Will Bachman: You can’t catch a shark with a butterfly net. But then again, you can’t catch a butterfly with a 10 ought circle hook.
Hey, welcome to Unleashed, the show that explores how to thrive as an independent professional. Unleashed is produced by Umbrex, and I’m your host, Will Bachman.
Whether you’re going after sharks or butterflies, it’s pretty obvious what tool you need to use. But for a lot of us, and I’m including myself here, when we’re trying to influence someone, we often use the same two or three tools time after time.
One of the best weeks of training I’ve ever had was easily worth a whole semester of business school, was ILW, or Initial Leadership Workshop, that I went to about 18 months after I started at McKinsey after business school, and about two days of that training was spent on influence techniques, and that’s what I want to talk about on today’s show.
So, we went through influence techniques, and then we discussed each one, and then most importantly, we had scenarios where we had to role-play and practice each different technique. We got issued a tiny, little book called Interpersonal and Interactive Skills, published by McKinsey & Company. Unfortunately, it’s not available for purchase. But the author of the book is Terry Bacon, and he has a book out, it’s available on Amazon, Elements of Influence: The Art of Getting Others to Follow Your Lead, and that book covers all this material in, obviously, book-length depth. So today will just be sort of a five minute summary of it.
There’s a bit of stigma about influence, I think among some people. It has possibly negative connotations that you’re getting someone to do something against their will. But our job as independent professionals, or professionals more generally, is to influence, usually without authority. So, if nothing changes when we’re done and gone, then really, what value did we create? Our job is … generally involves making a change happen for the benefit of the client that hired us, and that generally involves influencing someone to do something.
So, there’s ethical and unethical means of influence. Unethical means, I’ll just mention them briefly, but we’re not gonna cover them today. Some methods of unethical methods of influence would be avoiding, threatening, intimidating, or manipulating people. But there’s a whole range of, we’ll call it “10 different influencing techniques” that are ethical, and the key is that you gotta use them in the right situation, because one ideal influencing technique for one situation could actually hurt your case in another situation.
So, while a lot of us might have two to three kind of go-to techniques, we might be casually familiar with some of the other ones, and maybe there’s two or three that we almost never use, or would be uncomfortable with.
So let me go through the 10. Okay. Number one: Legitimizing. So legitimizing is using authority to influence, and I used this a lot when I was in the Navy, and it was entirely appropriate. You’d pull out the manual and say, “Hey, the Nuclear Power Manual says we have to do this process, and so that’s what you do.” Or, “Hey, the Captain just ordered us to turn right to zero-nine-zero. You’re gonna do it,” and it’s entirely appropriate. So in some cases, legitimizing works perfectly well, if everyone sort of expects that.
In other cases, though, some people could react extremely negatively. You say, “The CEO told us to do this,” you might get the response, “The CEO doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” or “doesn’t know what she’s talking about. That’s a dumb idea.” It could actually create resistance. So, good for some situations.
Alright. Number two: Logical Persuading. Logical persuading is using logic, facts, evidence, data, and rational arguments. So, for a lot of consultants, that might be the go-to method. They might love logic, and say, “Look, I have the facts. I compiled this document, this presentation. We know A is true, B is true, C is true, and therefore, you have to believe D.” That can be very kind of compelling, and goes along with our training, but a lot of people are not persuaded by logic, and might hold to irrational beliefs. So it can be useful for some audiences, but it’s not necessarily telling a story that people can believe in, or get excited about. So useful to have in the skill set. It’s probably necessary, but it doesn’t always … isn’t always sufficient.
Number three: Appealing to Friendship. So, that’s saying, “Hey, look. I need just a little help here. Would you mind lending me a hand with this?” Or, “Hey, this would be a really favor if you could help me get this data.” That works in some situations great. If you really friends with a person, and it’s a legitimate request, then it can work really well. In other cases, it could be, frankly, almost illegal. So, use it when appropriate.
Number four is Socializing, which is kind of similar to appealing to friendship, but it’s almost before a direct request. Socializing is just getting to know people, going out to a team dinner, understanding their interests, understanding them as human beings, [inaudible 00:05:27] just getting known by folks. It’s almost part of a pre-influencing technique. If you’ve socialized with them, and they think you’re a good person and good to get along with, then they may be more willing to kind of go along with your suggestions.
Alright. I think we’re on number five, here. Consulting. Okay. This is probably the favorite one of consultants. I mean, it’s named after us. So consulting is about, rather than just telling someone to do something, consultative skills would be to say, “Help me understand what … how you might think about proceeding under this scenario.” Or, “What would you think would happen if we tried this other approach?” Or, “How would this alternative affect the cost of production?” So it’s mostly about, “What other factors do you think, do you, client, think we should consider?” Or, “So, how would other people respond to this idea?” So it’s kind of framing questions and, in terms of being consultative, getting the other person involved in the discussion, helping them come to the same conclusion as you by the Socratic method.
Number six: Stating. So, “Please sign this form.” Or, “I need you to do this for me.” Just a statement, like, “Hand this over.” It’s … That can work okay in very narrow situations, usually not so well. It’s not even legitimized. It’s not just saying, “The CEO demanded that you and ordered you. The procedure says,” just saying, “Do this.”
Number seven: Appealing to Values. This is one that was not intuitive to me when I took the training, but that I’ve come to use, not super-often, but it’s really great when you’re kind of at loggerheads with a client, or things aren’t going so well, and maybe they’re not appealing to logic, or maybe they just don’t like me, personally, or like my style. Sometimes … So the idea is you pause, and defining it, the appealing to values is a way to influence people based on shared values, feelings, and emotions.
So when I appeal to values, I might think of it almost as appealing to shared goals. I might just say, “Hey, let’s take a pause here. I can see that we are maybe not on the same page on the approach, but I just want to make sure, and I think it’s the case, that we are both trying to accomplish the same thing here. We both have the same goal in mind. We’re both trying to figure out a way to reduce costs, or both trying to find a way to increase customer retention, right? I think we can agree on that.” So it’s sort of trying to get … It’s almost stepping away from the immediate matter at hand, and getting agreement that you’re trying to get to the same objective, right? “We’re on the same team, here.” And then, “So let’s stop fighting with each other, ’cause we’re trying to accomplish the same thing.”
Super [valuable 00:08:24]. I’ve been in cases where it was almost getting to almost kind of an argument, and almost combative, and taking this approach calms things down a little bit, and the other person realizes, “Hey, this Will Bachman guy, he’s on my team. He’s not trying to hurt me. We’re trying to accomplish the same thing.” Enough on that one.
Okay, I think we’re on what? Number eight. Modeling. Modeling is a way to show people what you want, either by behaving in the manner you wish for them to behave, or by demonstrating the actions you wish them to take. So, this one is … It could be … Consultants can use this. It’s great for leaders, rather than just telling the troops, “Here’s what I want you to do,” it’s by stepping up and doing it yourself. So if you’re, for example, for let’s say, the leader of a sales organization, rather than just telling every salesperson, “I need you to make 20 outbound calls per day,” if that person starts role-modeling that behavior and doing it herself, then other people are a lot more likely to follow the lead. It’s even more effective than just telling them to do it, if you start role-modeling it in a very public way.
So number nine: Exchanging. So exchanging is saying, “Look. I’ll give you this if you give me that,” and in some cases, that could be an ethical approach, in some cases, not. Depends on what you’re exchanging. But you can say, “Look. If you support my reorganization proposal, I will work on that financial analysis that you want me to do.” Something like that. That is the example, here, from the book. So it’s a win-win. It’s … You shouldn’t exchange something that would be completely inappropriate, but sometimes, perhaps, if the other person needs some help, like, “Look. I’ll help you on your thing. You help me on my thing.”
And finally, Alliance Building. So this would be the influence of an alliance is often greater than the sum of the influence of individual allies. So, the idea here would be that if there’s a big meeting coming up, you might get a number of people to agree to support it ahead of time. You ensure that allies agree with the purpose, or are going to have something to gain by your proposal. Have several powerful or visible people get on board first. You might very intentionally create an advisory group that could include one person that’s probably a supporter, and maybe one powerful person that could be on the fence, and make them feel engaged in the development of your proposal, so when it actually comes out, they’re supporting it. And so that’s alliance building.
So the goal, for me, of listing out these 10 ideas, is first, just be more aware of the range of influencing techniques that exist. So even if you don’t do anything different, first step is just be aware that they exist, and these 10 is a pretty decent classification.
Next step is to try to conscious of what influencing techniques you are using today, and third would be, once you’re just even conscious of what you’re using today, then next step would be try to add new techniques to your toolkit, and you might do that by like what we did at that initial leadership workshop, by role-modeling in them, or practicing. Find a peer and say, “Hey, let’s just role-play a scenario. I want to practice each 10 of these,” somewhat like doing improv theater. Practice them in a totally safe environment, and then in a real, professional environment, try bringing in an alternate technique in a very conscious way. Say, “Okay. I could just do some legitimizing, here, but let me see if I can do some appealing to values, and see if that will help when we kick off this meeting. Appealing to values. Okay.”
And then, eventually, after integrating these in a conscious way over time, they start to become unconscious, or effortless. So, hope that was helpful.
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