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Monday, May 19, 2008
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Building Your Influence
“Lean and mean” is a popular catchphrase used when describing today’s organizational structures. In an effort to become more efficient and drive down costs, many organizations have adopted a matrix or networked structure that relies on teams to implement managerial decisions and the resultant projects. Consequently, cooperation within and between teams from different parts of the business has taken on significant importance, and the traditional top-down hierarchical chain of command is becoming less meaningful. Rather than candidly telling someone what to do, you will need to understand where their values, beliefs, and motivations lie so that you can influence or persuade them to meet your agenda. As a result, working relationships are based less on power and authority than on the ability to negotiate and find a win-win solution. This emphasizes the human connection and is a much more sophisticated form of communication. Many people don’t feel comfortable engaging in this type of interaction, especially in a business setting. However, most of us already use influence and persuasion far more than we realize, so by increasing your awareness of your instinctive talents, you will be able to develop your skills and put them to more effective use.
What You Need to Know
How can I influence people over whom I have no authority?
You don’t need authority in order to influence people effectively. In fact, influencing from a position of authority could be construed as bullying. Learning to use persuasion to win support will help you to assure that both parties get what they need. If you enter the discussion with the intention of arriving at a win-win solution, you’ll find that you have a lot more authority than you thought!
How might the rules differ for influencing upward?
Imagine the benefits that would best appeal to the person you are dealing with, regardless of their level in the organizational hierarchy. Then make a goal of delivering those benefits, and you’ll probably find that your approach is effective.
Do different people or circumstances call for different tactics?
Yes, and you will need to put yourself in the other person’s shoes so that you can anticipate their needs, while at the same time planning a satisfactory outcome for yourself. Spend some time building understanding before you begin. You may need to put your own motivations aside for a while as you build an understanding of what motivates the other person. This will give you a better chance of achieving your goals.
How will I know when to back off and settle for a less-than-perfect outcome?
By carefully watching the other person’s body language, you should be able to discern when they are unwilling to negotiate further. It is hard to disguise these messages, so be aware of what is going on with them and take cues from their stance and facial expressions, as well as from what they say. Don’t push too hard or you will just be pushed back in return. If you start getting negative messages, leave things alone for a while and agree to return to the discussion later. Your negotiating partner may be more willing to continue after having thought over your proposal, provided it is reasonable.
What to Do
Get the Right Attitude
When you attempt to influence or persuade someone to do something, it’s important to realize that the outcome depends very much on how you view these tactics. If you see them as manipulative and only used to win an unfair advantage, you will probably not be very good at them. On the other hand, if you believe that if you don’t get everything you want you’ve lost, you will also undermine your efforts at reaching an agreement. Either way you will probably end up being clumsy and heavy handed or you will give up too soon and allow your opponent to walk all over you. However, there are ways to reach cooperation, openness, and a good resolution. To accomplish this, you must start by seeing influencing occasions as an opportunity to engage with someone who shares your desire for a mutually satisfactory outcome.
- Familiarize yourself with the situation and be clear about what you want to accomplish.
- Do your research carefully and make sure you have all the necessary facts. You don’t want to miss something that might make you look unprepared during your conversation.
- Before you embark on your influencing strategy, canvass the views of stakeholders to get a sense of where their motivations and values lie. Then forewarn any interested parties of your position and proposition and gauge whether they are willing to support you. If you sense that they are basically in your corner but may have concerns about your approach, you can always choose to modify your position.
- Put some thought into where you want the meeting to take place, making sure to choose a physical environment that is conducive to good communication. It is best not to conduct your conversation in public. If your negotiating partner is at all concerned about losing face, you don’t want to inhibit their ability to be open and flexible.
- Be clear about the reasons for having the conversation and outline what you believe to be the common ground. Check with the other party to make sure that both of you understand the situation. If not, you risk undermining your whole influencing strategy.
- Make clear what objectives you would like to reach by the end of the conversation. When thinking about your preferred outcome, develop a contingency position or what you would be willing to settle for, and be prepared to adjust your expectations if necessary.
- Emphasize your desire to reach a win-win outcome and check to make sure that you haven’t overlooked anything.
Assertive communication gives equal credibility to both you and your negotiating partner and encourages mutual respect and regard. If you want a win-win solution, start by using assertive language, including a lot of “I” statements. Indicate by your speech and body language that you are prepared to take responsibility for your own views and feelings.
It’s also important to show empathy for the other person by demonstrating that you can see things from their point of view. To help you with this, imagine being in the shoes of someone who is being addressed by you. Try to experience the conversation from their perspective and feel what it’s like to be confronted with the methods and techniques you use. Do you demonstrate thoughtfulness and respect? If you feel uncomfortable when you think about yourself facing yourself, then it will probably be uncomfortable for them too!
Listen attentively to what the other person is saying and observe their tone of voice and body language. It’s important to pick up any clues about what’s going on with them and how they feel about the way the conversation is progressing. If you sense that they are becoming resistant to your proposition or methods, take a step back and create some space for reflection. It is tempting to seek instant gratification, but you don’t want to be perceived as a bully. Sometimes a better resolution can come about if influencing is given time to mature.
Choose Your Weapons Carefully
Below are several influencing techniques that you may want to consider using. Some work better in one type of situation and some in another. And there are a few that are best to avoid!
- Use reason and logic. This approach works with people who are intellectually driven, as it relies on presenting rational and reasoned argument to win favor. It may not work with people who are driven more by their emotions or in situations where values and beliefs are of prominent importance.
- Inspire agreement. By creating a rich and detailed picture or reflecting a desirable end point, this type of influencing style may inspire agreement and get your opponent to buy in to your proposition. It appeals particularly to people who are strategically oriented and visually acute.
- Empathize and cooperate. You are much more likely to build rapport and encourage cooperation if you understand and can tap into the other person’s values and motivations. This approach works well when there is empathy between you and your partner. But be careful, as things can go very wrong if you misread the other’s motivations!
- Bargain for favors. “If you do this for me, I’ll do that for you!” Bargaining is a simple tool that works miracles if you are able to satisfy your own needs and meet someone else’s agenda at the same time. Don’t make offers lightly, though. Make sure you can deliver—and then honor your commitments!
- Learn to compromise. Meeting someone half way can be an effective strategy if you gain sufficient ground to satisfy your own needs. Be careful not to give away too much, however. You don’t want to regret your actions later, and compromising can also make you look weak if it takes you into territory that you are unhappy with.
- Concede something. This tactic rewards the other party with something you may not have planned on giving away, but it can give you the upper hand in another way. Because of the good will you have shown, you can call in a favor in the future or ask them to make a concession in another negotiation.
- Use threats. “If you don’t agree, there will be dire consequences!” While influencing through fear may be effective in the short term, it can have disastrous long-term effects. You will create an atmosphere in which people cringe at the thought of working with you. This will not help build the kind of relationships that will secure your future success! It is also not far removed from coercion or manipulation.
- Make a power play. People who like to dominate a situation often use power as an influencing tactic. Bullies and overly aggressive types also like to use this method. Another way of making a power play is to use referential power, in other words, to threaten the wrath of another who holds more power than either of the parties in the negotiations. While this may be a useful tactic in an emergency, it doesn’t build good working relationships over the long term.
End the Negotiations
When you have reached an outcome that is satisfactory to both parties, wrap up the proceedings. Then be sure to follow up with a written confirmation and actions that solidify your agreement. Brief anyone who will be affected so that they are ready to act on your plan and help move it along. At this stage you should try to foresee what could go wrong and take steps to ensure that it doesn’t.
Keep Tabs On the Situation—and Don’t Forget To Network
The best laid plans sometimes go awry, so it’s important to make sure that everything is moving along as planned. Remain vigilant, monitor the situation on a regular basis, and step in again if you sense that things are getting bogged down, whether because of inertia, miscommunication, or sabotage.
Build good working relationships with influential people who are directly connected with or affected by the situation. You may need to call on someone for information, guidance, or support in the future.
What to Avoid
You Expect Others to Share Your Motivation and Enthusiasm
Yes, you have a lot of conviction, but no one likes to be bullied, and the more invested you are in getting your way, the more your audience will be put off. Instead of rushing into things headlong, convinced that your enthusiasm will carry the day, it is worth thinking about the context and the motivations of the other stakeholders. Spend some time planning your communication and don’t expect instant gratification. Your timescale may not be the same as theirs.
You Become Dogmatic
Inflexibility as a negotiating tool is always a mistake. Be prepared to give a little to the other party as an indication of your goodwill and commitment to reaching a mutually satisfactory solution. Being stubborn and digging your heels in will only force the discussion toward a win-lose outcome. You don’t want to end up using extreme tactics like bullying or threatening!
You Are Inauthentic In Your Tactics
Make sure that you are fully behind the outcome you seek to achieve so that your communication comes across as authentic. If you don’t fully believe in the proposal yourself, you will not make a convincing argument and you risk undermining your own efforts.
You Are Too Easily Influenced
Don’t be swayed by someone who has more power than you or who presents a dominating figure. You don’t want to lose ground before you even start or to appear weak. Even if you basically agree with the other person’s views and would like to support them, make sure you explore the situation from all angles. This way they will see that you are thinking about their arguments and considering them seriously. You don’t want to look like a pushover!
• The way out of suffering is through it. Resist suffering and suffering increases. Acceptance, in the moment, that you are suffering will dissolve your suffering instantly.INSIGHTS FOR DAILY LIVING
• You are perfect in every way until you compare yourself with another.
• Your need to control things is based on the fear of things controlling you.
• What you worry about is what controls you.
• Every one of us is allowed to suffer in order that we can grow in compassion and sensitivity towards the suffering of others.
• When someone treats us unkindly we learn how to treat others with great kindness.
• Living successfully today requires us to leave the past behind us.
• Strangers can love you easier than family because strangers have no history with you that they can hold against you.
• Only people who live in fear feel the need to abuse others.
• Trying too hard is un-attractive (does not attract) and pushes away from us the very things we want.
• When you encounter obstacles or roadblocks that are between you and what you want out of life choose to be like the "wind and water" and "flow" up, over, around or under them rather than fighting them and giving them power over you.
• We become free to follow the desires of our heart when we are influenced more by our own thoughts than the thoughts of others.
• Happiness allows us to walk over the top of our problems while unhappiness allows us to drown in them.
• In life, we always have two choices about our circumstances; we can change our circumstances or we can change our attitude about our circumstances. Once we change our attitude, our circumstances change naturally.
• When we stop finding faults in ourselves, we will stop finding faults in others.
• A relaxed mind solves even the most difficult problems, in life, easily. A stressed out mind delays problems being solved. A closed mind prevents problems from being solved altogether.
• God most often answers our prayers in the form of an inspired thought or creative idea that either sets us free or moves us to tears.
• God lives in the moment. If you want to find God, live there too!
• Discarding the past and forgetting about the future by living in the moment will give you the peace of mind you seek.
• Being rejected is part of life, get over it.
• Life doesn't always go your way, don't take it personally.
• Most people are full of crap, love them anyway.
• If you care about you, others will too!
• Putting other people first all the time will put you back at the end of the line.
• Life is not difficult, it is only our thinking that makes it so..
• Find humor in your problems and they will seem smaller to you.
• Love won't solve the problems of the world but it certainly makes the ride worthwhile.
• Don't take yourself too seriously, no one else does.
• An overly generous heart can lead you to the poor house.
• Sometimes it hurts to think, that's why people get headaches.
• Creating prosperity is "simple" to do and yet many people judge that "simple thought" as "too good too be true" while never judging the thought that scarcity and lack of money are "too bad to be true".
• The one real weakness we have is underestimating the part our very own thoughts played in creating the circumstances we have in our life today.
• Every thought we think is a prayer to God.
• The only reason people don't have their prayers answered is because they quit praying before their prayer request is fulfilled.
• Expressing sincere prayers of gratitude for what we have guarantees that we will have more.
• When you see all that you do as God's sees it, perfect in every way, the universe begins supplying you with evidence that validates God's truth that what you do "is" perfect in every way...
• Any time you are feeling negative, you are not loving and approving of yourself. If you were loving and approving of yourself, you would never feel negative.
Charles Schultz PhilosophyC. Schultx Philosophy
The following is the philosophy of Charles Schultz, the creator of the "Peanuts" comic strip. You don't have to actually answer the questions. Just read the e-mail straight through, and you'll get the point.
1. Name the five wealthiest people in the world.
2. Name the last five Heisman trophy winners.
3. Name the last five winners of the Miss America.
4. Name ten people who have won the Nobel or Pulitzer Prize.
5. Name the last half dozen Academy Award winner for best actor and actress.
6. Name the last decade's worth of World Series winners.
How did you do?
The point is, none of us remember the headliners of yesterday. These are no second-rate achievers. They are the best in their fields. But the applause dies. Awards tarnish. Achievements are forgotten. Accolades and certificates are buried with their owners .
Here's another quiz. See how you do on this one:
1. List a few teachers who aided your journey through school.
2. Name three friends who have helped you through a difficult time.
3. Name five people who have taught you something worthwhile.
4. Think of a few people who have made you feel appreciated and special.
5. Think of five people you enjoy spending time with
The lesson: The people who make a difference in your life are not the ones with the most credentials, the most money, or the most awards. They are the ones that care .
Pass this on to those people who have made a difference in your life.??
"Don't worry about the world coming to an end today.
It's already tomorrow in Australia."
Aristotle's Virtues, Means
Vice of Deficiency Virtuous Mean Vice of Excess Cowardice Courage Rashness Insensibility Temperance Intemperance Illiberality Liberality Prodigality Pettiness Munificence Vulgarity Humble-mindedness High-mindedness Vaingloriness Want of Ambition Right Ambition Over-ambition Spiritlessness Good Temper Irascibility Surliness Friendly Civility Obsequiousness Ironical Depreciation Sincerity Boastfulness Boorishness Wittiness Buffoonery Shamelessness Modesty Bashfulness Callousness Just Resentment Spitefulness