What I know for sure…
Whether you want to get that big promotion at work, get the funding or resources you need for an innovation or entrepreneurial growth, or change the way things at work are done, there are usually some key people who can make our break your plans. These people might be inside or outside the business, for example bosses, shareholders, colleagues, employees, investors, key customer or suppliers, amongst others. Being able to shape and implement effective influencing strategies will help you to get where you want to be, more quickly and successfully. It’s an essential part of your business skillset.
Read this blog to learn, step-by-step, how to create a targeted, practical and ethical influencing action plan that will increase the probability of you getting the outcomes that you want, and download my free influencing playbook here.
Influence with integrity
My choice of the word ethical in the introduction above is really important. This is not about manipulation, or Machiavellian manoeuvres. In my view they benefit no-one in the longer-term, and are neither a rewarding way to do business, nor a sustainable way to develop your relationships, especially with those who really matter to you. At the heart of the approach that I am sharing here is high integrity. It is perfectly possible to be very influential, whilst also considering the needs of others and striving to achieve a win-win for yourself and for them.
Influencing is necessary, though, because too often people don’t get what they want due to their failure to communicate effectively. They do not put themselves in the shoes of those key individuals whose support they really need. The consequence is that, by not taking time to understand the perspective of others, they don’t explain themselves in way that other people can really get, and can also understand what’s in it for them. So I am going to take you through a step-by-step process that you can use to make sure that you optimise your chances of success.
Have a pen and paper ready, preferably some sticky notes as well, and also download my free influencing playbook here. You can fill it in as you read through this blog, thinking about something significant that you want to achieve that needs the active support of other people.
Step 1: be clear about what you want to achieve
If you’re not clear about what you want to achieve, you can’t expect others to understand what you want. Starting off by articulating for yourself exactly what the target outcomes are means that you can align your influencing approach to achieve your goal. For example:
- I want to become a director in 3 months, increase my salary by 20% and qualify for the company profit share, company car and private health schemes.
- I want to raise $x of funding to launch and sustain sales of new product y as outlined in the business plan I’ve created.
- I want my team to adopt these new, leaner and more agile ways of working that make the best use of our new technology, improving quality and efficiency.
Take a moment now to write down your own target outcome(s).
Step 2: identify who can make or break your plans
The next step is to write down all the names of the people who can really make or plans, and why / how their support matters to you in this situation. Either make a list of people, or write each name on a separate sticky note, to help you with the next stage.
Think as widely as you can, using these prompts as appropriate for you:
- Shareholders / investors
- Bosses / leaders
- Other departments / functions
- Direct team
- Other key stakeholders
Step 3: create a visual map
Now place you each person onto the grid below, to create the first part of your visual influencing map. Either write names directly onto the grid, or attach each sticky note where you think it sits.
The grid has two axes. For each person, use these axes as follows:
- Importance of support. Decide how important having this person’s support for your plans is – low to high.
- Level of support. Decide how supportive of your plans this person is right now – low, to high.
- Then place the name of the person where your decisions for 1 and 2 intersect.
Once you have worked through all your names, literally just plotting them onto the grid, move to Step 4.
Step 4: identifying who influences the influencers
Now look at your grid and focus on the people whose support is very important – i.e. in the medium-high category.
For each of these high importance people, think of who they listen to and are swayed by. Make sure that you add the names of those people who influence the influencers to the grid as well, locating them appropriately in terms of importance and support.
Step 5: creating your plan
You have a really useful, visual map of where you believe the people who can make or break your plans sit. Just seeing this on paper, rather than carrying all the information in a disconnected way in your head, is incredibly useful in itself. It allows you to step back and assess how the land lies so that you can plan your route to success. Work through these items now, making sure that you:
- Put yourself in the shoes of each person, and do your best to see things from their perspective, even if you don’t agree with their views; and
- Strive to achieve a mutually beneficial outcome.
a) For each of those people in the high importance, high support category – write down the actions that you will take to keep their support levels high on an ongoing basis. This is important. Complacency or lack of attentiveness to supporters is risky. It’s better ad easier to maintain support than it is to regain it once its been lost.
b) For every individual in the high importance, low support category – write down the actions that you will take to increase their support levels.
c) For every individual in the low importance, high support category – write down how you you will maintain their support and use it productively.
d) For those in the low importance, low support category – make a mental note to keep an eye on things, just in case anything changes.
Step 6: making it happen
You’ve now got a really useful, actionable high-level plan that you can use to begin gaining more support for your target outcomes. All that’s left is for you to go and make your plan happen! Keep your grid updated as things change, so it always reflects the latest situation at all times.
I will post more on specific influencing techniques for different people and situations in future blogs, and would love to hear what you think in the meantime. Where are your challenges, and what works for you?
As always, if you’d like any one-to-one support and advice, please do get in touch with me direct at [email protected] on email, or cellphone 0044 7879 631270. And do check out our Idea Time® online and one-to-one coaching programme here. It has a full module on Influencing Skills, including our Influencing Style Questionnaire that you can use to identify your personal influencing strengths and development areas.