Recent Energy Club meetings have spoken about sustainability strategies and the need to engage colleagues in your endeavours.

One of the challenges of engagement is colleagues mistakenly thinking you, the Energy Manager, are single-handedly responsible for the organisation’s sustainability. In reality, the opposite is true; your role is to influence and lead them to take responsibility and make the changes needed to reduce energy consumption and cut carbon.

Engaging through influence is considerably more powerful, by drawing on the skills of others to push your agenda. So how do you do this?

Your own experience tells you that influencing or being influenced happens when both parties are ’aligned’; that is when both parties feel comfortable in each other’s company. That comfort comes from trust, and people trust people who seem to speak in the same way as they do and who also listen to their views.

How you communicate your message is invariably more influential than what the message says.

Behaviour types

Everyone likes to think that they’re unique in their own special way. At the same time, everyone mentally groups people together who behave in a similar way; “Oh, I’ve met that type before”. There’s a simple but effective model that helps to influence others, based on grouping people into three behaviour types:

Dominant – this behaviour is where the person is motivated to achieve personal gains first, in power, money or status, and wants to be seen as the winner.

Dependent – this behaviour is where the person is very people orientated and wants to do the best by colleagues, the team and others.

Detached – this behaviour is where the person is interested in and motivated by facts, systems or technology and has no real interest in individuals and their foibles.

The clues to identifying who is which behaviour type, is in the language that they use; for example, Dominants will often use words like “Win, success, I, me, my” whereas a Dependent will use’ “We, my people, my team” and Detached types will use “Evidence, statistics, numbers, the department, the organisation,” etc.

Shaping your language

So by noticing the language and also the behaviour of those you are trying to influence, you can use the words that they feel most comfortable with.

So talk about the “Career-enhancing opportunities” to a Dominant, “Your team’s involvement” to a Dependent and “Percentage productivity gains” to a Detached.

Of course, no one is 100% one or other behaviour type but you’ll be surprised by how many people show these traits (including you and me).

The key to influencing is to adapt your language and behaviour to speak to people in the way that they identify with, not in the way that you prefer.