influence people

Most leaders or managers need to be able to influence people to do their jobs. This might be to get approval for something we’re doing or to get buy-in for an idea.

Most likely when you are communicating with important stakeholders, they’re going to be busy and fairly ruthless in how they manage their time. Senior people often have the power to put up roadblocks that can delay you, or even stop what you’re doing altogether.

They have to be approached in such a way as to get them interested in what you’re doing. There are several simple ways to influence people to achieve this.

1. To influence people, communicate the “what’s in it for me?”

Many new leaders hit a roadblock when trying to influence people because they forget one important aspect. They forget to emphasise the reasons why the person should be interested in helping them. In other words, “what’s in it for me?”, or “why should I take time out of my day to do this?”.

Be sure to include good reasons for your request – an example might be

“We would like your feedback to make that the your department’s requirements are included in our work”.

If you read this a different way, you are really saying “If you don’t respond, we are not going to take your department into account.” This can be very effective in getting a favourable, timely response.

Worded poorly, it could be perceived as a threat, so be careful if you use this approach when dealing with senior stakeholders.

2. Influence people by creating a sense of urgency

Another way to help to influence someone is to put a timeline on your request. If it seems like they can ignore it for weeks until getting around to it, they’re less likely to devote time to that activity.

Try not to make the timeline too short. This will annoy people because they weren’t consulted earlier, and could result in people refusing to help you. One way to combat this is to prepare the person well ahead of time, that they should be expecting your request in the future.

3. Influence people by asking for advice

People like being asked for their opinion and generally, they like to help others. It can be helpful to phrase the request as if you are seeking feedback from someone who is experienced and knowledgeable.

This is a form of mild flattery that can be helpful in getting a good response. Be careful not to overdo it though.

For example, “Based on your involvement with <something> last year, we’d appreciate your feedback to help us in this area.” You can see how the person would feel as if their input is critical to success.

4. Influence people by helping them, asking for nothing in return

Helping people makes you feel good right? But it also makes your job easier in the long run. If you are dealing with people that need some work done, why not jump in and help?

You needn’t try to do everyone’s work for them, but if you help people strategically it can be beneficial.

Your work will become that much easier if you have already banked a small favour along the way. One day someone might just return it.

It’s easy to say “it’s not my job”, but sometimes it’s better to make it your job for a minute and help others out for no immediate benefit to yourself.

It’s always difficult dealing with senior stakeholders. You can’t force them to do anything. Use the approaches above to influence people and reduce the chances of hitting a roadblock.

Have you had experience trying to influence people? How did you influence them, and did it work? I’d love to hear from you about this topic.