“What can I do to take the edge over my talented and ambitious colleagues?” “There are a lot of influential people here, how can I compete with them?” These are just two examples of the sort of questions I get asked regularly by people on my workshops and seminars. All of them wanting to be more successful — and genuinely wanting to deliver good value with integrity in an increasingly competitive internal market. As more people realise that influence is what makes it all happen, the bar is always rising.
Here is a quick checklist of things to consider, which in my experience are probably not done, or at least not done well, by 95% of people I work with.
When it comes to a specific influence goal, think about your target and ensure that…
- What you are pitching makes a major contribution to one of their top three personal priorities. If it is not important to them, they won’t have time to listen.
- You translate what you want into their language. This goes beyond merely using benefit-rich language; pick up on the works they (and their group) use to describe things.
- You clearly explore the downsides for them. Show them what could go wrong and be objective. If it sounds too good to be true, they won’t believe it.
- You are honest about your own position — don’t leave them guessing. Tell them what’s in it for you. If you don’t, they will start guessing anyway.
- You are structured. Figure out the rational argument, tailor it to their personal decision-making process and remember to structure in the inspirational appeals.
- You openly recognise other influences they will be taking into consideration. Show you’re no fool. Again this builds greater trust and credibility.
- You keep it simple. Yes, that old chestnut.
When it comes to building a more influential presence generally, make sure that you are…
- Adding value to and continuing to build the right network. Not just any network, the right network.
- Focusing on building powerful assets and leaving skills in their place. At more senior levels, it is the assets which do the hard work.
- Making sure you know how the different informal groups operate around your organisation. The more senior you get, the more you have to influence groups rather than individuals — you simply don’t have the time.
- Building goodwill, political and social capital around the organisation. You don’t have to gain a reputation for being a monster — instead, consider building a reputation for being helpful and supportive. Yep, be very firm and assertive too!
- Helping your team to learn how to become more influential. This way you can delegate the work of influence and become more strategic in your approach. If you can disappear on vacation safe in the knowledge that they can look after your interests, you’ll be able to relax on the beach!
- Developing clear opinions and strategies about how your organisation should adapt to face its challenges. Don’t just be one of the crowd — get ready to launch your own manifesto and show your strength.
- If you haven’t got strong strategic opinions set in the organisational context, a hard-driven agenda and the courage to go for it, well, why would anyone be influenced by you?
And of course, the above doesn’t happen overnight, nor should it do. These approaches evolve through thinking, practice and feedback — and they should do. But, I can assure you, the very best are doing all of these things, and they are a very small, yet powerful minority — fancy joining them?
- Vital Influencing Skills Most People Desperately Need to Develop
- Ignoring Your Competition: Influencing Mistake No. 3
- Making Sense of Political Upheaval
- Power Vacuums and Unstable Systems
- Using Social Capital to Build Political Muscle
- How to Influence: Special Training
- Avoiding Risks and Seizing Opportunities
- 23 Things You Could Do Today to Increase Your Influence
- Your Corporate Manifesto
- How to Develop Political Courage