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Oct 6, 2011

Influence without authority

A letter to the editor by Diane Chambers, BWFS Graduate student

"I'm at my wit's end," Chambers' letter began, "so I thought I would pen a quick relatively snarky post."

We at the Finishing School do appreciate the snarky.  We even appreciate the stomp around and overturn the water cooler.  But even at the highest levels of the faculty, our motto is... When you want to stand on the table, write a helpful post instead.  

Trying to get something done when you aren't in a position to say, "do this because I pay you" or "do this because otherwise I will hurt you" may necessitate the technique of  "influence without authority."   The tool of influencing without authority is often positioned towards entry level and middle management persons, but also applies to executives.
When you're a leader among leaders, a country's president among country presidents, an EVP among EVPs - you have no choice but to engage in IWOA.

Here are a few ways to do just that.  Comments are welcome.
1. Be bold and ask directly for what you want. For some it works, others may just get laughed at, so be judicious.

2. Appeal to the diva/star/megalomaniac in the other, otherwise known as "sucking up."  Best to be subtle here.  And be sure to insert your request!  A shame to waste a good suck-up.

3. Bargain/horsetrade.  In order to do this you need to cultivate something the other might want, and make it known that you have it, and MIGHT share it, but only with certain kinds of people.

4. Threaten to escalate.  This is akin to "I'm telling mom on you" and may be laughed at and/or may irritate the "mom" in question, so be sparing with the use of this one.

5 Public shaming.  This doesn't need to involve the press.  It may involve a weekly meeting where many are in attendance.  It can be effective but can backfire.

6. Build coalitions: harness the power of many in your favor.  Be prepared to give back to the coalition you've built (see bargain/horsetrade). 

One other chestnut:
Use a group setting to your advantage. Propose an idea, then play on the natural tendency of the herd. Instead of ending your spiel with "Everyone ok with that?" ask "Any objections?"
Let the silence, which is almost guaranteed, be your enthusiastic assent!
Ms Chambers may be somewhat tongue in cheek.  She may also have something here.  What works for you, when you need to influence without any authority?

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