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Influencing people remotely

Here’s a contemporary workplace challenge.

You need to get someone bought into your vision, project plan or endorsing a decision you need made. They may report to you, either dotted or solid line. Perhaps they are a member of your virtual project team, or you may have just been told to get them on board.

The trouble is, you can’t meet with them face-to-face.

How are you going to make it happen?

The secret to rising to this challenge is to embrace it, recognise how it impacts your normal influence approach and then get proactive.

The challenge of leading remote teams

The remote communication mediums make it very hard to establish and foster high-trust relationships so central to effective influence. Sharing emotions, conveying empathy and reading reactions is extremely challenging – for most people.

Another key aspect is that the physical remoteness makes it hard to understand their context. Knowing what else is going on around them is a critical insight in determining the best influencing approach.

Its also very easy to disappear, drop off the call, delay and dodge a decision they don’t want to make. So keeping things moving is hard – especially if you’ve got to influence several people in different parts of the world and get them all agreeing.

But, you know all this, so what can you do about it?

Upgrade your influencing skills

  1. Embrace the future. This is it. Instead of struggling, view this as a serious opportunity to upgrade your skills so that working with people remotely, and influencing them, is exciting. Make it your goal to become highly skilled at this.
  2. Make trust building a priority. This means stepping back (if you can) from your influence attempt and brainstorming how you can get to know each other properly. It’s in both of your interest to build trust, not just yours, so do this together.
  3. Get on a video call. Technology is here, so make sure your willingness to embrace it keep up. Pinging a message or sending a two-line email may seem expedient, but you are falling into the trap of remote communication. And make sure both of you have decent lighting!
  4. Exaggerate your emotional communication. Video is good but not good enough to convey subtle changes in your body language. Naturally, be wary of the potential reactions when using mediums that make it difficult to catch and correct misunderstandings (email).
  5. Make “yes” irresistible. Even from the other side of the world, they will snap your hand off if you make it so good that they’d be mad to say no.

If you do all of this, your relationship will soon move to a level at which physical distance is no longer an issue. You will trust each other, know what’s going on and be able to communicate effectively.

One final point – if you think remote influence is a problem, it will be a problem. Believe it will be easy and it will certainly be easier. Examples of remote influencing are all around you – if you look for them. When you see them, learn from them.

You can read the first part of Colin’s blog here.

Colin is our Influencing Specialist. As a leadership coach and author, he helps senior leaders to increase their impact, influence and results. His work has been used in over 20% of the FTSE 100 companies and 30% of Fortune 100 corporations.

Further reading

Influential Leadership – A Leader’s Guide to Getting Things Done

21 Dirty Tricks at Work – How to Beat the Game of Office Politics


About Aziz Corporate

Aziz was founded over 40 years ago by Khalid Aziz, a media pioneer of his day who at 21 became the youngest ever appointed BBC producer.

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