Managing People: Using Influence

©1999 Johanna Rothman

Effectively using your influence is an art, the art of getting other people to do the things you want them to — and willingly. Many of us have opportunities to practice using our influence when we have responsibility for results, but not specific managerial authority. To be effective in these collaborative/consensus situations, you have to use your influence. Here are some ideas to keep in mind.

  • Be friendly and open to the other person's ideas and concerns. Since I want this person to do something specific, I should be aware of their concerns. When I approach someone with a smile on my face and an open attitude, my colleague is more willing to listen to me.
  • Figure out the other person's WIIFM (What's In It For Me). When I understand what motivates my colleague, I might be able to appeal to that specific motivation to get the job done. I have noticed that on project teams, some people are motivated by peer recognition of their work. Others are motivated by manager recognition of their results. Their WIIFMs are not the same, but we can generally make projects work by finding public recognition for some and manager recognition for others.
  • Listen to the people you work with. If we are able to listen effectively enough, our teams will almost always tell us what they need from their organizations to be most effective. Once I hear what people want to have happen, I can then work with them to figure out how to make it happen in this particular context.
  • Allow others time to think. I have to continually guard against my tendency to push my ideas without giving others a chance to really consider and question those ideas. Some people may need more process time to provide valuable input.
  • Remember that you don't own the whole problem by yourself. Sometimes in a functional or project management capacity, you may feel as if you have to have all the ideas, and all the answers. But, you need to remember that you work with other people. On a development project, the ship date really is everyone's problem. When I consult in an acting manager capacity, I need to work with the whole organization to plan and work together to accomplish the ship date.
  • Don't be overly tied to your ideas. Once you've agreed to work collaboratively (which is what you do when you work through influence), others might be able to improve on your work. Be sure you don't get in their way. Sometimes, we all find it difficult to let go of ideas that have served me well in the past. I try to remember that I can use those ideas as a possible starting place for a particular problem.

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