When seeking to influence someone or a situation, start with the end in mind. What are you trying to achieve? What outcome is required? The more specific you can be, the easier it will be to plot a course to achieving it and recognising how close you are.
Next you need to build a rapport with the other person. You need to establish common ground so you have something you agree upon to move forward from. Key here are communication skills, in particular the ability to listen and understand. If you understand their position well enough to articulate it better than they can themselves you will establish your credibility in their eyes. You will demonstrate to them that you truly understand their position and they will in turn be open to understanding yours. Don’t forget your body language, voice tone and eye contact. Don’t appear to engage with your mouth only to have your body or your eyes let on that you are bored or disinterested.
Maintain your flexibility. If things are not going in the right direction, try another method or another angle. Avoid raising the tone or volume of your voice. Stay calm and in control. Beware of finding yourself being squeezed by time. Attempts to rush influence tend to provoke conflict with emotions coming to the fore.
Depending on the personality type, reasoning is often the best strategy. If this can be linked to a shared view of the outcome so much the better. “We all want to deliver this report on time, but we can only achieve this if you do that”. With the common goal in mind it could become more of a negotiation with the other party having useful ideas about how to achieve the objective. The ‘win – win’ scenario is best for all.
Sometimes you can influence by calling in a favour – “can you help me out here?” for this to work, your ‘stock’ must be high in the eyes of the other party. Either that or they will ‘bank one’ for use against you later. You may also be able to use the weight of opinion of others to persuade someone of your argument. Peer pressure and not wanting to be the odd one out can be a strong influencer.
If you have to revert to asserting your authority, invoking a higher authority or even threatening sanctions you may win the battle, but you could be well on the way to losing the war. Trust will have been eroded if not destroyed.
At the outset, when you start with the end in mind, it is important to consider the responses you could get.
- Compliance – they do it because they have to. This is usually the result of asserting authority. You will need to monitor carefully that the work is done the way you requested because commitment is low.
- Identification – the work is done because they identify with or admire the influencer. Commitment here is good.
- Adoption – or internalisation. The idea is completely bought in to and embraced. They see the greater benefits and accept the idea as their own. Commitment is high and self maintaining.
Projects can be delivered in the compliance mode but they require constant hands on management and checking of work done. Quality will often be low and the project will be exhausting.
Successful projects can be delivered with the identification mode. The team identify with the project manager and want to be seen as successful with them. But there is a high dependence on the charisma and character of the project manager. Whilst they identify with the project manager they don’t necessarily buy in to the wider goal or objective in its own right.
Teams that excel at execution are in adoption mode. They share in the common objective and have complete trust in each other. Every idea is adopted as their own and they all work to achieve success.