February  2021     Edition 155
Influencing

A common Headscratcher I often encounter in our workshops is around influence

;
How do I influence my manager [or leadership or staff or kids]
.   These are usually related to getting others to modify their pending action or decision. 

 

Let

s first define Influence

Influence: producing an effect without exertion of force or direct exercise of command.  In other words, someone decides to modify their behavior or decision using your input, but not your directive.

 

When do we need to influence:

  • You
    re new to an organization and you have suggestions about different ways to do things.  But there
    s resistance; resistance to change, resistance because you
    re new, resistance because things are humming along just fine.       

 

  • Someone comes up with a solution, and you come up with another.  You use influence to help others see a different picture.

 

  • Your manager or leadership is headed in a particular direction and you want them to consider another option. 

 

  • You
    re a manager or leader, and you want to steer your folks in a particular direction.   You can give the order,
    Here
    s what we are going to do
    .  While this will force change, it
    s not necessarily the best approach.   Influencing them however, will result in better engagement, ownership, and accountability.

 

Whether you

re a manager or individual, a parent or child, influencing others to change their way is much more effective then telling them to change their way. 

 

In order to understand the mechanics of influencing, we need to talk about how people come to conclusions.  

People come to conclusions by using the information they have; Facts, Experiences, what they read, and what others tell them.   From this information, people make assumptions to explain what happened, or what is, or make predictions as to what might be.   Based on those assumptions we decide what to do, i.e. we come to a conclusion about doing something.

 

Here

s an example of how we come to conclusions:

The weather report indicates it will rain hard tomorrow.   Your experience is that when it rains during the commute hour, there
s a lot of traffic and it takes you longer to get to work.   Based on this experience, and the weather report, you assume that the commute is going to be difficult, and because you need to get to work by a certain time, you come to the conclusion to leave a little earlier in the morning.  

 

Here's an example of how your conclusion can be influenced:

If you
re looking to buy a new appliance, you might see advertisements,  ask some friends what they use, look up the specs of the appliances, visit the store to check it out, and compare what you find to what your experience is with similar appliances.  Based on all of this, you
ll make an assumption about the performance of a new appliance and if you think it will meet your expectation. BUT just before you
re ready to tell the salesperson that you
ll buy it, your friend shows you an online review site and the reviews of the appliance are terrible.  You say to the salesperson,
Can you wait just a moment please?
.  You read some of the reviews, and there is a consistent theme that the appliance you
re looking at will work great for 3 months, but there
s a lot of trouble ahead.    You decide not to buy the appliance. 

 

What happened here.  

You obtained some additional information (we would call this an additional observation), which then changed your assumptions regarding the appliance, and in turn, changed your conclusion about purchasing it.  You say to the sales person,
Sorry, I changed my mind about his one, let
s look at those over there

 

The additional information you received, influenced your decision.  That's the key to influencing.  You share and provide information.

 

If you share your conclusions, others might agree, but it

s your solution; you own it, you

re accountable. That

s not influence, that's providing solutions and giving orders.   Instead, share information; facts, experiences, what you have read and heard.  Sharing information will result in changing the thinking about the situation, and new conclusions will follow.  As a manager and leader, I used to spend a lot of my time ensuring that information and knowledge was well communicated across an organization.  By providing additional experiences, facts, references to reliable information, and exposing people to different scenarios, you will broaden the knowledge base that people use to make decisions, i.e you have influenced them.

Influencing - Part II - Influencing from Within

In order to influence, people have to listen and be open to receiving new information. 


One of the most effective ways to influence is from within

.  Here’s the analogy: Steering a ship from outside the ship requires pushing and pulling and overcoming the momentum of the ship.  Instead, it’s a lot easier if you are on board the ship and use the ship itself to course correct.

I once joined a company as their VP of R&D.   My new staff was happy to see me, and one of the first things they asked me to do was to talk with the CFO about timesheets.    The CFO insisted that everyone in the company was to fill out the time sheets enabling the ability to track the time people spent on things.  The software engineers thought that was ridiculous, as their time was not charged out hourly to clients, they were salaried employees, not paid by the hour, and the budget was fixed by headcount.  On the other hand, one of the first things the CFO asked me to do was to get my folks to fill out the time sheets, completely the opposite of what my R&D folks wanted me to do.

I could have, as the VP of R&D just have told the CFO that the software engineers were not going to fill out timesheest or ordered my folks to fill them out.   I was new to the organization, and of course, didn’t want to immediately get on the irritable side of our CFO or my R&D staff.   Instead, I asked my engineers to please fill out the timesheets for 30 days and trust me on this one.   The engineers gave me the benefit of the doubt and filled them in every day.  The CFO was delighted.   After about three weeks, I sat with the CFO and asked what he was doing with all those Timesheets (it was paper in those days).  He said he puts them into the filing cabinet.   Upon additional probing about what will become of them it prompted my CFO to do some thinking. He realized that nothing really would become of them, and he really didn’t have the need for these, and simply said, "I guess your folks don’t need to fill these out". 

Here’s the moral of this story: 

It’s a lot easier to get things changed and influence others if you’re doing it from the inside, i.e. you're supporting the current program, you get the respect of those in that program, so much so, that they will listen to you when you suggest a change.
The Takeaway
:  If you want to change the system, instead of initially fighting the system, join the system, become part of the system, and then change it from within by influencing others, i.e. providing them information and having them use that information while they think about the situation.  You’ll have the respect and personal capital to make changes, which from the outside can be very difficult.



Part I - What is Influence and how to do it
The Takeaway
:  "ipsa scientia potestas est" … Knowledge is Power
– Sir Francis Bacon, 1597

Instead of beating others over the head with your idea, provide them with relevant information.   This becomes part of their thinking, and as a result they will come up with new conclusions.  You have influenced them. 

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