One of the key challenges facing many leaders today — at all levels — is how to influence people more senior than themselves, including their bosses. You have important work to do, and you need their input, their buy-in and support. If you’re good, this work will create many wins; for you, for them and for the organisation.
But, somehow, they don’t manage to find the time to see you. Or, you see them favouring other people’s ideas instead of your own. You have clear logic to what you are suggesting, yet somehow they don’t seem to see it, or are more easily influenced by other people. Worse, they could be agreeing with you, yet somehow not following through.
If Influencing Upwards is a challenge for you, the following factors could be contributing to your situation…
- They genuinely don’t have time. Or rather, it is not a priority for them.
- Your idea is flawed in some way and they have yet to find the time to take you through their thinking.
- The timing is not quite right, but again, they don’t have time to tell you.
- Someone else has a better idea.
- They actually disagree with you, and again, they don’t have time to help you understand.
- Another powerful person is exerting political influence to prevent them agreeing with you.
- For personal reasons, they don’t want to support you on this one (or on any one!).
The two key themes here are lack of time and disagreement.
On the time front, whatever is going on, they are not allocating the time necessary to hear what you have to say, and/or help you through their concerns. It is likely that they want to spend this time with you, but other things keep getting in the way. Unfortunately, the alternative to this is that they just don’t care enough about your agenda to give it the time.
Disagreement could be genuine, personal, or that someone else is able to influence them more effectively at your expense. None of these are uncommon in busy, high-pressure organisations. However, if you analyse it well, you could easily start to find some new approaches which you can take.
The heart of the solution is to increase the priority and get the issue at hand dealt with so that a clear decision can be made, one way or another.
Here are a few suggestions…
- Identify Conflicting Agendas. Consider the professional and personal agendas which could be hampering your influence attempts (see Handling Conflicting Agendas and Faulty Assumptions).
- Assess Your Opposition. With any project, there will be those who are against it. Increasing your understanding of the opposition can only help (see Diagnosing Opposition).
- Map Your Stakeholders. If you want to influence, you need to develop a keen insight into who can help or hinder you. Mapping your stakeholders is a great way to discover simple actions which can have a profound effect (see Advocates & Enemies).
- Adapt Your Style. We all have a preferred way of interacting with others, and those you are attempting to influence may have a different way from you. Consider simple ways to adapt your communication style and remove any distractions which may be getting in the way (see The Gautrey Influence Profile).
- Look for Opportunities. If what you are doing is not in the main stream and getting attention, look for other issues and problems which have the full attention. Linking to these can quickly raise your profile (forthcoming post: Avoiding Risks and Seizing Opportunities).
- Adapt Your Power. If you want to influence someone, consider how you are presenting your power (assets and skills) and how this may be perceived by your target. If you align your dialogue with their sources of power, you will connect much more easily (see The Personal Power Profile).
You also need to get real. Perhaps the idea that you are trying to get attention for just isn’t good enough. You need to consider this objectively and learn when to quit. Gaining a reputation as a moaner is never a good idea, so get objective, up the ante and get moving.
And, ideas for number 7, it is a big one, and pretty obvious, but sadly so often overlooked. Can you work out what it is? Feel free to have a go and add your suggestion to the comments, or email me directly.
Colin Gautrey is becoming the most sought-after expert in power and influence by ambitious and talented professionals who are serious about accelerating their careers and their results. But, Colin is certainly not for the faint-hearted.
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Other articles by Colin:
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