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How to Influence Others When You Have No Authority or Power: Part 1

Posted by Jeff Welch on 2/7/13 3:00 AM
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As a training professional, you may encounter situations in your career where you find that you have lots of responsibility, but little to no authority or power.

I found myself in that situation when I was a project manager on various instructional design projects. In most cases, my fellow team members were not my direct reports. I was not the boss of my instructional designer, subject-matter expert, or IT colleagues.

Even as a Langevin course leader, there are times when my power is limited. My workshop participants don’t report directly to me; I’m not their actual supervisor or manager. This situation is especially evident when I’m hired as visiting instructor who’s been outsourced to facilitate a course at a client site.

So, this brings me to the question: How do you get others to do what you need and want, when in actuality you have no real authority or power? The answer might lie in the concept of influence.

I recently read a book titled The Agile Manager’s Guide to Influencing People. John R. Hook, the book’s author, gives some sound advice on using influence as a tactic to move others toward your point of view, thus accomplishing your goals. Mr. Hook, a former instructor at the US Military Academy and Johns Hopkins University, maps out a very methodical process of applying influence to get what you want in various business situations.

Although I won’t attempt to summarize the entire book, I will focus on the author’s insight as it relates to understanding and using influence styles. Hook focuses on three influence styles: logic, common vision, and mutual participation. Understanding these styles may help you find specific, persuasive arguments that work best on the person or people you’re trying to influence. I will address each of these influence styles separately in a three-part blog post. This first installment will focus on logic.

This influence style relies heavily on offering factual data and concrete evidence. The logic style requires the influencer to do his/her homework by researching and presenting information in a concise and logical manner. Facts and statistics must be included in each argument, and counter-arguments may have to be used as rebuttal.

I find this style works best when interacting with individuals who have an analytical personality type. Although a bit stereotypical, analytical people are often described as precise, systematic, and structured. From my experience, a person who possesses these characteristics will usually connect best with the logical style and approach.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but I once used the logic style when interacting with a subject-matter expert from the accounting department at a former job. I was required to partner with a gentleman to gather financial information for a course I was designing. As the project progressed, his schedule became very hectic, resulting in his cancelling or rescheduling meetings and conference calls. When we did eventually connect, he was often hesitant about divulging much needed information regarding his department and their processes. At the rate things were going, I knew it would be difficult to get necessary information from him unless I adjusted my interactions with him.

I assessed the situation and analyzed his personality type. I realized that he was a busy individual who was extremely numbers-driven and results-oriented. I determined that a logical approach was the best way to influence him to provide me with quality information. I achieved greater success when I gave him solid, chronological deadlines with ample advanced notice. He seemed to respond better to concise communication which focused heavily on the “dollars and cents” of the project. Lastly, I made a conscience effort to show him how his contributions were significant in moving the project toward completion.

Using logic proved to be successful for me in this particular influence attempt. How have you used logic to successfully influence someone without having any authority or power over that person? I’d love to hear your success stories!

Keep an eye out for part 2 of this blog series in which I’ll discuss the second influence style: common vision.

Jeff has been a course leader with Langevin since 2000. He completed a Bachelor of Arts degree in both Speech Communications and Broadcasting from Western Kentucky University. Before pursuing his passion for training, Jeff worked as a television reporter, flight attendant, fitness instructor, and tour guide. Jeff started his career in training at the daily newspaper in Atlanta. Training seemed to be a natural fit for him since he’s always been a bit of a performer. When at home, you’ll catch Jeff watching a cooking show, recreating a dish he’s eaten abroad, or exploring one of the many great restaurants in the Chicago area. During the summer months, he hits the road to follow the talented drum corps of Drum Corp International—something he’s done since high school!

Topics: instructional techniques, influencing, instructional design

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