At middle to senior positions in large organisations, a high proportion of the work is all about influence. With so much change around and some (apparently) competing agendas, changing hearts and minds is essential work. It is rare indeed that you can force people to comply, so you need to become a brilliant influencer. Below are five questions which, in my view, every effective and active influencer will be able to answer quite easily when asked. You can use them to challenge yourself, and also, to demonstrate your thinking to others.
1. What is your influencing goal?
Quite simply, what is it you are attempting to achieve? I’ve written many times on this subject, and some of the links are given below. Perhaps the easiest way to focus your goal is to consider what you need to influence over the next couple of months in order to accomplish your work-related objectives easily. What, if you could influence it, would make the achievement of your objectives a certainty? Clear articulation of what you want to influence will automatically move you towards your goal.
2. How will you know you’ve achieved it?
Consider the behavioural evidence that you will notice when you have achieved your influencing goal. This is sometimes difficult and takes a while to think about. One way of doing this is to imagine the world with your goal achieved. What will people be doing and saying? What will you be able to see? The purpose of this question is to force you to think more deeply about what you actually want to happen. It will sharpen up your goal and make success more likely.
3. Where is your stakeholder map?
The simple stakeholder map is the key to thinking through the goal and the way stakeholders line up. Are they for it or against it? And more crucially, what is the relationship like between you and each of them? By working through the map, plotting those who have the most power to help and hinder you, you will start to develop answers to the next two questions.
4. What is your strategy?
Getting the CEO to say “yes” is not a strategy — it may be a goal, but it certainly isn’t a strategy. First, you may need to build and document a business case. Next, you’ll perhaps present it to the Finance or Marketing teams and get their input. Once you have them on-side, then you can go to the people who influence the CEO, etc. Your influencing strategy should be the key moves you need to take in a logical order that will help you to accomplish your goal. The raw thinking to help your strategy emerge will be generating while considering your stakeholder map, and answering this specific question will help you to pull it together and be able to communicate it clearly.
5. What is your plan?
So, if you have your strategy laid out, what actions do you need to take now to begin to make it happen? It is unlikely that this will become a full-blown project plan; however, having the next steps clearly identified will get you moving more quickly. Only plan to the level that is appropriate for the goal because over-planning can be almost as bad as not planning at all.
Oh, and make sure and write all of your answers down. The act of writing is a great way of sharpening up your focus, increasing your commitment and, also, building something which is ready to communicate — perhaps to your line-manager to demonstrate your capability?