Six Ways to Influence Work Situations: A Strategic Tool
In the Influence Masterclass I teach that there are different ways to influence, depending on your audience, the context of the interaction and your overall objectives.
I would like to share with you a framework introduced by Professors Richard Shell and Mario Moussa in their strategic persuasion book, Art of Woo. They identify 6 channels of influence leaders need to master: 1. The Authority channel emphasizes formal position and reliance on top-down rules, regulations, and standards. If you need to force authority but you don’t have the title, you can channel the company’s management or procedures in order to get others to agree with your suggestions. Using authority and centralization of decisions may be essential if you are running operations that entail high financial or physical risk situations. This channel may be challenging if it’s not natural for you to give directions and take charge. 2. The Rationality channel is the second most used one. It emphasizes use of data and structural reasoning. We use it most often to support our arguments when we need to convince managers or peers over which we don’t have direct authority. It can be more effective when combined with other channels, like Vision. In some corporate cultures, you may need to consistently base your arguments on concrete data points in order to be taken seriously by peers and senior management. 3. Vision is the most emotional channel. Tapping into people’s beliefs, sense of purpose, need to belong, team spirit, cultural ties, and life stories can help you invoke their motivation. Stories and images are especially effective in creating a deeper meaning with your audience and making them feel like they are part of something bigger than just themselves. 4. The relationship channel seeks to create human connections through emphasizing liking, similarity reciprocity. People are attracted to those who behave and think like them. They are also more likely to help those who have been kind or helpful to them in the past. Those who score high on this dimension enjoy building close relationships at work and are likely to call their co-workers “friends.” If you are working in an organization that encourages a lot of socialization like group outings and happy hours and you are not particularly interested in socializing with others, you may find it hard to fit in and be trusted by colleagues. 5. The interests, or negotiation, channel is challenging for many executives. It relies on understanding people’s interests and needs and working to find common ground with them. It can be handy in decentralized organizations especially in resolving common resource allocation problems or conflicts involving salary, headcount, work assignments, or technology. 6. The politics channel focuses on managing perceptions and building consensus. To use politics effectively, you need to pay attention to how power and influence flow in organizations, know how to form coalitions and gain access to key decision makers so that you could put your priorities on their agendas. This is an especially important skill to have when you are working in complex large organizations with many conflicting interests. Note: Some people feel uncomfortable with work politics but brokering power is neither inherently good nor evil as an organizational activity. It is just how organizations operate so you need to adapt your approach in order to get results.
There is no right or wrong approach and over the course of my career I developed my capabilities in all of these different channels. As an analyst in banking I learned to effectively use numbers and figures. Working in diverse multinationals, I perfected my relationship building and political skills. As a former corporate strategy manager, I "borrowed" my executives' authority when I didn't have the big title myself. More recently as an entrepreneur, having to sell to clients I learned a lot about negotiations and tailoring proposals to their needs. Finally, being a thought leader taught me a great deal about using storytelling and creating engaging messaging to build my following.
If you'd like to learn more about the 6 six channels and see some interesting examples. Watch this video I recorded for my students: