“What is soft power? It is the ability to get what you want through attraction rather than coercion or payments. It arises from the attractiveness of a country’s culture, political ideals, and policies.”
― Joseph S. Nye Jr., Soft Power: The Means To Success In World Politics
Coercive Power is known to all of us. It is the use of force. On other hand Economic power, in all of its forms of reward and penalty, is equally common. But how can you with others and get people to do what you want, without incentives, sanctions or coercion?
In today’s world of matrix management, holacracy and adhocracy, few managers have any sort of formal power to wield. Yet you’re still required to get things done, on time, on budget and to specification.
Soft power builds on your social influence. This, in turn, reflects the reality of day-to-day human interactions. And they are equally valid at work as anywhere else.
You can use soft power to shape, reinforce and shift the perceptions and opinions of colleagues, clients and other organizational stakeholders. So, let’s look at how you can deploy soft power in your workplace, on your projects and when you are leading change:
- Have Integrity. That means constantly living up to your commitment. Act with Authenticity. A reputation of integrity is a long-term investment, and that genuine reputation can be tarnished with one poor choice. So, make integrity your priority whenever you face a hard-hitting decision.
- Be helpful. Offer your assistance when someone needs it without expecting anything in return. Building up credit in your bank of favors and helpfulness is a great way to grow your soft power.
- Get familiar with those whom you want to influence. To crease a comfortable relationship, know them and let them know you. Therefore, many brands spend a lot of money on brand recognition advertising: establishing familiarity with their product in the minds of their target market. Invest time in getting to know — and be known by — the people you want to influence.
- Take time to listen. People will seak out individuals who take the time and make the effort to hear and understand. Ironically, it’s often the people who say the least that can influence the most. This is, perhaps, the softest of soft power!
- You will be more attractive to people, if you have expertise. Authority also comes from your knowledge, experience and expertise. When you have this kind of authority, people will seek out your advice, feeling confident that it will be well-informed and therefore reliable..
- How you come across to people is important. Do you treat them with respect? Are you able to remain courteous, even when you are under pressure? Diplomacy is a key part of soft power. Have good manners which means being more than polite. It means showing respect, which is a sure way of gaining authority.
- It is true that people like people who are similar to them. That is why it is Important to get to know the people you work with. Finding out about people’s interests, and then making a point to talk about them in small-talk, is a powerful way to build rapport. If I think you share one of my interests, I am more likely to like and trust you.
- Charm is a shockingly effective way to get people to like you. Smile, be personable. Give those around you compliments but it related to work.
- Because we are social creatures, the promise of a relationship, and the opportunity to deepen it, are powerful motivators that you can exploit effectively to influence people. Build relationship with those you are working/ associating with. The deeper those relationship, the greater the influence.
- Status is Important. Everyone wants to feel Important. Hence it is critical that you are respectful to subordinates and superiors. As social animals, we don’t just crave belonging and a desire to be part of an in-group: we also want status within our group.
- Our need to control our environment is a fundamental part of being human. As soon as we feel we have insufficient control, we suffer symptoms that we describe as stress. Allow others to have some control over what they do to create trust and ease what could be a stressful situation.
- We all want to feel useful and effective. Give people a task and when they’ve done it, acknowledge their achievement. Make them feel successful and they will help you.
Soft Power is the strongest form of power. If you rely on hard power, there’s always a chance you’ll run into someone with a bigger stick than you have. And, if economic power is your favored approach, what happens when you meet someone with deeper pockets? But soft power doesn’t compete in the same way. You make friends and they act as your friends. Nothing can beat that.