Every interpersonal endeavor includes an aspect of influence. In negotiation, you’re influencing someone to move closer to your point of view. In conflict resolution, you’re influencing two people or organizations to solve their issues and get along. In organizational change, the topic of this blog post, you’re influencing a person or organization to do something in a different way.
This blog combines influence-based and change-based concepts into a single activity. It begins by giving a high-level overview of our ERICA Change Management Framework, then provides examples of how each framework components can be assisted via the use of influence-based techniques and concepts.
When reading this blog, please consider it from two perspectives, first, as this blog suggests, on how you can use influence-based concepts to enhance your organizational change activities, second, how you can use these 15 influence techniques in other ways to your professional advantage.
Figure #1 displays the five components of the ERICA organizational change framework.
- E: Environment: Organizational change is framed within its “Environment”, the reasons and circumstances for the change
- R: Resources: The people, funding, organizational support and other company assets that are available to help facilitate the change.
- I: Individuals: The people who being asked to change their job roles, skills, tasks or other personally felt items
- C: Culture: The culture or micro-cultures of the organization in which the change will occur
- A: Actions: The change management plan, execution of the plan and measurement of expected and unexpected result
With the ERICA framework explained, let’s discuss how ERICA’s Resource, Individuals and Culture components can be enhanced using influence-based techniques.
The circumstances causing the need to change is generally dictated by external forces, therefore, most likely there is nothing you can do to change the external change environment. If this not the case, your ability to influence the change’s reason, vision, urgency, impact and/or scope can have a great effect on the:
• Resources needed
• Individuals required to change
• Cultural effect on the organization
• Action plan’s activities
Therefore, if you have the ability to influence the “environment”, do so first because of the dramatic effect it has on all the other factors within the ERICA framework.
Gathering Resource Using Influence
Influencer #1: Use delegated authority
Delegated authority is using another person’s organizational clout as your own to increase your influence and/or authority. For example, if the company’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO) instructs you to replace the existing budgeting system with a newer, more feature rich software program, then you are acting under the CFO’s authority. This authority can then be used to gain the needed information, support and funding needed to complete the task. Your goal in using the new-found clout is to use it sparingly as needed and not as a bully pulpit for your personal advantage.
Influencer #2: Motivation through vision (Pull-based influence)
You can enlist people to directly help you or provide their resources (budget, information, people, etc.) by describing your vision to them in a way they will want to help you. If effect, “You are letting others have things your way”
Influencer #3: Reciprocity
Reciprocity, from an influence perspective, means that if you do something good for someone, they will feel a social obligation to do something good for you.
Influencer #4: Consistency
The concept of influence consistency is that if you can get someone to do a little of something, you can get them to more of it at a later time. Therefore, if you begin by asking for a small resource commitment, it may be easier for you to attain more substantial resources at a later time if the person thinks that the resources related to your first request were used wisely.
Influencer #5: Finding mutual gain
If you can find a way that the change you wish to implement is not only of advantage to you, but also of value to the person you are trying to influence. This way, they are not giving the resources to you, they are using their resources toward their own gain, which happens to be to your advantage also.
Influencer #6: Action/Reaction
One of my favorite ways to influence others is to perform a task that needs to be done anyway, but doing it in a manner that causes the other person to react in a specified fashion. For example, if there is person that you need to respond to your emails more quickly, then respond to their emails quickly, with the hope that they will be return the favor.
This technique can work in many ways, including getting additional resources. If you can show that you are committing your resources to the project, showing that you have “skin in the game”, then they may commit their resources also.
Influencer #7: Direct Request
While all the previously listed influence techniques can be very effective, the best way to gain the needed resources is simply to ask. I’ve saved this one for last because doing any of the previously listed techniques first, makes the ask a little easier to say and a lot more successful.
Changing Individuals Using Influence
Influencer #8: Emotional intelligence
Each person looks at change from their own perspective. The better you understand their perspective, the easier it will be for you to influence them to change on your behalf. This is “empathy” which is a key component of emotional intelligence. If you have never studied emotional intelligence, I strongly suggest that you do so. It will provide you the needed insights into how to empathize with others and use it for your professional advantage.
Influencer #9: Personal Connection
All interpersonal interactions, including influence, change, negotiation and more, are enhanced if the people interacting had previously created a positive, trusting, interpersonal connection. Therefore, if possible, try to meet with people in an introductory and friendly meeting, perhaps over a cup of coffee, when you first start working with them. This is will allow you to begin forming a positive working relationship prior to any issues arising.
Influencer #10: Storytelling
Stories, if done correctly, bring together information, setting, actions, emotions and other factors that involve many parts of your brain. This is why stories are so memorable and persuasive. Storytelling can be used to your advantage by telling people about the change that needs to make in the form of story, rather than a list of bullet points or numeric data. This story should include the current situation, why the change needs to be made, the desired outcome, and the process to get there. This will give people a holistic understanding of the change being made and ideally gaining their support in the process.
Influencer #11. Leading questions
A leading question is posed with the intent of soliciting a specific conclusion or action. For example, when a sales person asks you “Do you have any more questions about the product before we start the paperwork?”, the true meaning is “ok, you have asked enough questions, let’s sign the contract and be done with it”.
You can use leading questions to point people toward the change that you would like to facilitate. In effect, their answers will convince themselves go along, or even help, with the change you are implementing.
Influencer #12: Social proof
We can view social proof in two ways. First, people often look at the behavior of others for direction on choices. For example, a company is more likely to buy a product that all their major competitors purchase, rather than a product that is unknown within their industry. Second, there is safety in numbers. A decision has a lower business risk if it is the same as that made by others within the same department or company.
From a change perspective, if you can list respected people within your company that agree with the change and are assisting in its implementation, then additional people will be more like to go along with your initiative.
Changing Culture Using Influence
Influencer #13: Understanding microcultures
As people have personalities, companies (and other organizations) have cultures. It’s important that you understand not only your company’s overall culture, but also microcultures within it. For example, if the change you are implementing is a new company-wide process, it may need to describe it to the salesforce in a different way than to the accounting department, because their internal departmental cultures, goals and challenges are different.
Influencer #14: Statement Repetition
Statement repetition, in an organizational change sense, is the process of repeating your message through multiple avenues on an ongoing basis with the goal of employees/members internalize the message as their own.
This concept can be used to help facilitate your required change by identifying the people that should be reached and the multiple ways they can be contacted via their natural work flow. This may include a login message on their computer, posters in the hallways, a small sign placed on desks, a large sign at the office entrance and/or other similar locations. The more they see your signs, the more likely they will be able to accept the change as a new organizational process.
Action Plan, Execution and Measurement
Your action plans, execution of those plans and measurement of your change results should follow your standard internal project management methodologies.
If you have correctly . . .
• Assessed the change environment,
• Gained the need resources,
• Gained the support of the individuals being asked to change,
• Properly modified the organization culture if needed,
• Developed a quality change project plan,
Then you are well on your way to implementing your change initiative.
In closing, enhancing your influence skills is neither an event nor a destination. It’s a journey of life-long learning, practice, and experience. Consider this blog to be steppingstone in your quest of learning how to influence others and how it can be used in all interpersonal activities, not just when implementing change.