As an IT executive, your ability to influence others in the workplace is an essential component of professional success. Just think of all the times you need the assistance or approval of your C-suite peers to achieve your objectives.
This includes everything from gaining the support of your business partners on an important IT initiative or facilitating companywide adoption of a recently implemented technology to raising the awareness of cybersecurity threats or convincing a vendor to give you their best consultants. The list goes on and on.
Here are seven techniques that will help you maximize your influence in the workplace.
1. Action Reaction
With this influence technique, as the name suggests, you act in a specific way with the goal of getting others to also act in a particular way. To quote Steve Jobs, “A leader leads by example, whether he intends to or not.” The best way to get your IT team to act in specified ways, such as driving innovation or providing proactive internal customer service, is to exhibit those actions yourself.
2. Ad Hoc Committee Leadership
When an ad hoc committee begins, it follows the same four stages of group development as formalized permanent teams. These four stages, based on research by Bruce Tuckman in 1965, are forming, storming, norming, and performing.
Therefore, when an ad hoc group first begins, if you take an early leadership role, simply by handling the group’s logistics (when and where the group meets, the meeting agenda, etc.), this initial leadership role begins to solidify the group’s culture, referred to as “norming” in Tuckman’s model. If this normalization has you as the initial group’s leader, there is a high probability that it will continue through the life of the ad hoc committee.
Also, because the people in the committee are most likely colleagues that you work with in other ways, your leadership role in the ad hoc committee can carry forward into other professional interactions with these same individuals.
3. Vendor Motivation
The best way to get your vendor’s best support is by being their best customer. I don’t mean in regard to your purchasing volume, which certainly helps; I mean by providing them the non-financial things they want most. For larger vendors, these may be a customer reference for their website, speaking at their user group conference, referrals to other potential customers, participating in their beta program, or other related items. For smaller vendors, it could simply be paying your invoice quickly to help enhance their cash flow.
These types of non-financial activities can motivate your vendors to return your commitment to their company’s wellbeing by providing you their best consultants, adding your needed feature into the next release of their software, or simply by making sure to answer the phone when you call.
4. Problem/Vision Adoption
Circa 1985, I read a Salada tea label that said, “The art of politics is letting other people have things your way.” This is the essence of problem/vision adoption. That is to say, rather than by trying to influence someone to assist you in meeting your objective, get them to believe that it’s their objective also. Get the person (or group) to believe the problem you are trying to correct is also their problem and make your vision to correct it also their vision to correct it.
If your vision becomes their vision, then further influence isn’t needed, and you are now working together toward a common objective.
5. Taking the high road
If you position what you are trying to do as good for the employees, your company, your customers, or the world, it’s hard to disagree with you. For example, say your IT group is currently supporting four different, but similar, data visualization tools, and you would like to consolidate to a single tool. If you present the consolidation as a way to increase company profitability, allow employees to more easily transfer to different parts of the company, and enhance senior management reporting, it’s harder for people to disagree with your initiative than if you simply describe it as cost cutting.
6. Business first, technology second
Describing an IT initiative from a business perspective first helps those outside of IT to understand its business value and impact and they will be more more willing to support it. For example, rather than name a CRM upgrade project “CRM 3.2 Upgrade,” name it “Enhanced CRM Customer Analytics.” This simple name change makes it much more likely that those interested in customer analytics will support your project. If you then deploy technique #5 and describe the project as a way to increase sales, market share, and competitive advantage, the project becomes much more difficult to argue against.
7. Influential Presence
The first six influence techniques can each be very effective in influencing others in the workplace, but only if the right people are listening. To fully employ the power of these first six techniques, you must also enhance your personal influential presence. That is to say, the more you are personally respected, the greater your organizational clout, the stronger your professional reputation, and the more likely that people will take you seriously and follow your influential direction.
Once you’ve mastered these techniques, share them with those on your team. Helping your high-potentials enhance their influential presence and providing them instruction on how to influence their business partners and project stakeholders will help you build a more efficient and effective IT organization.