Your ability to influence multiple people can take many different forms, requiring you to “influence up” (your boss, shareholders, a client’s president) and “influence down” (your department colleagues, a new hire, a contracted employee).
In this post, I present to you seven ways to influence up — which, incidentally, work well in individual persuasion situations, too:
1. Speak the language.
How do your targets view their work and their environment? Do they talk about market share, return on investment, return on equity, risk mitigation, competitive advantage, market intelligence, shareholder value, stakeholder opinion, media response, or global presence? Try casting your arguments in your targets’ language. In other words, interpret your goals for acquiring increased development funds in terms of higher market share and make a case for achieving a strong ROI in a brief timespan.
2. Deal in evidence, not opinions.
Assemble the facts and remember that we’re talking about rules, not exceptions. The phrase “the exception proves the rule” means the hare beats the tortoise 999 out of 1,000 times. Frequency of occurrence helps support facts and separate anomalies. Make sure your points are evidence-based and unassailable.
3. Focus on solutions.
Don’t threaten people with an inquisition. Seek ways to rectify and reconcile so that everyone finds the solution satisfying.
Don’t tell people everything you know; tell them only what they need to know. You need your targets’ attention, not their captivity. So ensure that you can succinctly state your case in a minimum number of words and allocated amount of time. Which brings us to…
5. Manage the clock.
If you end a meeting 10 minutes early, nobody is going to complain. But if you’re running over the allocated time by two minutes, people will rapidly lose interest — even if you held their undivided attention three minutes ago. To avoid that, work backwards, allowing the final 10 minutes of a designated timeframe to be used to develop consensus, determine next steps, set times and dates, and allocate accountabilities. These are busy people, and they have other places to be and people to see.
6. Stand your ground.
Maintain the courage of your position, meaning that while you should remain open to other views and even criticism, don’t back down in the face of strong opposition or peer pressure. People are most prone to follow both formal and informal leaders who can take the heat and lead the way through ambiguity and resistance.
7. Relish the contrarian position.
“Yes men” are abundant in organizations, and they usually attempt to side with the status quo to remain in the boss’s good graces. If you want to truly succeed at persuasion, be willing to stand out and be identified as someone with ideas that don’t adhere to the overused slogan, “That’s how we’ve always done things.”
These best practices to “influence up” are based on boldness and brevity, which strong senior people tend to appreciate and respond to positively. Remember, the people with whom you are dealing in group persuasion environments are paid to achieve results, and the quickest, most obvious roads to that success will strike harmonious chords. So make your case in their language with an outcome-based focus in as brief a time as possible.