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Be the big fish in a big pond

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Your ability to influence others depends not just on your learning and practising different tactics. In this action-packed toolkit, find out the factors that affect the complex interaction that plays out while gaining commitment across different levels of the organisation.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could plant our ideas, like seeds, into the minds of others through their dreams – and when they awoke, they embraced that idea as if it was their own?

While this was the basic principle behind Oscar-winning film Inception, the reality is far different. In actuality, your position in an organisation and the power it gives you aren’t always enough to motivate people to do what you ask. You may negotiate with or persuade your colleagues to make short-term behavioural change, but to create sustained change, you will need to be skillful at the art of influence – that is, negotiation, persuasion and motivation.

In this toolkit, we bring you different tactics of influence, and how using these in relevant situations can help HR leaders achieve the results they are looking for. CCL’s research has been compiled in this article to bring you a sense of the different approaches to influence in an organisation, the influence tactics you use most often, and a checklist to conduct an effective influence session.

Typically, a total of 11 influence tactics have been found effective in different situations and with different people – rational persuasion; consultation; inspirational appeals; collaboration, apprising; ingratiation; exchange; personal appeals; legitimating; pressure; and coalition – the first four of which are cited as the most widely used ones. Illustration one depicts a self-guided worksheet on your usage of these four tactics.

Checklist: How to conduct an effective influence session

Influence can be highly situational, and you need to read each situation, see how the other person fits in it, and then decide which tactic will serve you best. The ancient Greeks called this kairos, which translates loosely to “the right moment”.

The best way to seize the moment? Use a checklist in order to carefully guide your actions and behaviours for each situation. Used frequently enough, when the opportunity to influence arises unexpectedly, you will be strongly equipped to gaining others’ commitment and get results.

Setting your goals

Answering questions such as the following can help you work out your thoughts on whom you need to influence and what you want to accomplish:

• What is the situation? Why has your organisation assigned you this task? How much support do you need?
• What benefits do you and the person you want to influence receive if you handle the situation well? What will it cost you and this person to deal effectively with the situation?
• Assess the differences and similarities of personal and positional power between yourself and the person you want to influence. How can you leverage this to increase your influence?

Identifying benefits and challenges

Each influence effort you make includes things that make it easier and things that make it more difficult. For example, you may have had a negative confrontation in the past with the person you are now hoping to influence. How you will deal with the residual effect of that event is going to be a challenge.

On the positive side, perhaps you have some expertise in a particular area that the organisation has recognised and the person you want to influence wants to gain some expertise in that area as well. You are certainly on the beneficiary side of this session.

Tallying up your benefits and challenges in the three broad areas of relationship, politics and power, and skills and knowledge, is a bit like a balance sheet, where you’re hoping to emerge with benefits on the heavier side.

Developing your influence session script

This step presents an opportunity to reflect in detail about how an influence conversation with a person might go. One place to start is to assess your influence tactics skills (Figure 1), and then identify which tactics may work best given the situation.

nicole-oct2017-bigfishbigpond-quiz

 

Pay particular attention to the tactics you use less frequently, and think about how you can develop those in order to increase your chances of success. The good news is that this does not necessarily take a lot of work – for example, you may be skilled with using logical arguments to persuade someone. Perhaps the person you want to influence is known for being generous or creative more than analytical. In that case, you can look at your proposal in terms of how it inspires enthusiasm by appealing to values and ideals.

Conducting an influence session

You are ready to meet with the person you need to influence! What’s next? Setting the stage – pick the right time and place, ideally a setting with minimal distractions. Once on site, establish rapport by ensuring the other person understands what you need by asking them questions and clearing up any confusion. Be mindful of your non-verbal communication, that is, body language and tone of voice, and watch their reactions closely. Build on points of agreement to create momentum towards the outcome you want, all the while not forgetting to establish eye contact, and the ever-needed smile.

Each time you attempt to influence someone, even just to make a small request, take the time to think back over the encounter and how you adjusted your techniques.

Reflecting on your influence session

Each time you attempt to influence someone, even just to make a small request, take the time to think back over the encounter and how you adjusted your techniques. What went well during the session? What did not go well? Did you get the outcome you wanted, albeit with any compromises? What would you do differently next time? These answers will ensure learning from experience.

Influencing others is not easy, especially in cases when you do not have direct authority to back up your request. The checklist and advice offered in this article will give you a head start on gaining commitment from stakeholders, as you take on growing roles in your organisation, helping draw on your skills as an influencer again and again.


Reference / Influence: Gaining commitment, getting results (second edition), by Harold Scharlatt and Roland Smith. The Center for Creative Leadership.

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