It's easier to be persuasive if you know whom you're trying to persuade. Identify the decision makers who have influence over your career, and plan accordingly.
- If you're going to be persuasive, it pays to know where to focus your efforts. I talk about this even more in my course, Managing Office Politics, so if you want to go more in-depth on how to identify the right people to influence, you can check that out. But for now, here's what you need to know. First, think about the chain of command in your organization. Obviously your boss is going to be critical here. If you can't persuade him or her about what you're trying to accomplish, whether it's approving a new project, or giving you permission to work from home, you're probably not going to have much luck elsewhere.
But in order to really understand the reality of the situation, and this is the part that most people don't do, you should take your analysis a step further. Think about who your boss needs to persuade. If she's going to say yes to you, who does she need to justify that to? And what information or reassurances might that person seek? If you can figure that out, not just how to convince your boss, but to make it easy for her to make the case on your behalf up the chain of command, then you're in a strong position.
Next, look at where the soft power in your organization lies. That's a term often used in diplomacy to describe indirect power that lies outside the chain of command. Check out the Exercise File to help you identify who the real decision makers are. There are often people in an organization who don't have official authority to say yes or no to something, but are nonetheless influential because they've been there a long time, and they know how things work. Or because they're really talented and everyone respects them. Or sometimes because they have the ear of people who officially are in power.
Whatever the case, you have to take these folks into account. You need to know who they are, and try to understand their motivations. What will their concerns be about whatever it is you're trying to influence, and how can you alleviate them? Sometimes it's as simple as keeping people in the loop so they don't feel blindsided. Other times they may have a pet issue, and if you can find a way to frame your request so it fits into that world view, then you're going to have an easier time selling it. For instance, they may be a huge environmentalist, and if you can explain that your proposal about streamlining bureaucratic procedures in the organization will be a huge win for the environment, because there's less paper being produced, voila.
Finally, a good step to implement now which paves your way to success in the future is looking for ways that you can proactively spend more time with these decision makers and influencers. A well known principle in psychology is what's called the mere-exposure effect. It turns out that people will like you more the more time they spend around you, so if you want people to think of you with a positive frame of mind, finding ways to simply be around them more can be extremely beneficial over the long term. Maybe you can volunteer to serve on a committee that they chair, or make an effort to sit next to them at meetings so you can chat for a bit before the session starts, and get to know them better.
This isn't about blitzing someone all at once of course. Instead it's about a longterm strategy to develop relationships with the people who have control over your future, so you're better able to influence those dynamics.
- Getting someone to like you right away
- How to be viewed as immediately credible
- Overcoming a bad first impression
- Persuading the people you already know
- Sharing your ideas and getting noticed
- Communicating with authority
- Overcoming naysayers