INFLUENCING DECISION MAKERS
" THE EFFECTIVE INFLUENCER NEEDS TO BE A GOOD TEACHER . GOOD TEACHERS REALIZE
THE COMMUNICATING KNOWLEDGE IS OFTEN A GREATER CHALLENGE THAN POSSESSING KNOWLEDGE ."
“ Welcome to the real world , kid ! In life , you have to accept the fact that decisionmakers make decisions – and that you are not always the decision maker .” Once we make peace with the fact that the people who have the power to make the decisions always make the decisions , we become more effective in influencing others .
WHEN PRESENTING IDEAS TO DECISION MAKERS , REALIZE THAT IT IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY TO SELL – NOT THEIR RESPONSIBILITY TO BUY .
In many ways , influencing ultimate decision makers is similar to selling products or services to external customers . They don ’ t have to buy – you have to sell ! While the importance of taking responsibility may seem obvious in external sales , an amazing number of people in large corporations spend countless hours ‘ blaming ’ management for not buying their ideas . Former Harvard professor Chris Argyris pointed out how “ upward feedback ” often turns into “ upward buck-passing ”. We can become “ disempowered ” when we focus on what others have done to make things wrong and not what we can do to make things right .
The effective influencer needs to be a good teacher . Good teachers realize the communicating knowledge is often a greater challenge than possessing knowledge .
FOCUS ON CONTRIBUTION TO THE LARGER GOOD – AND THE NEEDS OF THE DECISION MAKER – NOT JUST THE ACHIEVEMENT OF YOUR OBJECTIVES .
An effective salesperson would never say to a customer , “ You need to buy this product , because if you don ’ t , I won ’ t achieve my objectives !” Effective salespeople relate to the needs of the buyers , not to their own needs . In the same way , when influencing decision makers , focus on the impact of your suggestion on the overall corporation . Don ’ t assume that executives can automatically “ make the connection ” between the benefit to your unit and the benefit to the larger corporation .
STRIVE TO WIN THE ‘ BIG BATTLES ’ – DON ’ T WASTE YOUR ENERGY AND ‘ PSYCHOLOGICAL CAPITAL ’ ON TRIVIAL POINTS .
Do a thorough analysis of ideas before ‘ challenging the system ’. Don ’ t waste time on issues that will only have a negligible impact on results . Focus on issues that will make a real difference . Be especially sensitive to the need to win trivial nonbusiness arguments on things like restaurants , sports teams , or cars . You are paid to do what makes a difference and to win on important issues , not to win arguments on the relative quality of athletic teams .
PRESENT A REALISTIC ‘ COST-BENEFIT ’ ANALYSIS OF YOUR IDEAS – DON ’ T JUST SELL BENEFITS .
Every organization has limited resources , time and energy . The acceptance of your idea may well mean the rejection of another idea that someone else believes is wonderful . Be prepared to have a realistic discussion of the costs of your idea .
Acknowledge the fact that something else may have to be sacrificed in order to have your idea implemented . By getting ready for a realistic discussion of costs , you can ‘ prepare for objections ’ to your idea before they occur .
‘ Challenge up ’ on issues involving ethics or integrity – never remain silent on ethics violations .
Enron , WorldCom and other organizations have dramatically pointed out how ethics violations can destroy even the most valuable companies . The best of corporations can be severely damaged by only one violation of corporate integrity . Hopefully , you will never be asked to do anything by the management of your corporation that represents a violation of corporate ethics . If you are , refuse to do it and immediately let upper management know of your concerns .
When challenging up , try not to assume that management has intentionally requested you to do something wrong . In some cases , a seemingly inappropriate request may merely be the result of a misunderstandings or poor communication . Try to present your case in a manner that is intended to be helpful , not judgmental .
REALIZE THAT POWERFUL PEOPLE ARE JUST AS ‘ HUMAN ’ AS YOU ARE – DON ’ T SAY , “ I AM AMAZED THAT SOMEONE AT THIS LEVEL …”
It is realistic to expect decision makers to be competent ; it is unrealistic to expect them to be anything other than normal humans . How many times have we thought ,