10/04/2013

By Gavin Meikle, Head Of Learning And Founder Of Inter-Activ


I often get asked for tips on how to influence people over whom the enquirer has no direct line management authority.

Typically, their enquiries relate to influencing three distinct types of people, Colleagues within other departments, Clients and Civilians. Here are my six ways to increase your influence.

Tip 1: What's in it for them?
It’s obvious to us how we will benefit from their cooperation, but what about the other party? Stop, and ask yourself what's in it for them? Most people have a selfish streak and are more likely to do something for you if they can see that there is something in it for them. So you need to help them see how they will benefit from helping you.

This could be as easy as making it clear that they are doing you a favour and that you will be happy to pay them back at a later date. Sometimes, however, it needs a bit more creativity. Depending on how well you know the other person, you can choose from a variety of different motivating factors e.g. Recognition, status, financial reward, job satisfaction etc.

Tip 2: What's the consequence of ignoring your request?
The other side of the motivation seesaw is consequences. If there are no benefits and no negative ramifications of non cooperation, why would they bother doing what you want? You can increase your influence by helping them see the consequences of not helping you. These could range from damage to a relationship to delays in delivering a product or service.

Tip 3: Do them a kindness first!
If you know you are going to need some help from an external party, think about how you can do something for them ahead of time. The principle of reciprocity, the internal desire to pay back favours is a powerful driver and common across most cultures. Sometimes all you need to do is to take an interest in them and their role.

Tip 4:Seek first to understand and then to be understood.
Dr Stephen Covey wrote about this concept in his excellent book the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. He pointed out that starting a conversation to find out what others expect of you, opens the door for them to ask what you expect of them. Negotiating a shared "social contract" can be a terrific way to ensure long term cooperation from those over whom you have no real authority.

Tip 5: Ask for help from others who have a "pull" on the person you want to influence.
Most people are swayed by others around them. It could be their boss or a colleague or even a friend who has the leverage you need. When you can't use direct power, try using these third parties to influence on your behalf. Ask for their assistance and advice to prevail over their colleague.

Tip 6: Be patient and adaptable.
I am always struck by how children will try different tactics to get what they want. If their "normal" approach doesn't work they don’t give up. They keep trying different approaches until they find out what works. Many years ago, I recall trying to convince my boss to provide our home based sales reps with answering machines. He hated using these devices, and my requests were always rejected. One day, after having tried a number of different approaches, a thought struck me. I knew he was motivated by numbers and money, so I pointed out how answering machines would reduce wasted sales calls caused by cancelled appointments. I quantified the savings, and we got the machines 6 weeks later!