9 Ways IT Professionals Can Say No Without Saying No

Saying no is an often-overlooked influence technique. It is not simply saying no; it’s saying no and suggesting you or the other person/people involved do something differently. For example, someone asks you to give them a recap of a meeting they missed, but you don’t have time to do so. Rather than just saying no, you could use a leading question, saying, “I’d like to help, but I’m afraid I might accidentally leave out an important point. Did you know that the meeting’s minutes are available online in the meeting notes? Do you think it would be better to look there?” This type of technique has the dual benefits of saving you from having to spend time recapping the meeting and simultaneously redirects the person to a place where they can get the needed information. Using these types of “redirection techniques” can save you from: Feeling confrontational by saying no. Offending non-IT business partners Agreeing to perform work you don’t want to do. Wanting to help but not having the needed time, information, and/or resources to provide assistance. The topics/techniques that follow are alternative ways to say no without actually saying no by either providing alternatives or redirecting the question. 1. Saying No Using Redirection This technique is best when you are willing to help but believe what they are asking you to do either won’t work or you would rather do it a different way. In this case, your reply should provide an alternative solution, such as: I’m sorry I won’t be [...]

By | 2020-03-18T14:53:15+00:00 May 6th, 2020|

5 Ways to Influence Business Partners Using Multi-Step Communication

Multi-step communication consists of predefined processes crafted to create a specific response and/or outcome. This communication type is often used in conflict resolution, difficult conversations, change management, motivation, and other related activities. At their core, however, they are influence vehicles generic enough to be used in situations of all types. 1. Problem/Vision Statements Within a business setting, this technique is primarily used to gain approval and/or funding for a specific project. The “problem statement” defines the issue that must be solved, and the “vision statement” describes the desired end-state once the problem has been corrected. The format for each statement is shown below: Problem statement: The problem is _____, resulting in ______, thereby causing ______. Vision statement: It would be great if _____, allowing us to ______, thereby having the effect of _________. For example, if the VP of sales wants funding to upgrade the company’s customer relationship management (CRM) system. The VP could say: Problem statement: The problem is the CRM system is running slowly, resulting in inefficiencies in our sales process, thereby causing lower company revenue. Vision statement: It would be great if we upgraded the CRM software, allowing us to increase sales personnel efficiency, having the effect of increasing company revenue. The concept is that the problem causes feelings of anxiety and urgency, and the vision describes the problem-free future state. The trick is to get decision-makers to buy into the problem statement. Then it is easier to influence them to approve the funding or solution. 2. Fear/Protection The Fear/Protection [...]

By | 2020-03-18T14:53:06+00:00 April 29th, 2020|

3 Key Types of Influential IT Communication

Sometimes it is not what you say, it is how you say it, when you say it, where you say it, and/or the process you use to say it. There are different techniques you can use in a seemingly ordinary conversation that dramatically enhance your ability to influence others. Your goal when experimenting with these techniques is to internalize them through practice, so using them does not seem calculated, disingenuous, or opportunistic. The beauty of these techniques, in addition to their general applicability as an influence-based tactic, is that they are easily incorporated into other types of interactions, such as negotiation, conflict resolution, delegation, vendor management, and other IT-related activities. While reading this blog, you should consider the following questions: Which techniques do I like most and want to incorporate into my personal conversational repertoire? How do others use these techniques on me, and why do they work? How can I use these tactics in other interpersonal communications like negotiation and conflict resolution to increase my effectiveness? Which tactics that I have observed others using would I like to use? 1. Storytelling Using stories to convey information, maintain historical records, influence others, and perpetuate cultures, religions, and family identities is as old as humanity itself. Humans are internally wired to enjoy stories. Don’t children want a bedtime story before going to sleep? Storytelling was the primary vehicle for passing information from generation to generation for a very long time. Politicians often begin speeches by defining their accomplishments in terms of facts and figures. [...]

By | 2020-03-18T14:52:57+00:00 April 22nd, 2020|

Push and Pull Influence from an IT Perspective

Push and pull influence refers to two opposing influence types: Push type influence: Urging or forcing a person or group to perform a task, rather than motivating them to comply or help. Pull type influence: Attempting to motivate a person or group to want to comply or perform the task at hand. At first glance, it may seem that push is bad and pull is good. However, they can both be good or bad depending on the tactics and desired outcome.  For example, pushing employees to use strong passwords while simultaneously motivating (pulling) them to we watchful for phishing type emails are a great combination that help safeguard the company’s digital assets. Push Type Influence Push influence can take many forms. Some forms we all see and follow on a daily basis, some we choose to follow for our own wellbeing, and others we try to avoid because they attempt to force us where we do not want to go. Some push influences include legal requirements, expert authority, industry standards, societal norms, and regulatory mandates. All these pushes are to keep us safe and healthy, but they are pushes nevertheless. Examples of these types of push influences include: Legal requirement: When driving a car, you must stop at red lights and go on green lights. As an interesting aside, the societal norm in Massachusetts, where I live, is if the traffic light turns yellow, you accelerate through it before it turns red. Expert authority: Doctors instruct us what to eat, what medication [...]

By | 2020-07-14T21:29:17+00:00 April 15th, 2020|

7 Key Office Influence Strategies for IT Executives

As a CIO, department manager, or individual contributor, the ability to influence your peers, vendors, business partners, and others is key to both your organization and your professional reputation. When people think about influencing others, they often think about short-term tactics that are sales-like in approach and appearance. While these certainly are influence techniques, I would like you to widen your thinking and perspective on influence within the workplace and in general. Below are seven key influence strategies that can be used alone or in combination to achieve your desired outcome. 1. Strategic Influence Strategic influence is a long-term, holistic approach to building the influence you would like to wield in the future. This could be leadership in a business, technical, or social arena. It could also be quietly and efficiently building credibility, connections, skills, knowledge, and/or infrastructure for use in the future. Strategic influence may mean taking a leadership role in your company’s digital strategy, business direction, and key internal projects, and/or implementing processes supporting a leading industry trend. This long-term, strategic influence not only builds your resume, but it enhances your professional brand as a business and technical leader. Use strategic influence to: Create a personal career development plan. Lay the foundation for influencing specific people by performing specific actions now that will pay influential dividends later, such as: Providing some assistance and/or minor favors. Building relationships with those you would like to influence. Increasing your subject-matter expertise. 2. Tactical Influence Tactical influence uses specific, short-term, influenced-based tactics to gain the [...]

By | 2020-03-18T13:53:23+00:00 April 8th, 2020|

3 Key Barriers to Influencing Your IT Business Partners

When a business users, or someone with IT itself, creates a barrier that blocks your way, such as refusing to sign a needed document, not responding to an important email, or not attending a long-scheduled meeting, it’s natural to sit back and ask yourself one of the following questions: What am I doing wrong? Why doesn’t this person like me? What does this person have against me? Why does this person dislike IT? 1. People Are Not Against You; They Are for Themselves This is a key concept. It is important because it refocuses your attention to the other person, not yourself. If you understand why the other person believes what you are doing is not in their best interest, you can change your strategy or find another way to explain what you want to accomplish. For example, if you are trying to implement new sales management software, you can explain it to the salespeople in one of two ways: “This new sales management software will make you so efficient, we’ll be able to raise your annual sales quotas.” “This new sales management software will increase your efficiency, allowing you to sell more products and increase your sales commission.” As you may expect, the salespeople will definitely dislike the first statement, but really like the second one. Truly understanding your audience is key to influencing them. 2. By Definition, Influence Facilitates Change Continuing on the theme that it is about understanding your audience, you must understand what it is about the way you [...]

By | 2020-03-18T13:53:06+00:00 April 2nd, 2020|

Internal IT and Business Connections Enhance Your Office Influence

I have spent many years designing and teaching classes on various types of interpersonal communication, including: negotiation, change management, conflict, leadership, difficult conversations, motivation, requesting approval, delegation, and others. All of these interpersonal activities are enhanced by the same mechanism—trusting relationships with the individuals with whom you are interacting. You don’t have to be friends. Even though being friends may help, it is not required. Think about your personal experiences. Are you more easily influenced by someone you trust? Are you more likely to go home with a negotiated agreement if you believe the other party will hold up their end of the deal? As an IT manager or Project Manager, it is more comfortable and less stressful to delegate to someone you know will do their best to complete the task without attempting to undermine you in the process. This brings us to an interesting question: “How can we build trust with those within IT and/or business partners we are attempting to influence?” There are actually two answers to this question. The obvious one is what we were taught as children: Keep your promises. Have a win-win mentality. Be honest. These maxims remain true and should always be followed, but often they are just not enough. This brings us to the second answer to this question: Strategically, get to know now those you will try to influence in the future through negotiation, change management, or conflict resolution. Although this is not always possible, try. For example: If you are an IT Manager/Leader [...]

By | 2020-03-18T13:52:54+00:00 March 25th, 2020|

IT’s ROI on Enhancing Its Office Influence

I always begin my keynotes and workshops by asking the same question, “How much time do you spend each day influencing others?”. Its purpose is to help them understand how much time they spend trying to influence people to complete the tasks they have already been asked to perform. The answer is generally between 20 and 75 percent, depending upon job type. IT Managers, Project Managers, Business Relationship Managers, Technical Support, and IT Executives of all types tend to be in the 50 to 75 percent range. On the lowest end at 10 to 25 percent are people in heads-down, transaction-oriented jobs, such as programmers, production support professionals, and those in operational or process type roles. The general correlation is: the more the role requires dealing with people, the higher the percentage of each day that person will spend trying to influence others. ROI #1: Personal Productivity For the sake of argument, let’s say that 25 percent of your day is spent trying to influence other people to do the tasks they’ve been assigned. If learning about influence could cut that time in half to 12.5 percent of your day, then based on an eight-hour day, you would save one hour a day, providing you use that time to do other things. Yes, that’s five hours per week of reclaimed productivity. This time could be used to perform other important tasks or simply leave the office in time to watch your child’s after-school soccer game. ROI #2: Enhanced Work Quality Another advantage of [...]

By | 2020-03-17T23:06:11+00:00 March 17th, 2020|

Teaching Life Lessons Will Build Your Management Legacy – Be a ‘Larry’

If you want to truly be remembered by those who work for you, teach life lessons, not just task execution. In 1979 I was a college intern, working as a computer programmer on Human Resource systems at Honeywell Information Systems. During my time there I was trying to learn about business and how to make my mark in the world.   I had a manager named Larry whom I will never forget.  He was my first manager in a true business setting.   He also took the concept of a “college internship” very seriously and felt a responsibility to teach me about more than just my daily tasks.  He also tried to teach me about business and life in general. On the business side, he told me to be ethical and good to people because, after a few years, it would seem that only 250 computer people worked in New England (I’m in Boston) and they just cycle from company to company.  At first glance, this may seem like a meaningless piece of advice, but it was actually incredibly insightful, very true, and extremely valuable to me.  Certainly, there are tens of thousands of computer people in New England, but over the years, you run across the same people again and again. Therefore, good, bad, or indifferent, your reputation precedes you in almost every professional endeavor, particularly if you stay in the same industry and technology throughout your career. On the personal side, Larry asked me “If I wanted to know the trick to [...]

By | 2020-08-01T13:25:30+00:00 April 25th, 2019|

Willingness to Let Your Staff Fail Drives Growth, Innovation and Change

This may sound a little harsh, but once you understand the meaning behind this statement, I believe that you will see that I’m suggesting a way to help, not hurt, those who work for you. Within certain bounds, giving the members of your team the opportunity to fail provides them with a safety net over which they can feel comfortable taking calculated professional risks and, in turn, help advance the organization and simultaneously grow professionally. By allowing members of your team to fail, I don’t mean losing a major client, hurting their professional reputation, or costing the company a large sum of money that could cost them their employment.  It does, however, allow them to: Define new techniques that improve existing department processes Design new product concepts Make a client presentation with you sitting in the back of the room helping them succeed if needed Try to develop a new skill that’s good for the company and their career Sit for a certification exam that they only have a 50% chance of passing Experiment with new technologies that could create company value if they are successful In essence, you are creating an environment that facilitates experimentation, innovation, teamwork, and the chance to have a real business impact.  By not giving your team this opportunity to fail, you are in essence telling them not to try anything new unless they are 100% sure that it will be 100% successful the first time and if not successful, their promotion, future pay raise, or even their [...]

By | 2020-03-17T23:02:29+00:00 April 18th, 2019|
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