Join John Ullmen for an in-depth discussion in this video Choose the right , part of Influencing Others.
Sometimes, it's perfectly clear who you need to influence and what you want them to do. But other times, especially at work. When the lines of influence are more complex, you can trip into influencing the wrong person in the wrong ways for the wrong reasons. I've seen it so many times that I want to make sure you choose the right who, so you don't unintentionally undermine your objectives. Here's an example. I coached an executive we'll call Suneil who was frustrated about not getting promoted faster. In our one to one meetings he often criticized his boss, who admittedly wasn't perfect, but who is? It came out in Suneil's behavior with her because he held her responsible for his promotion delay.
But here's the thing, she wasn't to blame. She didn't have the authority to promote him. In this organization, promotions were determined by a committee and she fully endorsed and supported him to that committee. In taking out his frustrations with her, Suneil was undermining his relationship with the one person who was 100% on his side. And was actually doing something meaningful to support his objective. He was influencing the wrong person in the wrong ways for the wrong reasons. She was a fine boss. And she was on his side. She even gave him great advice too.
In that company's culture, committee members need more than the boss's opinion. They need more evidence than that. People at Suneil's level, need to take their own initiative to build relationships and add value across different parts of the organization. By definition, his boss couldn't do that. It wasn't her who needed to do more, it was him. He just wished it were simpler. And don't we all sometimes? It was easier for him to blame her than influence all the committee members. I don't say this with a critical tone.
It's human nature. It happens to all of us. He was a strong performer. Things aren't always fair. And he did have reasons to be frustrated. But he was displacing his frustration onto the nearest target. Which was the wrong target. It reminds me of a great quote from William Ury, who said, when you're angry, you'll make the best speech you'll ever regret. Don't fall into that trap. Don't displace your frustration, direct your influence. Choose the right who. Here's how to do it. Step one, for each of your goals, list the decision makers.
Who has the power to say yes or no? Who are the people who most significantly affect whether you'll achieve your goal or not? Make a list of real names. For Suneils promotion the list included the names of people on Promotion Committee. These were the primary people he needed to influence. Step two. For anyone on the list you can't influence directly, list other people who influence that person. Who influences your hard to reach decision makers? This was also relevant in Suneils case. There were a couple of people he needed to influence indirectly.
It often helps to draw a diagram. I do it all the time when I coach leaders in organizations. Put your objective in the middle and then put the names of the decision makers around the objective. That's step one. Step two is who influences the decision makers? So in Suneil's case, we added some second-level influencers. People who interact directly with those hard to reach committee members. Then we chose which of those second level influencers Suneil could connect with. Now he could focus his energy on taking constructive influence action with the right people.
Instead of going nowhere in cycles of blame and frustration. It took some time and effort, but it was the right kind of effort. And eventually word spread among the committee members about the great works Suneil was doing. And he got his promotion. So, whether your objective requires influencing one person or several people, either way. Don't waste time and risk your goals by influencing the wrong people about the wrong things. To get where you really want to go, be sure you choose the right who.
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- Turning objections into actions
- Adding more impact to your ideas
- Establishing urgency
- Using the influence advantage checklist
- Influencing to inspire
- And many more...