Four strategies to influence learners

Share this page

Written by Tim Baker on 18 March 2015

As L&D practitioners we are in the business of influencing others, particular learners. We are professional influencers. Whether it is one-on-one coaching, facilitation, presenting online, lecturing, training or platform speaking, we are trying to persuade learners to do, say, or think differently. Influencing is our lifeblood.

How do we improve our capacity to persuade others?

There are essentially four broad strategies to influence anybody about anything. The effectiveness of these four strategies depends on many things. But there are three that are critical:

  • our personal influencing bias;
  • the personal influencing preference of the learner or learners; and
  • the learning context.

Here below is my Influencing Framework:

There are two styles - Push and Pull. A push style is a direct assertive way of getting your point across. Using a pull style is an indirect, subtle way to persuade others. They are both highly effective in the right circumstances.

The two approaches are persuading with logic and persuading with emotion. Logic is using facts and rational argument to make the case. Emotion is about tugging at the heart strings to get your way.

These dimensions create four influencing strategies.


Investigators like to marshal their facts and figures and assertively advance their argument. They use logic to persuade and tend to be methodical and structured in their approach.

Former US vice-president and environmental activist Al Gore is an investigator with his use of a barrage are statistics and data to make his strong argument for action against climate change.

To be influential as an L & D professional, we need to present information in a logical, rational way, and back up your claims with facts. This leads to a more credible argument.


Calculators like to promote the positives of a proposal and highlight the weaknesses in the current position. People know where they stand with calculators. They use logic to advance their cause. Generally calculators are good debaters.

Former Great Britain Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was a calculator.

Training professionals need to promote the positive benefits of a particular course-of-action and simultaneously explain the negative consequences of the status quo.


Motivators use emotion to influence. They are big picture thinkers that link a cause with a compelling vision of the future. Motivators often have a way with words and can define a simple and convincing vision.

Martin Luther King was a motivator who moved a generation of people with his great speech - I have a dream...

L & D professionals can appeal to the emotions of people when explaining the usefulness of a concept. Normally this done by appealing to values that people hold dear, such as integrity and honesty.


Collaborators also influence using emotion. But they persuade people by involving them in the decision. Collaborators are great team builders. They engage people's hearts and minds.

Mother Teresa was a collaborator with her capacity to inspire those close to her to work towards the cause of poverty.

We all know that engaging the learner is critically important for a successful learning experience. By doing so, we get participants emotionally involved with the learning outcomes.

Consider this: You are about to facilitate a workshop to a group of 12 people who are not overly excited about the topic. How do you use these four strategies? First, you want to make sure that the programme has a logical and easy to understand flow and that you back up your claims using experts (investigation). Then it would be useful at explain the personal benefits of applying the learning and the pitfalls of not taking onboard this knowledge or skills (calculation). It is important to relate what the participants are learning to "the big picture" by appealing to some universally-held values (motivation). Finally, throughout the workshop you involve and engage the participants as much as you possibly can (collaboration). Consciously exercising all four strategies will be convincing. 

Which one of these influencing strategies are you most and least comfortable with? These are the strategies you are probably respectively over using and under using.

This is an extract from Dr Tim Baker's latest book - The New Influencing Toolkit: Capabilities for Communicating with Influence (Palgrave Macmillan).

About the author
Dr Tim Baker is an international consultant and author and a regular contributor to TJ

Related Articles

3 August 2022

Luke Smith says you can’t create a company vision without employee collaboration – here’s why 

13 July 2022

The TJ team has assembled a varied and challenging reading list for this week! We hope it inspires, informs and educates in equal measure.

12 July 2022

Mike McLaughlin and Elaine Cox offer leaders six ways to reduce ego and lead with humility