Ideal Outcomes

4 Ways to Improve Your Ability to Influence Without Authority

By Jason Richmond, CEO and Chief Culture Officer at Ideal Outcomes, Inc.

Today’s workplace requires ever-increasing collaboration and cross-functional teamwork. As we are expected to partner with colleagues to solve complex problems and implement challenging initiatives, we need to improve our ability to influence the decisions and behaviors of others—even if we have no authority over them. It’s an ability that extends beyond our own organizations as we develop relationships with vendors, suppliers, and other strategic partners—even if we are working remotely.

In such situations, the “I lead, and you follow” approach does not serve us well. We need to develop other sorts of approaches. Below are five strategies that will help you gain traction, and therefore results when trying to be more influential.
1. Make deposits in people’s emotional bank accounts
This is all about developing relationships, not only when you need them, but all the time. Consider who you need to know and how you can build a relationship with them. In his book, Give and Take, Adam Grant describes how helping others drives our own success. As you build relationships, look constantly for ways you can give assistance. Grant writes, “When we give our time, energy, knowledge, or resources to help others, we strive to maintain a belief that they’re worthy and deserving of our help.” The point is, when we support others without expecting anything in return, they are much more likely to offer their support when we do need it. To quote Simon Sinek, author of the acclaimed book Start With Why, “Givers advance the world. Takers advance themselves and hold the world back.”
2. Consider your colleagues’ point of view first
Part of building relationships means getting to know people on a personal level, including what motivates and worries them. Every single person you work with has their own goals, challenges, assignments, strengths, and weaknesses, which means that you need to consider your audience. For example, if you are trying to get someone in finance to buy into your ideas, you will need to be able to articulate the benefits from a dollars and cents perspective. Additionally, consider their personality preferences. Some people like small talk while others want to get down to business right away. If we want to be influential, we need to speak in the language of our audience which requires first, knowing what their preferences are, and second, being flexible and adaptable enough to meet them.
3. Create win-win situations
Successful salespeople know the value of clearly communicating benefits—influencing is soft selling. This means being able to show colleagues how the organization will benefit from your idea or from their collaboration. However, this is not enough. We also need to articulate the benefits to them: people respond when we can show them the “WIIFM”- what’s in it for me, which takes us right back to considering their point of view first. For example, your marketing director is likely to be more amenable if you show how the customer will benefit or a colleague in operations may be most excited by process improvements. If you are not sure what their personal perceived benefit is, simply ask them “What benefits do you think will be realized by this project?” or “What do you think are the advantages if this endeavor is successful?”
4. Be frank about what help you need
This step requires us to be humble and vulnerable. Let people know why you are asking for their help, describe what strengths they bring to the table, and how they fill any gaps you might have. Doing this serves multiple purposes, including showing that you value and recognize your colleagues for their expertise—making them more likely to help. This also opens up communication on the initiative and makes it clear what sort of support you seek, laying the foundation for a partnership, which is your ultimate goal.
Influence requires a complex blend of skills, from networking to persuading, negotiating, and building trust and rapport. The ability to influence is critical and demand for such skill will continue to grow. Start today by laying the foundation with colleagues and peers.