This article was based on episode 190 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio, Amazon, and Stitcher. Get the full episode guide when you become a member at themodernmanager.com/join. Purchase any full episode guide at themodernmanager.com/shop.
Real influence isn’t about power. It’s not about convincing someone to believe or do what you want. (That type of influence is more like manipulation and it always felt yucky to me.) Influencing without authority, however, is about connecting your vision, project or request in an authentic way to what the other person values. This approach revolutionized how I think about influence as well as how I go about it. Plus, it’s both healthier for your relationships and also much more effective. Here are the five simple ways to build your practice of influencing without authority that will both feel good and produce stronger results.
1. START WITH CURIOSITY: WHO ARE THEY?
We can only influence people when we understand who they are and what they care about. Take time to deeply understand another person’s life; their values, passions, and priorities. When you ask for their involvement, align their values and needs with the purpose of your project.
If people give “just to be nice", they may give once or twice to please you. However, if they feel invested in the project, they’ll want to keep on giving because your project is also part of who they are. Find ways to help them feel like part of the team.
2. REMOVE BARRIERS: WHAT’S STOPPING THEM?
Even if someone wants to say yes to your idea, project or request, there are so many practical reasons that they might hesitate or not follow through on the commitment. Maybe their plate is already full of responsibilities, their boss is demanding focus elsewhere, they're unsure of what exactly they're agreeing to, or they’re afraid of potential negative or unintended consequences that might come from getting on board.
When you find out what’s stopping them, you can take steps to address their concerns. Maybe you can speak with their boss about how this opportunity will impact their work. Maybe you can show them the plan so they know what’s expected of them. Figure out ways to make it easier for them to say yes while showing that you’re willing to help them out.
3. CULTIVATE AUTHENTIC RELATIONSHIPS: REACH OUT!
Before you make any “asks”, build your relationship capital first. Otherwise, people may feel used. While it’s not always possible to know who exactly in your organization you’ll need to garner support from in advance, the more we can proactively develop relationships, the easier it will be to influence people when the time comes. Building an authentic relationship can be as simple as checking in randomly, getting together for coffee occasionally, or forwarding a podcast you think they will love.
I use the strategy of “Three Touches Before An Ask”. Touches can be anything from reaching out to ask how a big event went to a text wishing them holiday greetings. When we build authentic relationships with others, by the time we finally do ask for their involvement they’ll be much more likely to say yes.
4. BRING PEOPLE IN EARLY: GET THEM INVOLVED
While it might seem like you need to have all the answers up front before someone would even consider signing on, the opposite is often true. People support what they help create. The earlier you include people in the decision making processes, the better. Be honest about what’s already decided and what’s still in formation, and invite them to help shape the future.
It’s important to value the ideas they bring to the table, even if you don’t like or agree with them. This means that you don’t need to accept everything they offer, but you do need to incorporate their thinking occasionally. Otherwise, your offer for them to participate will feel hollow and you’ll lose their engagement. When done well, though, you may discover they will even start influencing others on your behalf.
5. MAKE IT EMOTIONAL: LOGIC ISN’T ENOUGH
People act when their emotions are spiked. That’s why personal stories of individuals make a greater impact than offering statistics. Find ways to elicit emotions of excitement (or even anger) in the stories you tell to encourage people to get involved. There are many opportunities to tell stories, but my personal favorites are sharing a compelling narrative of the current reality - we must change because things are bad right now and people are feeling that negative impact - or a possible future - imagine what it would be like if we completed the change and how people would benefit.
Influencing without authority is about building relationships, not about exercising power. Begin with getting to know who people are; what they care about and how they live their lives. Align your project’s values with their individual perspective. Figure out what barriers are stopping them from becoming involved, and then work to remove those obstacles. Remember to always cultivate your relationship first before asking for their help. Bring them in early in the decision-making process to get them the most invested and involved. And be sure to frame your project as a compelling, emotional narrative. We can influence without authority, if we take time to make it about all of us winning together.
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This article was based on episode 190 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio, Amazon, and Stitcher. Never miss a worksheet, episode or article: subscribe to Mamie’s newsletter.