CARLOS FELT HELPLESS. The new corporate structure meant that while Carlos had the same KPIs, he had no power over the people who would help him succeed or fail. Procurement answered to Shanghai, sales answered to Frankfurt, and even his logistics team was based out of Sydney. How would he influence those around him, who gained nothing from his success, but who were critical to his own?
…it’s easy to be surrounded by colleagues whose only common connection is the water cooler.
Carlos’ story is not unique. Today, with authority lines extending beyond provincial, state and national boundaries, it’s easy to be surrounded by colleagues whose only common connection is the water cooler. And yet, as with Carlos, these ‘orphaned colleagues’ are integral in each other’s own success – whether they know it or not. The key to success, in these outward facing organisations, is to know how to influence without authority. Here’s five techniques to get you started:
1. Build Your Charisma
Let’s face it. If you are disliked within your organisation those around you are unlikely to help, no matter how much you plead. Ask yourself, “On a scale of 1 to 10, how much am I liked by my peers?” If the score is less than a five, then you have a big problem, but one that can be overcome – with time. Chances are you are in ‘guanxi debt’. In my book, Selling Big to China, under the chapter of Reciprocation, I highlight the need to build your ‘guanxi piggy-bank’ by giving, before accepting anything in return. The biblical quote, “do undo others as you would have them do unto you”, is only half correct. It should also include the clause, “months and years in advance”.
And if all this is too difficult, the easiest way to increase your charisma is to simply smile.
Charisma can also be built by listening. You wouldn’t consider your friends, who love talking about themselves, as charismatic. Confident, overbearing, or even arrogant, are more likely descriptors. Simply asking open questions, that is ‘what’, ‘when’, ‘where’, ‘who’, ‘why’ and ‘how’, encourages others to dominate the discussion. And when asked, “How was your weekend?”, be sure to follow your answer with, “…and how was your weekend?” Share the stage.
And if all this is too difficult, the easiest way to increase your charisma is to simply smile. Thais and Filipino’s are renowned for their friendliness. It’s no coincidence that these two culture love smiling. Russians and Brits, on the other hand, are stereotyped to the contrary. Visit a funny website each morning, attend yoga classes, or force that grin until it becomes habit. Either way, smile! You’ll build your charisma, and have more influencing power over those that you have no authority.
2. Uncover Hidden Needs
Needs are subjective – feelings. We work to earn money, but money is only a ‘want’. It is tangible. We use money to obtain our needs – freedom, excitement, comfort, security, or even recognition. We also don’t value these needs equally. An entry level employee may jump at the chance to work overtime – to learn more, and impress their boss for a pay rise. The same ‘opportunity’ may be seen as a burden, for a mother who needs to be home to cook for her family. The invitation to move to a different department may also be rejected if the new location is across town and the individual doesn’t want to be inconvenienced by travel. In these two examples, ‘opportunity to impress’ and ‘convenience’ are the hidden needs.
Uncovering an individual’s needs requires a combination of empathy and listening skills. What motivates you, may not motivate others. But once you have put on the others’ metaphorical shoes you will be able to see alternative ways to influence. Or in other words, a BVS.
3. Moving from a CVS to BVS
We currently live in the current view of the situation (CVS). This is the way we see our life, those around us, the world, and future opportunities. Our CVS is reinforced by status quo, tradition, and the opinions of those around us. The CVS in Christopher Columbus’ day was that the world was flat. In today’s world, many people have the CVS that they are locked in, limited, controlled and hindered. But in fact, there is always a better view of the situation (BVS).
In today’s world, many people have the CVS that they are locked in, limited, controlled and hindered. But in fact, there is always a better view of the situation (BVS).
Creative and innovative thinkers have allowed computers to shrink from room- to pocket-size, reduce the size of the combustion engine while increasing its power, and have created new materials that are lighter, stronger and cheaper. They moved from a CVS to a BVS.
The challenge you face, when trying to influence others, is that most are locked into their current view of the situation. And worse still, they will defend it! You may have the better view of the situation, but you need to first persuade the other person that a BVS is even possible. What you are actually asking the person to do is to ‘escape’ their current view of the situation, and that takes charisma and possibly a KOL.
4. Building Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs)
Often the direct approach is the wrong approach. Ask any husband who has provided advice to their wife, after learning of a challenge at her workplace. Instead, a trusted third party is needed. In the world of sales and negotiations, these people are called key opinion leaders, or KOLs.
A KOL can help persuade because they are seen as independent and unbiased. However, to be considered a KOL, they must also have the respect of the person that you are trying to persuade. Essentially, you are borrowing their authority, trust and charisma.
5. Make it Easy
And finally, if you lack authority but need to influence another, make it easy for them to say ‘yes’. If work and effort is required, then give those you wish to influence templates, samples, scripts, and physical tools to assist them into taking action. If your request becomes the path of least resistance, then you are more likely to gain the support.
Influencing without authority is more challenging, but you are probably doing it successfully every day without realising. Whether it’s asking for directions, getting another to hold the elevator door, or even reminding a stranger to put their rubbish in the bin, there is no contract requiring the other person to follow through with your request. So escape from your CVS, and realise that the better view of the situation is that you are now in control.