To influence someone is to affect or change their behavior without the direct use of authority, coercion, or force. Instead, the influencer creates change by shifting the mindset of individuals, groups, or entire organizations, persuading them to adopt the desired course of action of their own free will. The ability to influence can be important for everyday communication and maintaining harmonious relationships in our personal and family lives, but it is also a very important skill for many jobs and career paths.
For instance, being able to subtly influence your customers to “get to yes” when you’re closing a deal is an essential talent of sales professionals of all kinds, whether you’re selling shoes or business software. In fact, the world of social media and digital marketing has created a new type of selling called influencer marketing, in which influential personalities and cultural figures post pictures and testimonials with the product being sold.
The ability to influence is also essential for leadership roles in any organization, as management positions require you to motivate employees to not only fulfill their roles but to work enthusiastically at the peak of their abilities. The best executives and CEOs are talented at bringing their teams into vision alignment, with strongly shared priorities, values, and focused goal setting that allow organizations to succeed - in business as well as in the recruitment of top-flight talent.
Influencing skills are important for almost any career that requires working in a team, but they are most important for roles as managers and top executives. Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People” has been a mainstay in business school curricula despite being written nearly a century ago because this skill has always been fundamental for success in the business world. The ability to get your team aligned to work together effectively is rare and highly valued; according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, top executives earned a median annual salary of $104,690 per year in 2019, including a median pay of $184,460 for chief executive officers (CEOs).
Absolutely. There is a common myth that the ability to influence others is simply an innate talent that some people have and others don’t, but the reality is that influencing is a skill that is taught at every business school - including schools offering courses online through Coursera. You can learn how to influence others from leading faculty at top-ranked schools like University of Pennsylvania, University of Michigan, Northwestern University, and Macquarie University. And even though Coursera lets you learn remotely on a flexible schedule, you can still work with faculty in live virtual office hours that let you practice your influencing skills to an expert audience.
Some skills or experience you might need to have before learning influence are strong social skills that allow you to get along with all types of people, such as supervisors, peers, and customers. If you have any sales experience or experience presenting information and concepts to others in person or online, you may already have the skills necessary to learn advanced influencing methods.
The kind of people who are best suited for roles in influence are those who are confident in their abilities to motivate and persuade others whether or not they’re in authority roles. Types of people well suited for roles in influence can build and maintain high-quality relationships with diverse groups of individuals. People best suited for learning influence can discern other people’s attitudes, diverse social factors influencing behavior, and why people may or may not act on their intentions.
Learning influence may be right for you if you want to learn how to develop it so you can become more effective in achieving your organizational goals. Studying the subject may be right for you if you want to understand the framework of power and influence and the dynamics of effective networks, persuasion, and leverage. If you're in any type of role where you need negotiation, communication, and sales skills, then learning influence may be a good choice for you.
Common career paths for someone who has studied influence are often found in corporate management in general where the ability to persuade people is paramount. Specific common career paths for people who have studied influence might be product and brand management, research and development, and any leadership position in an organization’s C-suite. Another common career path for someone in influence is blogging where paid or sponsored influencers create content on various social media platforms. The most common career path for someone in influence is in sales where it’s critical to understand how to best persuade customers and clients using various tools, including neuromarketing.
There are many topics you can study that are related to influence, such as emotional intelligence, which may help you to work effectively in teams, build cooperative relationships, and exercise effective influence to foster meaningful change. Another topic related to influence that you can study is social psychology to help you understand why people behave in certain ways. Marketing is another strongly related topic to influence that you might consider studying.
This FAQ content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.