Tag Archives: objectives

Know Your Big O from Your Little O

Take a look at the pictures in the gallery above. They are the many faces of influence. Though they come from a variety of backgrounds and manifested their leadership in different ways, each one of them made a choice to be a positive force for change and to use their influence not for self-serving reasons but rather to serve others. Being influential is a way of life. It’s about stepping outside of your comfort zone and investing time in activities and relationships that ultimately contribute to a better world. In addition to a high degree of selflessness, a dedication to building trust, and a willingness to get their hands dirty, influential people take a systematic careful approach to inspiring cooperation from others. Whether an unconscious competence or a learned behavior, effective influencers follow certain steps to motivate individuals and groups. They operate in a way that earns buy-in, establishes trust, and demonstrates respect. In Saying What You Mean’s August post, readers were introduced to this process. It’s called the Positive Influence Method.


The Positive Influence Method is a step by step approach to getting results in a constructive timely manner. The first step in the process is to develop a set of clearly defined, logically prioritized objectives.

Start in the Winner’s Circle

The second of Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” teaches us to begin with the end in mind. Construct a clear image in your mind of what it is you are trying to accomplish. If you’re leading a project or initiative, envision the outcome. In what ways will things be better once your vision becomes a reality? What has changed in the organization? How are people’s lives impacted? How will the environment or work atmosphere be different? What issues, obstacles, or challenges will be removed? What will people be celebrating? Now, capture the vision in clear succinct language. You should be able to communicate this idea in less than five minutes. If it takes you longer than that to get your point across, go back to the drawing board and further refine the message.

Vision DNA

A vision is an edifice constructed out of a set of objectives. Write down the building blocks from which your vision will be assembled. Detail what needs to be accomplished and by whom. This is a valuable list. It gives you measurable milestones to track the progress of your initiative and lets you know who the key players are that you must engage to be successful.

Sort the Big O’s from the Little o’s

In most cases, when we plan for projects or initiatives we organize the objectives or milestones according to dependencies and chronology. “A” can’t happen until “B” is done and it makes the most sense to focus on “C” once “B” is complete. Although an important exercise for planning, this does not necessarily help you when it comes to influencing others to contribute their time and assets to your cause.

For the moment, abandon chronology and dependencies in favor of degree of importance to the overall vision. Sort the list of objectives according to the “must haves” and the “nice to haves.” For example, entertainment at the charity fundraiser is a “must have.” Securing The Dave Matthews Band is a “nice to have.” Begin to work on a compelling case for your “must have” objectives. In future posts, we’ll talk about how these compelling cases can be tailored for the greatest impact. For each group or person with whom you must engage in order to fulfill your vision, determine what you are willing to invest or sacrifice to obtain your “must have” objectives.

Stay Tuned. Next up: Power Inventory

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Managing Up: How to Influence Your Boss

The ultimate challenge or maybe it’s the ultimate irony when it comes to influencing without authority is to influenceladder those with authority over us. Compelling a direct manager or senior leader within the organization to support someone else’s agenda requires patience, planning, and the diligent application of effective influence techniques.

The first thing you must do before devoting time to enhancing your influence is to honestly assess your intentions. Attempts to persuade someone with higher authority to consider an agenda that at its core is self-serving are quickly recognized as manipulative and potentially counter-productive to the interests of the organization. Promoting personal gain, especially at the expense of the greater good, quickly erodes trust and credibility. However, if the intention behind achieving targeted objectives is to benefit the organization, then efforts to exert influence will be applauded not rebuked.

Once you’ve passed the “gut check” on intentions, use the following process to improve your ability to “manage up.”

See the World as the Other Person Sees It

An important part of influencing people with authority is to begin to see the world from their point of view. Even if your manager was once a peer, keep in mind that the promotion came with a new perspective, modified priorities, and different pressures. Make time to walk in the other person’s shoes. Start by strolling down the value path. Ask yourself:

What does this person value? (Recognition, acceptance by peers, respect, networking opportunities, open communication, a sense of belonging, solving problems, helping others, etc.)

Once you’ve determined what the person values, consider what contributions you can make or actions you can take that would add value from this person’s perspective. For example, if your manager values problem solving, be sure to include well thought out options when communicating issues or opportunities.

In addition to value considerations, a terrific question to contemplate when walking a mile or two in the other person’s shoes is:

What keeps this person up at night?

This question forces you to think about his or her role, responsibilities, life outside of work, hopes, aspirations, as well as how his performance is being evaluated.

Define Your Objectives

Write down a clear statement of what it is you believe needs to be achieved. Support this statement with a list of relevant business reasons and/or confirming information. If possible, segment your objective into milestones. Decide which milestones are non-negotiable in terms of a successful outcome and which could be skipped or postponed without dramatic consequence to the realization of your goal. The greater the clarity you possess the better prepared you will be to articulate this vision in a compelling reasonable manner.

Set yourself up for success by visualizing the end result and sorting your “must haves” from your “nice to haves.”

Plan Your Approach

When influencing up the hierarchical ladder, cool heads prevail. Often, we let our excitement get the best of us and spew forth our ideas in a downpour of disjointed exclamations. A good influencer uses an empathetic understanding of the other person’s world to tailor his/her engagement approach. Three factors to consider when developing a plan for discussing issues, ideas, and opportunities with senior leaders are framing, communication styles, and timing.


As you plan what you will say, position your message in a way that demonstrates your knowledge of and respect for the other person’s perspective. Frame your case in terms of the value it can deliver relevant to the senior leader’s objectives, challenges, or organizational focus.

Communication Styles

Select a communication medium based on the manager’s preferences. If this is someone who prefers face-to-face interactions, schedule a meeting at a time and place that’s conducive to focused conversation. If the person likes to mull things over and study up on the topic, develop your case in writing and email it along with suggested times for follow-up discussions. For the chronic multi-tasker, break down your message into smaller chunks. Be prepared to deliver the pieces during fleeting windows of opportunity.


Timing is of the essence. Carefully consider the best time to approach the other person with your ideas. Face-to-face meetings and even pre-arranged phone conversations demonstrate courtesy and offer control. Once you have a meeting scheduled, send the person a bulleted list of objectives or key points for the conversation at least 24 hours in advance. When it comes to “bad news,” inform senior leaders as soon as possible. Always have options for resolution prepared when presenting a problem. Remember, people need time to absorb information and process their thoughts. Give the person space to “catch up” to you in terms of experience with and depth of knowledge about the information.

Present with Passion (but don’t over do it)

State your ideas with conviction and clarity. Modify your style to honor the other person’s preferences. For example, if your manager is a visual person, use images to illustrate key points. For a numbers person, be sure to come armed with relevant data. If your manager is a relational person, use stories to captivate while you communicate. Stay on point. Try not to become defensive when the person with authority questions your game plan. Challenging your ideas is not an attack on you personally but rather a sign of interest, an act of collaboration, and even an indication of progress toward acceptance. Lastly, maintain the credibility of your case by adhering to this sales axiom: Don’t Sell Past The Close. When the other person has either agreed with you or indicated that they need time to evaluate the situation, thank him or her for the time and exit gracefully.

Realistically, these steps are proven but not bulletproof. If your direct attempts to influence a senior leader are fruitless, the indirect route is a solid Plan B. Use the process above to enlist the support of another senior leader who is respected by the person you are trying to influence.

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Filed under Business, How To, Influence, Leadership, Uncategorized