What if you could more easily influence decisions making at work?
Well, you can wield more influence, even if you have limited formal authority. It’s easier than you might think.
Let me explain.
Even (and sometimes especially) when you are not the decision-maker, you have lots of power to influence decisions.
Consider my favorite line from the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding:
“A man may be the head of the house, but a woman is the neck. And she can turn the head any way she wants.”— Maria Portokalos (the Mom)
You can turn the head.
Turning the head
Whether that head is the big boss or some group trying to achieve consensus, if you are in the conversation, you can influence the outcome.
Because there is always risk and opportunity for the decision-makers. And those decision-makers want to get the most upside and lower the risk on the downside.
That’s where you come in. You can offer information, opinions, insights, and advice, all of which can be extremely valuable.
However, this is not a game of information and rational decision making. What you say is far less important than how you say it.
Here are 4 simple, but game-changing techniques you can use to have maximum influence.
Speak first or speak last
Choose a strategy for group discussion points. When everyone is going to have a chance to speak, should you go first or last?
If you go first, you have a chance to establish how the rest of the discussion goes. You can make a strong point and support it. You can raise an important question. You can introduce new information.
When you go first, you have immense power to re-frame what happens next. A strong statement creates a barrier to challenge. In a group setting, there is a strong tendency of individuals to conform. You’ve essentially just spoken for the group.
Maybe you want to the group to think more. Perhaps there are other implications, longer term issues, or something else. That’s where questions and new information can be influential.
Whatever the case, going first gives you a good opportunity to set the tone for the rest of the discussion.
If you go last, you also have a strong chance to influence the final outcome. By going last, you are in a position to summarize and synthesize everything the group has discussed so far. You are essentially speaking for the group, with the ability to shape the final version of things, perhaps substantially.
Your going last won’t allow you to easily re-frame things again, but it will allow you enormous influence over how everything is crystallized. Not too shabby.
Do a little homework
A surprisingly simple trick, if you will call it that, is to do just a little bit of extra work in preparing for the discussion.
Most people are rushing from meeting to meeting, putting out fires all day, and otherwise scrambling through their to-do lists.
This leaves little opportunity for thinking, let alone research. Which means you can help (and influence) the group immensely with just a little extra effort.
Your 15 minute phone call to a colleague at another company facing the same challenge, 30 minutes of Googling, or a lunch discussion with a coworker can be real difference makers.
All of a sudden, you have authority. Because you have done some professional research.
When you share this with the group, people will take note. Not only have you come prepared, but you have obviously thought about the topic a lot. And you’ve taken action.
This will probably put you in a position of point person for additional research. But that’s OK, because your influence will grow even more.
Again, it’s not the information that matters so much here as it is your initiative. And it’s not the information that’s going to influence the group’s outcome, it’s you. Well done.
Get people to talk next steps
If you want to influence action (and that’s the point, isn’t it?), then you should use this technique from an FBI hostage negotiator.
Chris Voss, a former FBI hostage negotiator has translated lessons from the front lines for use in business. And this simple, but tremendously powerful, little trick he shares can help you to move things along.
When you ask someone, “What are the next steps?” it will actually stifle action. That’s because you’ve thrown the person you are speaking with into analytical mode. They want to think things through and come up with the perfect answer. They want to present a complete and thoughtful plan.
Instead, Voss suggests, say, “It seems like you might have some next steps in mind…” and then let the person speak. Now, they will roll off from the top of their head and let you know exactly what they are thinking in a less guarded way.
Act like a decision maker
Perhaps most importantly, you should fake it until you make it. If you want to increase your authority, you first need to increase your influence.
One of the best ways you can do this is to pretend that you are the big decision-maker. Now, your thinking takes on a whole new perspective. You begin to feel the pressure. You begin to consider broader implications. You start to think longer term.
Guess what? You are now primed to act more powerfully. And people will notice.
Because you will share observations, insights, and considerations from this higher vantage point. This will lead people to look to you more and more for leadership over time.
It doesn’t matter if you’re not the one making the final call. It’s the thinking that you are practicing. And if you really put yourself in that position, mentally, you will gain many of the growth benefits.
You have the power to influence outcomes, even if you don’t have formal authority. There are a few simple techniques that you can apply that can make a big difference.
You should try some of these in your next meeting, even if you have formal authority. The techniques can be a great way to help reach consensus and take action more quickly.
Remember, even if you are not the proverbial “head” in charge, you can always act as the “neck” and work to point the head in the direction you would like to go.
- When the discussion opens up, make a strategic choice to speak first or last. Help set the tone and frame the discussion. Or help to crystallize everyone’s input at the end. Each are hugely influential.
- Do a little homework. It will give you an information advantage and increase your influence when you share it. It shows initiative and leadership. People will recognize that (and be influenced by it).
- Get people to talk next steps by using the FBI hostage negotiator’s technique: “It seems like you might have some next steps in mind…”
- Act like a decision maker. Faking it until you make it will help you improve your thinking and actions in decision-making scenarios.
Now, it seems like you might have some ideas on how you might deploy these new tips…