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Work some magic to change minds

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Knowing how best to influence people will help you turn your ideas into reality

Influencing skills are vital for dealing with challenges at work. In the current economic climate, we face many challenges. Nurses and their managers constantly have to deliver more for less, so we all need to get creative to deliver outcomes with fewer resources. Now, more than ever before, is a great time to sharpen the way you influence those around you.

You may have a great idea but to make it a reality you have to be able to persuade your colleagues and managers to consider it. You may need funds for a project that would improve practice and benefit patients - you’ll have to influence commissioners to part with their cash.

Influence is not tied to your position and anyone can be influential. Even children from an early age learn to influence their parents to get what they want. So how can you get what you want and make things happen?

To be good at influencing can take time and effort, so commitment is essential. Be clear about what you are trying to accomplish and why you want it. Then, connect with those around you.

Tips on how to succeed at influencing people

● Work out what you are trying to achieve and why
● Identify your stakeholders and canvas their views
● Who is on your side, in the middle and opposing?
● Who has the decision-making power?
● Build your case
● Test out your case
● Present your case
● Get feedback and refine your case
● Be prepared to start small

One of the best ways is to actively listen. You may be passionate about a particular aspect of practice, but how do others feel? Ask, rather than tell. Open-ended questions are useful for getting the viewpoints of your colleagues, managers and patients.

To connect with people, build rapport. Remember: people like people like them. So get on the wavelength of those you want to influence. This will help you get the evidence to support your case and work out who is, and is not, on your side. Map out all those with a stake or interest in what you are trying to achieve, who has decision-making power and how they feel about your issue; this is called a stakeholder analysis.

Use the evidence to develop a case for change, employing your allies - staff and patients. Highlight the benefits, not the features; for example, if you are trying to influence a commissioner, show how the new practice will save money, or if colleagues, how it will save them time.

Get feedback and see things from the other perspective. Use any objections to refine your message. Be flexible. Don’t let your passion turn to aggression or appear dogmatic. If there is resistance, find out the reasons, rather than oppose them. Agree with them whenever you can.

Focus on common ground and build on it. Make it easy to say “yes” and hard to say “no”. Present your views as an extra, not a contradiction.

Be prepared to start small and build on successes. You may want to influence the world, but you can only do this one person at a time.


Ruth Oshikanlu is a nurse, midwife and practising health visitor in London. A coach and managing director of Goal Mind, she also works with individuals to uncover and analyse their key motivators, and coach them to perform at their best. She is also a Queen’s Nurse.

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