Six Principles to Influence Others without Authority
I am always surprised in business when I come across people who are reluctant or unable to influence people who they don’t have “authority over”. The idea that you can’t influence or lead someone who doesn’t report to you is totally wrong, in fact it is perfectly achievable to influence more senior colleagues.
Having worked within successful teams for many years my own concept of authority has little to do with grade or position within a company. Whilst you may be able to force someone to do something they don’t want to do if you’re more senior, forcing anyone to do anything they don’t want to do is only likely to result in poor outcomes for everyone.
Influencing others is not about exercising seniority, it’s about explaining what you want to achieve, why you want to achieve it and taking other people on the journey with you. If you approach a task or objective with the best of intentions and listen to others you can successfully influence anyone including colleagues who may be significantly more senior to you.
By adopting simple principles you can influence a peer, senior colleague or anyone else for that matter. I have captured below six golden rules to follow when influencing others. Follow these rules and you will significantly increase your success influencing others.
Keep an Open Mind
The most important consideration when influencing other people is engaging them. When you come to the table with a fixed mind-set you won’t properly listen to feedback and will miss opportunities to do things better.
When looking to influence other people and get their buy in, ask them questions. What do they think? Could we do it any better? How important is this to them and their team? Etc. etc.
The way to get buy in is to ask rather than tell. People are much more likely to work to deliver something they have helped create and believe in. The more people input into anything the more ownership and desire they will have to deliver it.
Adopting this open mind-set also ensures that opportunities to find a better way of doing something are not missed. The best solution can only be reached when everyone who can add value is heard before you fix on a specific solution.
Approaching with an open mind-set will ensure you don’t get defensive and cling to one idea. Be passionate about what you want to achieve but in terms of the way to achieve this be dispassionate and subjective – this is how great solutions are found.
When trying to influence anyone think “we” not “you” and not “I”. Words are really important and will have a significant impact on people’s perception of you. Great influencers talk about what “we” are looking to achieve, how we will do it together etc. etc.
There are few things that disengage people more than hearing from someone “what they want to achieve” and ”what they need you to do” for them to achieve it. The language we use should make it clear we share the responsibility but we also share the success.
“What separates people is not the presence or absence of difficulty, but how they deal with the inevitable difficulties of life.” ― Jim Collins
In Jim Collins book Good to Great he talks about how our attitude in life largely colours our perception of events. By changing our mind-set our perception of the world changes as well. If you are interesting in learning more about Jim’s book you can view this on Amazon here.
Don’t Forget the Why
When seeking to influence people don’t lose the why. Ultimately every tough task, goal and objective should have an even more powerful why behind it. If the why is clear and powerful enough teams can achieve the amazing.
Many people fail to influence because they forget the why. To get buy in and to build a desire to deliver it is so important to talk about the why.
An example could be asking a team to change their working pattern. This could clearly cause difficulty and upset for some colleagues and may not be well received by all. If the why is powerful and clear enough you are much more likely to get buy in. In this case it could be that changing working patterns is important to ensure customers can speak to a member of staff when they call in, maybe calls are currently going unanswered.
Remember you can only achieve sustained great results when people know why it’s important, otherwise when the going gets tough it will just stop. Sharing and debating the why will build trust and mutual ownership of the goal or task.
Make it Win, Win
When you are looking to influence someone you are much more likely to succeed and prevent resentment if your proposal benefits everyone involved.
As much as possible look for solutions that have a benefit for everyone and help each person and team meet their own goals and objectives. An example could be asking someone to take on additional responsibility but tailoring that responsibility to support their development and career goals.
Where a task or objective does not help someone achieve what’s important to them it’s more likely to be seen as an obstacle to success rather than a route to it.
Making something Win, Win could be a simple as explaining how success would benefit the individual or team. The key is creating a connect between delivering the objective or task and the individuals and teams own success. Without this connect you are unlikely to get buy in.
Many tasks, goals and objectives go by the way side because there is insufficient follow up. If you are seeking to influence anyone you need to be consistent, replay the message and update on progress.
We have all seen objectives cascaded with a big song and dance that are then never mentioned again. People are wise to this and if it’s clear there is no follow up then how important could it be anyway?
The key to achieving anything tough is being consistent with the message. Replay it regularly, talk about successes challenges and get feedback. Just the act of doing this makes success much more likely. With so many different tasks and goals competing for time it’s inevitable we prioritise what we know will be followed up.
In Stephen Coveys classic book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective people the first rule is to be proactive! Stephen argues that by adopting a proactive approach we can grow our circle of influence and thus have a much greater control of our lives and our success.
“I am not the product of my circumstances, I am the product of my decisions” – Stephen Covey
Stephen states that we can expand our circle of influence by working out from the centre and building bridges. Be proactive and if you are interested in learning more about Stephen’s book you can view this on Amazon here.
“Without passion you don’t have energy, without energy you have nothing.” — Donald Trump
Little can doom a message more than a poor delivery. If you are seeking to influence anyone, they will follow your lead. Do you believe it’s important? Does your body language match the words you use? Think carefully about what you are looking to achieve and the best way to deliver your message.
I always remember a senior leader I worked with who would often cascade very challenging objectives. They would talk with such energy, excitement and passion that people instantly wanted to be involved. I remember watching them speak and thinking to myself “this is how you get the best out of people, this kind of passion and energy is infectious”.
Your approach is everything. If you are genuinely passionate and excited about something this in itself is incredibly powerful and will influence others.
When it comes to harnessing your passion to get the most out of yourself and others, I would highly recommend Dale Carnegie’s book How to Win Friends and Influence People. This book has been hugely helpful to me not just in my career but in my life. In Dale’s classic book he talks about how our mind-set influences our body language and how this then affects how people perceive us.
Dale teaches that to change how others think about us we don’t need to focus on them, or even our body language. Dale teaches that to reach our potential we need to change our mind-set, the rest is consequential. You can view Dale Carnegie’s classic on Amazon here.
I hope you find some benefit from the information within this guide! If you did you might also be interested in my guide – How to Achieve Anything where I provide my principles for achieving success in life whatever your goal may be!