You don't need authority. Build your influence.

Photo © Greg Westfall, Flickr CC

Photo © Greg Westfall, Flickr CC

How can I have influence without having all the authority I need? 

It’s one of those questions that plagues everyone at some point in their career. And it's a great question – how can you maximise the difference you make, while still respecting the hierarchy you work or operate within?

Whether you're an entrepreneur seeking a partnership with a big name in your industry; or a manager trying to get your idea onto the top team's agenda; or a leader seeking shareholder investment for a new venture; it can be hard to sway opinion and make yourself heard when there are multiple priorities at play. 

You can have influence

We often put a lot of emphasis on having authority and being the decision maker – the one in the driving seat, the one with the budget. But, being influential will get you much further than you think, and you don't need authority for that.

Some pointers:

Show some passion and commitment

You may be an expert in your field; credible; respected; experienced; that expertise will get you a long way. But showing that you're truly passionate about your subject – that it's important to you, and you're committed to it – will significantly help you in your quest to win hearts and minds. Because when you show belief, confidence, and enthusiasm, you generate the same response in others.

How can you make a stand for something you're passionate about at work this week? How will you need to show up differently from your norm? 

Provide information

A lack of knowledge or understanding among your audience is a major reason for any resistance they might show when you're trying to sway their opinion, so give them timely, accurate, and easily digestible information. Feed their hunger for data, and make sure you moderate the language you use to suit your audience. Your influence will grow as they understand more of what you're saying – you'll see it on their faces. 

Think like a salesperson

When presenting ideas to decision makers, thinking like a (good!) salesperson can help you communicate more persuasively. After all, it's your responsibility to sell, and not theirs to buy. 

What's the best sales experience you've ever had? You're likely to have felt empathy on some level… Bring it to mind, and let that experience guide you in how to put your own ideas across. 

Key questions:

  1. What was the lasting feeling you had at the end of the best sales transaction you've ever experienced?
  2. How might you recreate that feeling for others? 
  3. How can you inspire the people you want to influence?
  4. How can you get them to feel instinctively that yours is the right approach? 

Choose your fights

Strive to win the big battles. Don’t waste time and energy on the small ones. If you've got a clear idea of where you're headed, you'll be able to see where you can make the biggest difference – and what's worth letting go of. 

Recognise your effect on others

How others perceive you is key to your influence. You need to understand how you affect people, so that you can adjust the way you act or behave accordingly.

When you change your own behaviour, you change the way others perceive you – and the amount of influence you have. 

Look for the big picture

Focus on contributing to the greater good, not just your own personal objectives; you'll come across much more persuasively. Do some work on uncovering the "Big Why" behind your solution and speak from that. Powerful stuff. 

Over to you

Have you got a great tip that you've used to influence decision makers? Did any of the above stand out for you as actions you could apply in your current role? Want some more guidance on how to develop your influencing skills? Come on over to Twitter and let us know

PS: Spread the word

Found this useful? Know others who might benefit from upping their influence? Spread the word using the "share" button below. 

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This post is part of our Vintage Lyn Bicker series - powerful strategies drawn from decades of experience that form the foundation of our business.