In business (and in your personal life) you may have the opportunity to use influencing skills to impact a decision that will help you accomplish a goal or objective. In these situations you need to influence the decision-maker and create an influencing strategy. Before you speak to the person you need to influence you may need to interact with several other people. Sometimes this process can seem like the “Who’s on First” routine by Abbot and Costello. Below are some items to consider when identifying who should come first in the influencing interactions.
Know your culture, the people involved, your power base, the image you have, and the relationships that exist. This may seem like a lot to know, but if you want the influencing interaction to be successful, it is necessary to do your homework.
If your culture has a hierarchy, then consider approaching the decision-maker last. This will give you time to get the support you need prior to influencing interaction. Some decision-makers may want to know if you have gone through the proper channels before speaking to them.
Some decision-makers want you to come in with a plan. In this case you should start with the individuals or groups that will give you the cooperation and support needed. Did you speak to IT to find out where your goal/objective fits into their schedule? Do you have peer support? Is there an individual in the organization who can act as a mentor? Use them as a sounding board and let them share their experiences.
If you don’t have a direct relationship with the decision-maker, build support from those that do. Start by asking yourself the following questions: Who does the decision-maker respect and how can you get them on your side? Who are your advocates and how can they help?
Since the objective is to use your influencing skills successfully in your interactions, try to avoid involving individuals who may not be receptive to your goal. Their tepid reception may cause a delay in the pursuit of your goal. Even though you want to be inclusive when getting support, be wary of individuals who may be tempted to sabotage your efforts. You are in a business environment so be cautious of any confidentiality issues that could be impacted by those you choose to be a part of your influencing strategy.
As I stated in the beginning “Who’s on First” may not be as easy as it seems. First know your culture and its politics, then create a plan, and then go for it!