Increase Your Influence by Becoming More People Savvy

Published: Jan 24, 2019
Modified: Mar 25, 2020

By Rob Fazio, Ph.D.

What percent of your day do you interact with others?

What percent of your training/education has focused on the people side of business?

Every time I ask these questions, the answers I receive are very out of proportion with each other. Too often, managers receive years of training on the technical and functional aspects of their job, but are taught very little about the people side of management, including how to influence others.

A manager once asked me, “Why is it that when I hire a pair of hands, I get the whole person?” This sums up the frustration that many leaders experience when they try to influence people over whom they do not have direct power.

There are Three Principals of Influence:

  1. Influence starts with reading (learning), rather than leading.
  2. You must lead yourself before you lead others.
  3. Instead of viewing every situation as either win or lose, focus on the bigger picture.

If you are able to suspend your drive, personal agenda, and instinct to focus on winning, and instead focus on the above principles, your ability to influence others will be more effective than you ever imagined.

Understanding People’s Basic Drivers
We are all motivated by various elements that drive our behavior, whether we are aware of them or not. When we are aware of what drives us, we are able to manage our impulses and leverage our desires. Even better, when we are able to understand other people’s drivers, we can tailor our approach to match their motives so that we can more easily reach an agreement.

Typical drivers:

  • Results vs. Relationships
    - Does the person seem more concerned about performance or people?
    - Does the person talk about challenges or harmony?
  • Stats vs. Stories
    - Does the person talk about facts and numbers or share personal stories?
  • Feeling vs. Thinking
    - Does the person use words associated with emotion or thinking?
  • Visible vs. Invisible
    - Does the person or people you are influencing want to be visible or invisible?
    - Are they more motivated by being seen and getting credit for something, or are they operating under the radar?
  • People Savvy
    Influence is based on an interpersonal framework, which is your ability to interact with people. It boils down to a simple, three step framework: Listen, Leverage, and Lead.
  1. Listen: The most common misstep in influencing is starting with pushing rather than pulling. The art of listening is simple, yet not easy. Pay attention to the other person’s point of view. Seek to understand and find common ground. Ask questions that allow people to build trust and confidence in you. The more you show someone that you are genuinely trying to understand him, the stronger will be your foundation for influence.
  2. Leverage: Each step builds upon the previous ones, just as if you were walking up a set of stairs. While you are listening, pay attention to what is important to the other person and integrate his interests into your direction. For example, if you want someone to support one of your initiatives, try to tap into something that interests him, such as an area of development, an ambition, or a value. A way to accomplish this is to say something like, “How can we play a role in each other’s ambitions?” One of my esteemed colleagues, Rich, once provided me with the insight that often, people want to move in the same direction as you, but they just may not see the same road.
  3. Lead: In every conversation there is a crossroads, an opportunity to invite that person to listen to what you have to say. Look for that opening and go for it. Here’s one way to make the transition: “I appreciate your insights. Let me walk you through how I see things.” Transition statements are often the most challenging, yet a most critical part of a conversation. I recommend preparing a few transition statements that are genuine for your style. Confidence is contagious! By taking the lead after you have paid attention, you help set a vision and direction. Communicate where you want to go and the case for going in this direction. Identify a couple next steps and ask if the person is in agreement. If yes, move forward. If not, circle back to listening.

During a conversation, be:

  • Genuine
  • Aware of culture and climate
  • Someone focused on the marathon rather than just the sprint
  • Yourself, but don’t be all about yourself
  • Prepared
  • Present in the moment

Self and Social Snapshot:
Interpersonal interactions come down to 4 factors:

  1. Self
  2. Social
  3. Confidence
  4. Comfort

You must first ensure that you are confident and comfortable and then find ways to help others feel confident and comfortable.

Key Questions to ask yourself:

  • Am I confident entering and during the conversation?
  • Am I able to enhance the confidence of the other person/people?
  • Am I comfortable entering and during in the conversation?
  • Am I able to make the other person/people feel comfortable?
  • What do I need to change in my approach?

Confidence and Comfort Builders:

  SOCIAL (How others feel)
  • Positive self statements
  • Make a list of what makes you confident
  • Have a goal and intention for the conversation
  • Know your key messages
  • Have transition statements prepared
  • Know that people don't know what you don't know until you let them know
  • Encourage them and follow their lead
  • Focus on understanding their point of view
  • Demonstrate your belief in them or their point of view
  • Know that every conversation is an opportunity to learn
  • Have a cue word that you can self to yourself that keeps you calm and centered
  • Identify what allows you to feel comfortable in conversations
  • Find a connection or common ground
  • Use humor
  • Ask questions about what you think is important to them
  • Mirror the language they use
  • Compliment a unique viewpoint
  • Balance your need for results with building a relationship


The Bottom Line:
Here’s the main take away: When it comes to influence, giving facilitates getting. Everything worthwhile takes effort, and you only get what you give. If you want to get somewhere, be willing to put in the time and effort to get there. When it comes to influence, that means gaining awareness before you get action. Anyone can be “influential” when they have positional power. True influence comes when you can get people to “get you” and the best way to do that is to get them!


About the Author(s)

Rob Fazio, Ph.D. is a talent strategy and leadership consultant with Leadership Research Institute ( where he specializes in executive coaching and tough transitions. He  is a co-founder of Hold the Door for Others (, a nonprofit dedicated to empowering people to grow after experiencing loss and adversity.  Contact him at [email protected] or (215) 514-5113.