Janet was reviewing the stakeholder register for her project. The company was implementing new technology to improve routing for field service technicians. This new system promised to improve technician productivity and timeliness.
There were all types of stakeholders, each with different opinions and requirements, including the VP of Field Service, who was also the project sponsor, systems engineers working on the software, the field service technicians who would be using the new system, and long-term customers who would benefit from improved service levels. This project meant a change for all involved. Not everyone was very happy about the process changes being proposed. Janet felt like they just didn’t understand the changes yet, but they would love it when everything was in place. How could she get stakeholder level of support to the 4 or 5 the project team needed? This would definitely take some influence!
Janet and two others from the project leadership team, David and Molly, sat down to review the stakeholder register. Where was the current level of support for each stakeholder and what were their concerns? Which would be a harder sell? How could they influence these stakeholders to work with their team constructively?
Crafting Their Influence Strategies
The group began to plan their influence approach, starting with who they thought would be the toughest audiences – the Field Service Technicians and the VP of Field Service.
Field Service Technicians – They could try to convince the service technicians that the current system has lots of problems they aren’t even aware of, and that it’s only expected to get worse. They would pull the data on the error codes and backlogs and craft their story. Though comparatively speaking the system had gotten better since some of the bugs were fixed, they wouldn’t have to show them that. They wouldn’t be stretching the truth, just not sharing all the information available. “If we show them the data and get them to talk about their frustrations, we should have them sold,” said Janet.
VP of Field Service – When the project began, they were evaluating two different technology options and had to choose one. They did extensive research and spoke with companies who used each system. They even conducted a small pilot test to get a baseline read on usability and software adaptability. They made a strong recommendation to the VP, who signed off on the project charter and gave them the green light, with funding, to move ahead.
Unfortunately, things weren’t turning out as the project team had planned. Several weeks into the project schedule, the VP began hearing rumblings among the field service technicians about their discontent with the change. Janet, David and Molly thought that since they already had the VP’s approval and he had allocated members of his team to work on the project, they had a deal that he would continue to support.
The group didn’t realize that technicians get individual daily productivity reports on their appointment, transit and reporting times. During their weekly team meetings, they go over these productivity numbers and discuss the improvements being made. “We feel like things are going in the right direction and don’t want any more changes. The last time the system changed, it took over a year to get things working right. We don’t want to go through that again,” exclaimed Charlie, one of the field service supervisors.
What Went Wrong – 3 Influence Mistakes
What’s the problem with Janet, David and Molly’s approach to influencing these stakeholders?
I find that three common mistaken mindsets and approaches often surface which cause efforts to influence to go wrong.
- Mistake manipulation for influence – These people believe they must manipulate others to persuade them to their position. They see influence as a win/lose deal. This is the fastest way to turn others against you. People can tell when they’re being sold.
- Believe influence is instant – Others believe influence is like making instant coffee. Just add water and stir. They think all it takes is standing in front of people and making their case or twisting arms. Any influence that results is surface level and suspect.
- Treat influence as a transaction – Some people treat influence as if they’re closing a deal . . . once their subject is sold, their work is done.
Janet and her colleagues fell into all three of these traps. These mistakes sabotage influence rather than enhance it. Such tactics may result in a temporary gain, but can lead to damaged relationships. The experience may leave others feeling embarrassed, frustrated, disgusted, and even angry. It’s just not worth the risk.
Influence Done Right
We prefer for our acts of influence to be painlessly quick and easy on our part. We try to get what we want and move on. When you focus on short-term gain, you have the potential to miss opportunities that may be longer term, richer outcomes.
To be a person of influence requires a shift in perspective about what influence is and how it works. Rather than a one-time act of manipulation, think of influence as a way of life. You influence others intentionally or unintentionally through words, action, language, and behaviors. Your sphere of influence is wider than you know. The fact is, we all observe and take cues from each other unconsciously.
Applying the five Influence With SCALE principles – Social Capital, Courage, Authenticity, Leaning in With Passion, and Engaging a Diverse & Inclusive Workplace Community – will enable you to avoid making these mistakes. Your reputation will precede you. And, you’ll be able to combine the power of being a person of influence with a more appropriate approach to achieve an even more rewarding outcome.