As you get more senior you tend to build up more authority, and you also have more experience. Both great traits to have for influencing others!
The thing is, the further up the tree you get, the stakeholders you need to influence are also more experienced, more discerning and as a general rule, extremely time poor. This combination means that not only do they need to make decisions fast, but they are also bombarded with others asking something of them.
So there are two things here:
- You need to get their attention and time.
- You then need to be compelling enough to win their consideration and support.
No easy task!
I can tell you from experience, that nothing annoyed me more as a busy exec with a massive role, than those who had clearly given no thought or time when they approached me for my time, endorsement or support.
There were others however, who were known as being great influencers. Why?
1. Generally they were amazing communicators.
2. They played the long game, and consistently and authentically invested in developing relationships with others and building powerful networks (not just of those who were more senior either).
3. They took the time to really understand the point of view of those they were working with and trying to influence. What was the key thing that the CFO would need or value? What would take pressure off the front line staff member and make them more engaged? What could really make a difference to the executive running a big division?
So here are my top tips for influencing stakeholders:
- Start with mapping your stakeholder group. Who are they, and where will they sit on the spectrum of being a current supporter, a potential supporter or a potential blocker.
- Invest in building relationships. Ask questions, listen and be completely authentic and genuine in your curiosity. A foundation of a genuine relationship is a powerful tool when you need to influence down the track.
- Work out how you can help them. Find out where you can help them and what their challenges are. Aligning goals and shared challenges is a great way to influence and mutually benefit.
- Build your credibility, your authority (through doing not title) and your reputation as someone who is consistent, genuine and trustworthy.
Let's finish off with a challenge I'd like to set you this week:
Seek out an executive or senior leader who is known for their influencing skills. Observe what they do, and ask them if they would be happy to invest an hour with you to give you some insights and advice.
Trust me, it will be worth your time and effort!