Influencing without Authority – leveraging Relationships

In my blog series about Influencing without Authority, I have covered why you need to even consider it and 3 influence types so far : Expertise, Resources and Information.  Now let’s explore softer skills types of influence. I’ll start with Relationships and the last blog will be all about Attitude.

Surely it comes as no surprise to anyone that the stronger the personal relationships you have with people, the easier it is to influence them. The more you get to know people, the more each of you knows what to expect from the other person. That makes it easier to foresee reactions and attitudes. The more you have a sense of camaraderie with people, the more willing each of you will be to solve problems together.

To build strong relationships, it’s important to rely on those communication skills I talked about early on. Some conversations are better off in a 1:1 than in a group. Trying to resolve conflict with an individual in front of a group is not usually a good idea. But conflict or no, it’s always helpful to get to know someone better and to have opportunities to evolve the relationship. Brief discussions or 1:1 meetings, even messaging can help to do just that.

What’s in it for me?

Knowing how people tick is key to knowing what will influence them most. When you are working with a team member who is creating conflict you may want to try to ensure that the person understands why this project should be important for them, not just why it is important to you. If you don’t already know them well enough (and sometimes even when you think you do) the first step is to have a discussion about their objectives and priorities. Explicitly asking about what barriers they see. Step two is to restate objectives using their own language and context. This is where you get into the “what’s in it for me”. Finally validate what you heard and demonstrate where the commonality in objectives lies.

Wherever possible, stating objectives in a positive light is preferable. But remember that avoiding failure, risk, or reprimand can all be strong negative motivations for people who don’t seem to have any positive motivation. Whether it is your own authority or your sponsor’s or your manager or their manager, there is usually an authority that you CAN wave around like a big stick. Personally, I don’t recommend waving it around a lot. But sometimes you have to. When that’s the case, think hard about what or who the stick is where the trouble maker is concerned!

In my launch example, I had the advantage of having long standing work relationships with many of the people on the project. I knew who the complainers were, the people who just HAD to get a comment in, the people I could rely on to maintain an even keel. I knew in some cases of difficult situations individuals had and was able to help them to resolve conflict. I am sure I called in a few favors when things got really rough. But most of all, the team generally were more cooperative with me because they knew from experience that they could trust me to speak straight.

The final blog will be on Attitude and defusing emotional situations.  I’m looking forward to hearing from you about other influence areas you find effective!