GHC 2012: How to Influence without Authority, and Why It’s Important

These are some notes and thoughts from one of the sessions that I attended at Grace Hopper this year.

Dictionary definition of Influence. - The capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone or something, or the effect itself.

Inherently, you don’t need authority to influence.

What do you need to be able to influence?

- Relationships - Get out into the hallways and meet people… Learn what their goals are and figure out how you can help them advance those goals. Do your job well and build a reputation for yourself.

- Trust. Takes time to build, very easy to break.  You get this by doing what you say and saying what you do. Be consist in your approach to things.  Reciprocity is important. Give as much as you ask. Takes time. Not a one off thing you try to achieve.

How do you influence?

Become good at summarizing, be concise, make sure your ideas are based in fact. Consider your audience. Change the length and depth of your data depending on who your talking to.

What’s in it for them? If people find nuggets of their ideas in your plan, they will want to be bought in to it.

Ask questions. Ask short questions, give people a chance to tell you what they think. Make an emotional connection and find out shared values. Ask open questions, avoid leading questions, not yes/no questions.

Now i’ve always had a bit of an issue with session’s on how to influence people. We had one when I first start at ThoughtWorks at TWU. I’ve always thought there is a very fine line between influencing someone and just plain manipulating them. In my rose-tinted world I hope that you don’t need to consciously try to influence people if you are leading by example and have everyone’s best interest’s at heart. If you are genuine and achieve great things, it will change the way people around you act.

Thankfully someone in the audience asked just this question: How do you make sure you’re not coming across as being manipulative?

Avoid one sided conversations.  Present your idea and ask for feedback.  Focus on what is in it for them.  Respect “No.”, but try again.  Make sure that you are “perceived as trustworthy”. (<- shouldn’t you just BE trustworthy?!)

What do you do when you are dealing with someone who ‘needs’ to feel like they have that authority over you?

Make friends with people who are friends with them and ask their advice. Ask how can I talk to them in a way that they will listen to? Make sure you are advancing them in their goals as well. “Their ego is their teddy bear and don’t take their teddy bear away from them”.

As long as you don’t care who gets the credit you can go along way.

 How to influence what you are working remotely?

Try to meet at least once. Phone and Skype become easier once you have met face to face. Talk about non work stuff to create a personal connection. Get into a conference call 15 mins early and chat, make it known that that’s what you do.

For more notes on the session see here