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Top Strategies For Building Influence & Persuasion


Top Strategies For Building Influence & Persuasion

The skill of persuasion is an important one to hone. Here we share some top strategies for building influence and persuasion.

The Harvard Business Review did research that revealed the top personal — or soft — skills of successful entrepreneurs.

The number one skill was persuasion.

“The quality serial entrepreneurs displayed above others was persuasion, or the ability to convince others to change the way they think, believe or behave,” study results stated. “Persuasion for this study was defined as the ability to persuade others to join the mission.”

The key traits of a serial entrepreneur

Building influence as a consultant

In a recent Veritux Women’s Group event, the topic of discussion was how to influence or persuade others. Celine Teoh and Agnès Le led members through the best practices and top strategies for building influence as a consultant.

celine teoh and agnes le
Celine Teoh, left, and Agnès Le

Robert Cialdini, author of Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, has studied the psychology of why people say yes to the requests of others.

“When making a decision, it would be nice to think that people consider all the available information in order to guide their thinking,” he writes at his website, Influence at Work. “But the reality is very often different. In the increasingly overloaded lives we lead, more than ever we need shortcuts or rules of thumb to guide our decision-making.”

The 7 principles of persuasion

Cialdini’s research identified seven shortcuts that guide human behavior:

  • Reciprocity: People feel obliged to give back to others the form of a behavior, gift, or service that they have received first.
  • Scarcity: People want more of those things they can have less of.
  • Authority: People follow the lead of credible, knowledgeable experts.
  • Consistency: People like to be consistent with the things they have previously said or done.
  • Liking: People prefer to say yes to those they like.
  • Social Proof: Especially when they are uncertain, people will look to the actions and behaviors of others to determine their own.
  • Unity: The shared identity that the influencer shares with the influencee.

“Understanding these shortcuts and employing them in an ethical manner can significantly increase the chances that someone will be persuaded by your request,” Cialdini says.

Influence skills for women

For women, influence and persuasion have layered considerations. They often run into bias at work or when trying to assert their influence.

In the Women’s Leadership Innovation Lab at Stanford, Joan C. Williams says that many of the hurdles women face at work can be categorized into four patterns of gender bias:

  • Prove It Again: Needing to prove yourself repeatedly.
  • The Tightrope: Walking the line between being liked but not respected or respected but not liked.
  • Maternal Wall: Feeling your competence and commitment questioned once you become a mother.
  • Tug of War: Tension among women based on different styles of navigating bias in the workplace.

By seeing these patterns, women can stop feeling like their set-backs are purely personal failings, and start using the strategies outlined by Williams.

Drawn from interviews with more than a hundred successful women, Williams presents these strategies as practical tools for women to succeed at work now.

Williams’ strategies for overcoming bias:

  • Form a Posse: Team up with people to publicly celebrate successes.
  • Gender Judo: Use a mix of “masculine” and “feminine” traits to be assertive and approachable as needed.
  • Strategic “No”: Say “Yes” to one or two pieces of office housework, then say “No” and provide alternatives for the rest.
  • Ask for Help: Bring others on board to share office housework.
  • Be Explicit: Counter assumptions about mothers by being explicit about your career goals and choices.
  • Make an Enemy into an Ally: If someone is undercutting you, call it out, find common ground and propose mutual support.

Leading with competency or warmth

In the Veritux Women’s Group event, Celine Teoh said that women often need to decide whether to lead with competency or warmth when attempting to persuade or influence others.

“In general, think about starting with warmth first to establish a connection,” she suggested.

This reinforces some commonalities that resonate, and lets the other person or people know that you understand them and are one of them, not just coming in to tell them what to do.

Leading up front with intent — for example, by stating that you are there for their success and you share the same common goals — fosters a relationship that can pave the way for your influence, and lets the others know you have something of value to offer. This can set an important foundation for success from the beginning.

Persuasion must also be viewed through a gender lens. Sometimes leading with competence is the better choice for women.

With men, competence is often assumed. For women, sometimes leading with kindness or warmth is seen as weakness.

In certain situations where you feel your competency might be questioned, the better choice might be to lead with competency to establish your authority, expertise, and value — then follow up with warmth to foster a connection.

Get out of your own way

One of the biggest barriers to building and using power is our reluctance to build and use influence, says Jeffrey Pfeffer, Professor of Organizational Behavior at Stanford University.

“The first rule of power is to get out of your own way. The most powerful people I know describe themselves as fearless, shameless, bold, and brave. They have gotten out of their own way by losing the scripts that hold them back, and you can, too.”


  1. Harvard Business Review Research: The Skills That Make an Entrepreneur
  2. Robert Cialdini: Influence at Work
  3. Women’s Leadership Innovation Lab at Stanford: What Works for Women at Work
  4. Learning Corner with Jeffrey Pfeffer: Get Out of Your Own Way on Your Path to Power