Exerting our influence

Listening, understanding and knowing your audience are all key skills when it comes to influencing, says Karen Middleton 

CSP Chief Executive Karen Middleton
CSP chief executive Karen Middleton

I see a general theme of ‘influencing’ in this month’s Frontline. I understand this as a critical skill for physiotherapy staff – and it’s really an extension of the physiotherapy skills we use with patients and communities. We must influence their behaviour if they are to achieve the outcomes they desire.

Locally, you will be influencing other clinicians and managers. The latter were my first experience of needing to influence, either as a CSP steward or as a clinician trying to influence a change in practice or our service. Gradually this extended to senior management and local commissioners.

The CSP influencing toolkit would have been invaluable to me, particularly as it legitimises exerting our influence as part of being a fully rounded clinician. We could have the best evidential service in the world, but if we can’t influence those who purchase our services, patients won’t benefit from it. Those in independent practice probably know this more keenly than anyone!

Then there is national influencing – again many of you will be involved in this through your professional networks or academia and, of course, the CSP does this on your behalf, too.

How we act on your behalf is primarily based on decisions made by your elected Council which has two primary tasks – to provide leadership to the profession and to govern the organisation. To perform these roles, Council members are always keen to hear from the membership and so spend a lot of their time at various meetings and events to listen to what members are saying. So your influence lies in not only who you elect but your direct contact with Council members.

This is never more palpable than at ARC, when representatives come together to debate issues that affect the profession and vote for those that Council must consider in depth. During the years I have been chief executive, I have seen how these motions and debates translate into CSP policy and then how my staff work to influence on behalf of members. It is a system that works, but your engagement is vital.

I enjoyed seeing many of you at ARC recently and listening to the debates. In themselves they are good practice in influencing in terms of forming your argument and presenting it.

For me, knowing your audience, whether it is your peers, your manager, an executive, or a politician is the critical aspect of influencing. Walking in their shoes and appreciating their priorities will help you to shape your message. The starting point for influencing is getting your audience to listen, so understanding where they are coming from is key. As a collective, our power to influence is formidable. Let’s use it! 

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