiations, and I submit has been the culprit of many stalemated negotiation situations. In order to be an effective leader in business and life having exceptional competencies in influence and negotiation is a critical success factor...further training and development is recommended.

Checkout my presentation on: "The Art of Influence & Negotiation...2 competencies to be successful in life" ( )

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