5 Steps to Immediately Increase Your Influence with a Powerful Stakeholder

In 1996, I was a new manager of organizational development and learning at Cisco Systems.  It was an exciting time being with a relatively new company with a mission to “change the way people lived, worked, played, and learned”.  The commercialization of internet was still new, wireless was in its infancy, and bright and talented employees were hired that had significantly more technical acumen than many of the managers.  In order to grow, Cisco realized that managers would not be successful with technical skills alone – in fact, one of the cultural mantras at Cisco was “no technology religion!”. Technology was moving too fast and change was rapid.  So, it was clear that managers needed to get things done through others and through highly educated and talented people.  The skill needed was influence.  I also served as a divisional HR Manager during my time at Cisco, and it was clear to me that I would not be successful with the group I supported – 95% software engineers – unless I had skills of influence.  

Since that time, I’ve had the opportunity to be an HR Director in San Diego before going out on my own in 2006, and in my practice, I’ve had the opportunity to coach and teach others about influence.  I’m grateful to my former director at Cisco, Beau Parnell, who required me to “do some research” while I was getting my master’s and building a training program on Influence.  Beau told me to read Influence Without Authority, by Allan R. Cohen and David L. Bradford. 

Below are the 5 Steps to Immediately Increase Your Influence with a Powerful Stakeholder

Assume the other party is a potential ally. 

If there are issues of trust or history with those you seek to influence, recognize that if you don’t perceive they have potential for a positive intent, then you’ve already decreased your ability to influence the other person.  If we don’t trust someone or feel we can reach agreement with them, then by definition an adversarial relationship already exists.  And, if you don’t trust them, they most likely don’t trust you.   A true adversary is hard to influence; this is true, and yes there are those you want to “steer clear” of or seek the help of others.  Yet, in our experience, we find that even though someone may not currently be a full ally, there is potential to influence the person for mutual benefit.  If you’ve done a good assessment and assume positive intent of those you seek to influence, you have already increased your influence skills. 

Clarify your goals and wants.

Many times, we have conversation with others and we have an idea of what we want, but we’ve not taken the time to clearly define our goals and wants.  When we are vague, tentative, or unsure of ourselves, it shows to the other person.  Temperament impacts this skill, as some people are more direct and concrete, where others are more accommodating.  Where accommodating people build great relationships over time, they can also be taken advantage of by those that are more direct and competitive.  Regardless, take the time to identify your goals and “bottom line”. 

Diagnose the world of the potential ally. 

You’ve heard the cliché, walk in the other’s shoes.  In negotiation skills workshops, we teach people to assess the world of the other party and what is most important to them.  This comes through research, observations, and dialogue.  None of us are totally altruistic. We all have different needs. In influence, you want to what it looks like in their world, and how your goals and wants match theirs.  We find that the ability to do this is impacted by your level of emotional intelligence and your awareness of other people and observing them.  Conflict happens where there is a gap in expectations. 

Identify relevant currencies.

In all human interactions, there is an exchange of currency. Currency is defined as what we value.   For example, some value little interaction with people and just getting a task done, where another is motivated by team goals and dialogue or creating a fun environment.  What makes the other person “tick”?  What do they value?  When you return home from another country, one of the first things you do is exchange the currency, as another country’s currency simply won’t work here.  So, whatever approach you use should use the currencies that are mutually beneficial.

Influence by dealing with your relationship and determining your approach.

If you’ve planned with the first four steps, then you go forward and dialogue with the individual or group with whom you want to influence. And, like a team sporting event, things may not always go as planned. But going in without a plan will ensure you will lose more than you win.  When it comes to influence, have a plan, go forward with it, and modify it as you enter dialogue with your colleague.  Listen with the intent to understand and if you’ve clarified your goals and wants and are willing to negotiate, you are more likely to influence outcomes.  Use the template we provide in this material to prepare for your dialogue. 

Is this useful?  If you’d like tools to ensure application, our team provides training modules as well as individual coaching that integrates this and other tools of influence.   Contact us at 858.414.2660 or go to caleb-consulting.com for more information.