Information, tips and tricks you can use every day!

Influence in a Matrix Environment: Use Your Personal Power! [Week 2 of 2]

Posted by on July 5, 2012

Positive Power and InfluenceLast week, we talked about the first 2 keys to influencing in a matrix environment:

  1. Stakeholders: Know who your key stakeholders are in the process.
  2. Objectives: Be very clear about your objective with each key stakeholder.

This week, we’re adding the final 2 powerful keys to your success:

3. Power

Be aware of the limitations of your positional power in a matrix. Keep in mind that when working in a matrix, there is a fair amount of stress in the system and tensions can run high. Many times our perception of what is at stake needs to be carefully managed. Of course we all would like others to see things from our perspective, however that usually isn’t the case. Tread carefully! It can be very tempting to rely on positional power for leverage in a matrix, but overuse of positional power can be fatal in an influence situation. You run the risk of coming across as high-handed and arrogant, losing credibility with others and eroding relationships that should be nurtured. Instead, you should use your personal power: your ability utilize a variety of influence techniques and approaches based on the situation and the people involved.

4. Flexibility

Influence style flexibility is the key to creating results. The most important thing you have in a matrix is your ability to persuade others with logic and create exchanges that make sense for all parties. In order to do this, you must cultivate your ability to listen carefully and build bridges with others around common interests and shared vision. Continual work on your influence skills will be required, since a well-rounded set of influence skills will help you identify conditions in each situation that will impact the style and approach you choose.

When you put all 4 of these powerful keys to success together in the training classroom, you take away an incredible set of tools you can use to improve relationships in your own “sphere” within the larger matrix environment. You’ll experience the benefits almost immediately!

Karen Holmes is a CGWA Senior Consultant and Trainer, based in the U.S. and delivering programs such as  Coaching, Interpersonal Communication Skills, Positive Power and Influence, Presentation Skills, and many more.


Influence in a Matrix Environment: It Can Be Done! [Week 1 of 2]

Posted by on June 27, 2012

Positive Power and InfluenceIn a matrix environment, employees report on day-to-day performance to a project or product manager whose authority flows horizontally across departmental boundaries. They also continue to report on their overall performance to the head of their department whose authority flows vertically within his or her department.*

Sound complicated? It is! This challenging environment can be fraught with conflicts of interest. For instance, perhaps your “vertical” supervisor is demanding time or resources you have already set aside for your “horizontal” supervisor’s project. One of the key skills sets that will set you apart from your colleagues is the ability to influence…across job functions, at all levels, and without positional power. Sound impossible? Since 1977, CGWA has been awakening individuals and organizations to the power of positive influence skills—skills which aren’t limited by power structures, be they traditional or unorthodox. In a matrix organization, these skills are especially important.

Not sure if you are working in a matrix organization? A few simple questions can help to clarify:

  1. Do you report to more than one person or line of business?
  2. Is your focus on more two or more functions or segments of the business?
  3. Must you focus on several factors at the same time such as functions, departments, regions or products?
  4. Do you work in teams with people from different departments and locations, in which there are no hierarchical relationships?

If you answered YES to any of these questions, then you are working in a matrix environment! This week, I’d like to discuss the first 2 keys to influencing in a matrix environment:

1. Stakeholders

Know who your key stakeholders are in the process. A stakeholder is a person or group that has an investment or interest in something. Consider individuals, groups, and other organizations that are affected byand also affectdecisions and actions related to the business. Using a list or “mind map,” identify the people that are key to moving the process forward. Who are they? Think about regions, functions, departments and segments of the business.

2. Objectives

Be very clear about your influence objective with each key stakeholder. The ability to articulate influence objectives can make or break an outcome. Setting a clear influence objective can help you plot an accurate course to guide you through the influence process. Without a clear influence objective, your path will become confusing. Make it easy for the person that you are trying to influence by setting a clear objective that can be met.

Stay tuned next week as we discuss more keys to influencing in a matrix environment! 

*Source: Business Dictionary

Karen Holmes is a CGWA Senior Consultant and Trainer, based in the U.S. and delivering programs such as Coaching, Interpersonal Communication Skills, Positive Power and Influence, Presentation Skills, and many more.


Are you sabotaging yourself? Rate your Influence Skills now!

Posted by on May 30, 2012

It’s now or never. You’re standing in front of that key person—the one you need to convince. You need their help on a project, more cooperation on the team, approval for your request, or…[fill in the blank]. You plan to persuade them using the same method you always use, with everyone. Sure, it doesn’t always work, but there’s nothing you can do about that. Or is there?

Influence SkillsYou can improve your chances of a successful influence encounter today! One of the most difficult parts of improving your influence skills is evaluating how you come across to others. Where do you start? By figuring out what your best influence style is and which styles need work. The style you choose affects how others perceive you during an influence conversation, so it’s important to know where you stand.

There are 2 main influence “energies,” Push and Pull, which consist of sub-categories called Influence Styles. In order to understand where your skills lie right now, I’d like to talk a little about each style.

Push Energies

  • Persuading: proposing and reasoning
  • Asserting: stating expectations, evaluating, and using incentives and pressures

Pull Energies

  • Bridging: involving, listening, and disclosing
  • Attracting: finding common ground and sharing visions

You need to determine the style you use most of the time; the one you’re most comfortable with. But perhaps more importantly, you must determine the style you need the most help with. From this starting point, you can begin to practice your weakest style(s), and eventually alter your influence style with each person you encounter in order to achieve the best results.

In the classroom, we present participants with concepts, tools, and insights that are practiced extensively to create a better understanding of how they influence and how to approach others more effectively. We also teach how to create a positive environment by planning for these critical interactions. I can’t explain how fulfilling it is to watch people experience influence breakthroughs in the classroom and then improve their everyday interactions through the use of their newfound skills!

Karen Holmes is a U.S.-based CGWA Senior Consultant and Trainer, delivering programs such as Coaching, Interpersonal Communication Skills, Positive Power and Influence, Presentation Skills, and many more.


Influencing Final Thoughts [Week 5 of our 5-week series!]

Posted by on September 12, 2011

Last week, we talked about Influencing by Email. Now, in our 5th and final week of Influencing When Not Face-to-Face, I’d like to share my Final Thoughts to help you make the most of your new skills!

Influencing When Not Face to Face resized 600You know you can influence others without being in a face-to-face meeting with them. Many books, films, songs, pictures are described as influential. However, if you are looking to positively influence a specific individual you should tailor your message and your medium to them.

Once you have a definite influence objective in mind, and are clear about who you need to influence to achieve this, it’s worth asking yourself the following questions:

  • What is the message I want to convey?
  • How important will the non-verbal component of my message be?
  • Do I need to see/hear the other person’s reaction to what I have to say?
  • Do I need to find out their position or ask them any questions?
  • How urgent is the situation?
  • Does anyone else need to be involved?

If Using “Push” Energy from the Positive Power and Influence model:

  • Be careful of using “strong” words, such as “You must…” and “You should…” as they may seem aggressive
  • Adding qualifiers may make the message confusing, e.g. “Hopefully, you can…”
  • Using bold or CAPITAL letters can seem like you are shouting!
  • Be precise and concise – people often make up their mind after reading just a few lines
  • Be clear and specific about your objective
  • If the topic is highly emotional for you and/or the other person(s), don’t use email as a way of communicating

If Using “Pull” Energy:

  • Be careful of using openness – too much disclosure may be inappropriate
  • If asking questions (Exploring), use open questions and be clear if you require a response and by when
  • If interpreting something someone else has said or sent in a previous email, then be sure to reflect back accurately
  • Don’t assume common ground, but use data to support your assumptions of where you have agreement

General Points:

  • Don’t use email if the topic is something potentially contentious or difficult. Not only is email correspondence admissible in court as evidence, or able to be used as an audit trail, but a single email can be forwarded to thousands of people within hours or even minutes!
  • Think about how healthy your relationship is with the person(s) concerned and therefore how strongly you can push/pull via email
  • Unlike face-to-face communication, you cannot control the timing of when an email is read, so you may inadvertently try to influence someone at a bad time
  • General etiquette: Do not copy in all and sundry to “cover your back” or look busy/important. Only involve those people for whom it is essential.
  • If in doubt, try to communicate face-to-face so that you can use the “music” (your words) and “dance” (your body language) to support your influence. At the very least, try telephone or teleconference as two-way, “live” communication is always better for influence and relationship-building!

Finally, if it’s important to build and maintain a long term relationship with the other person then at some stage you’ll do best to meet them face-to-face. Once you have a trusting relationship based upon mutual respect, your influence is much more likely to be effective, whatever medium you use!

Angela Steatham is an expert trainer for CGWA. Based in the U.K., she delivers the Positive Power and Influence program throughout Europe.


Influencing by email [Week 4 of our 5-week series!]

Posted by on September 7, 2011

Last week, we talked about how Influencing by Letter (really!). Today, in Week 4 of Influencing When Not Face-to-Face, we’ll discuss Influencing by Email.

Influencing by Email

Sending someone an email is essentially a one-way transaction like a letter, although delivery is generally speedier and the response can be more immediate.

With email, you are only able to convey things from your own perspective. While emails are extremely good at rapidly and conveniently conveying information, they are limited as an influencing medium because of the absence of interactivity. In fact, because of the informal and often abbreviated style of emails, they can lead to significant and sometimes dramatic misunderstandings.

However, it is possible to build and maintain relationships by email. Many people do this, generally where they share an interest or hobby, and often without ever meeting face-to-face.

A specialized form of email would be participation in an online discussion group or chat room. This provides an extra element of interaction as responses are faster, delayed only by typing and transmission speeds.

Appropriate Influencing Behaviors
Generally, the message writer sets the agenda, so “push” styles from the Positive Power and Influence model are likely to dominate.

However, in creating your email, you can employ “pull” words, responding to points previously raised by your correspondent. For example:

  • Showing you have listened – “I realize that you think I should stay over longer when I go to the U.S.”
  • Exploring with questions – “How do you feel about joining us at the Management Committee meeting next Wednesday?”
  • Finding and building on common ground – “We both seem to feel that Angela would make a good project manager for this. I believe we can sit down and really get to grips with a way of releasing her from her current role and get everyone behind this project.”
  • Openness – “I’m feeling rather confused by the decision making process at the moment. I’m not sure how best to get involved.”

As with a letter, the absence of an immediate response means you can never really be sure of the impact of your statements, unless the other person chooses to tell you.

Verbal and Non-Verbal Components of Your Message
Only the words come through. This makes it critical that, if you are looking to influence someone, you choose words which accurately convey your message without ambiguity. Precision and conciseness are at a premium, although the shorthand style that many people employ in emails can have the impact of terseness or abruptness.

Some email users employ combinations of punctuation marks to convey the emotional element of the “dance” (your body language). Known as emoticons, they represent facial expressions and can be helpful (providing the recipient can decode them).

Here are some examples (you’ll have to tilt your head to the left to get the full effect):

🙂 smiling
:-O shouting
🙁 sad
😉 winking
😎 smiling – wearing glasses

Benefits of Using Email to Influence

  • A record may exist of the message (although messages can be readily deleted, they can often still be retrieved)
  • The recipient deals with the message when they choose
  • Allows the receiver to repeat (re-read) the message until it is understood
  • Good for informal communication
  • Can be quick and convenient
  • Chat rooms allow more interactivity

Disadvantages of Using Email to Influence

  • It can take some time for the message to be received, and receipt doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily been read
  • You generally don’t get an immediate response after sending
  • The sender isn’t able to easily check if the message has been understood
  • People are often included on numerous distribution and copy lists, so they have an in-tray bulging with messages “for your information.” This can mean that people might miss the impact of your important message in the mass of general junk email.

Influencing Tips and Hints

  • Make the subject line informative so that people can scan their inbox and understand whether your email requires urgent attention
  • State the purpose of the email at the beginning: Is it for Action or Information?
  • Make it clear what action you’re requesting, how, and by when
  • Make it clear if you expect a response
  • Using different fonts/colors to emphasize elements of your message can be helpful, although only if the recipient’s email software can decode them
  • Useful for sending attached files, although you should check that the recipient has the appropriate software to open and use these
  • Beware getting into email “conversations” where the recipient is online and immediately responds, then you respond, then they respond…it’s quicker to communicate on the telephone!

Think of mixing different forms of communication. You may need to supplement e-mail with a phone call, videoconference, or personal meeting for particularly critical or difficult phases in the influencing process.

Now you know how to influence over the telephone, by videoconference, and by letter! Come back next week for my Final Thoughts, tips and hints for Influencing When Not Face-to-Face.

Angela Steatham is an expert trainer for CGWA. Based in the U.K., she delivers the Positive Power and Influence program throughout Europe.


Influencing by letter [Week 3 of our 5-week series!]

Posted by on August 30, 2011

Last week, we talked about how to successfully influence by videoconference. Now, in Week 3 of Influencing When Not Face-to-Face, we’re talking about Influencing by Letter.

Influencing by Letter resized 600

Sending someone a letter is essentially a one-way transaction. Even if your letter is a reply to someone else, you are only able to convey things from your own perspective. While letters are useful to convey information, they are limited as an influencing medium because of the absence of interactivity.

However, it is certainly possible to build and maintain relationships by letter. Penpals do this, often without ever meeting face-to-face, though the most significant relationships are generally cemented by at least one real meeting.

Appropriate Influencing Behaviors

Generally the letter writer sets the agenda, so “push” styles from the Positive Power and Influence model are likely to dominate.

As a letter writer you can employ “pull” words, responding to points previously raised by your correspondent. For example:

  • Showing you have listened – “I understand that you think sales volumes are the most critical issue.”
  • Exploring with questions – “What do you think we should do about the situation in the Northern Region?”
  • Finding and building on common ground – “It seems as if we’re both agreed that the team needs to work in a more productive way. I can see us discussing this at the next Area Meeting long into the night, the table covered with ideas and suggestions and a real atmosphere of optimism.”
  • Openness – “I’m not sure I really know what to do for the best here. My thinking is that this is something we haven’t faced before.” (Remember that letters can be forwarded on to others!)

However, in the absence of an immediate response you can never really be sure of the impact of your statements.

Verbal and Non-Verbal Components of Your Message

Only your words come through. This makes it critical that you choose words which accurately convey your message, without ambiguity. If you are seeking to influence rather than inform, precision and conciseness are at a premium.

If you know the other person well, you will be able to judge the tone and style of letter that will have the impact you are looking for. If you don’t know the other person, you will have to make a best guess.

Benefits of Influencing by Letter

  • A record of the message exists
  • The recipient deals with the message when they choose
  • Allows the receiver to repeat (re-read) the message until it is understood
  • Good for complicated or long messages
  • Good for formal communication

Disadvantages of Influencing by Letter

  • It takes some time for your message to be received, by which time the situation and what you want to happen might have changed
  • A response is delayed until the other person receives the letter, reads it and gets back to you
  • You aren’t able to immediately check if your message has been understood
  • Letters can be impersonal

Influencing Tips and Hints

  • Be clear about the purpose of your letter
  • Know what you want to say, about what and to whom
  • Convey your message in as few words as possible
  • Make your message as simple as possible—your reader may have many other things competing for their attention
  • Keep your reader in mind—their skills in the language your are writing in, their needs, their readiness for your message
  • Make it clear what action (if any) you expect from your reader
  • If the message is a personal one, consider hand writing a letter rather than using the computer. This can have a warmer and more personal impact.

Memos

A memo should follow the same pattern as a letter, though it is likely to be more informal in style.


Now you know how to influence over the telephone, by videoconference, and by letter! Come back next week for Influencing by Email.

Angela Steatham is an expert trainer for CGWA. Based in the U.K., she delivers the Positive Power and Influence program throughout Europe.


Influencing by videoconference [Week 2 of our 5-week series!]

Posted by on August 22, 2011

Last week, we talked about how to successfully influence over the telephone. Now, in Week 2 of Influencing When Not Face-to-Face, we’re talking about Influencing by Videoconference.

Influencing by Videoconference resized 600

Videoconferencing has the great advantage of allowing two or more people to engage in a complete dialogue. You have the benefit of not only being able to hear each other, but to see each other as well. This gives everyone the chance to get an (almost) instant reaction to whatever they say or do and respond and adapt as the conversation develops.

Appropriate Influencing Behaviors

As a two-way interaction, all parties will be able to speak from their own agenda and have the chance to respond to the others’. Consequently, all the influencing behaviors from the Positive Power and Influence model are feasible.

Verbal and Non-Verbal Components to Your Message

All three components of communication are available: the words and “music”(audible cues people pick up on when you’re speaking) as well as the “dance” (your body language). However, room layout or technology might place some physical limitations on the amount or type of dance that is possible:

  • The camera’s field of view may mean that standing up is not an option
  • Any time lag on movement will also affect the way that your dance is received

Remember that the other people will be able to see you and what you’re doing. I found that when I first used videconferencing I was so intent on watching the other people on the screen that I kept forgetting they could see me equally well!

Benefits of Influencing by Videoconference

  • You can see and be seen, bringing all elements of communication into play
  • The two-way nature of the interaction means that you are likely to realize when you’ve achieved your influence objective and resist overselling it
  • Meetings tend to be scheduled and arranged in advance which means that people are prepared and focused on the discussion
  • Time and cost consciousness means that meetings are often more brief and to the point
  • It can be a good way to maintain personal contact with colleagues located elsewhere

Disadvantages of Influencing by Videoconference

  • A “studio” setting may inhibit people
  • Video image may lack clear definition and full motion sensitivity – particularly from PC-attached cameras. This may distort the impact of the dance and jerky movements may cause distraction.
  • Time lags between transmission and reception can mean that people aren’t always sure if others have heard or understood. This makes it more likely that people will repeat themselves or talk over one another.
  • Only looking at the screen rather than at the camera can have the impact on the other person that you are avoiding eye contact and lead to misunderstanding or perceived lack of interest
  • There can be limitations on sharing documents or physical objects

Influencing Tips and Hints

  • Make sure you know how the equipment works in advance
  • Establish a “contract” at the start of the meeting:
    • Agenda
    • Timing
    • Meeting roles
  • Agree in advance what documentation might be required as backup to the discussion
  • If there are others with you in the room try to pay as much attention to the participants on the screen as you do to those closest to you
  • Try not to use any sudden gestures or movements
  • Keep your dance positive and attentive when not speaking
  • Look at the camera occasionally rather than the screen; this will give the person at the other end an approximation of eye contact
  • You will probably be more comfortable videoconferencing with people you have previously met face-to-face

Now you know how to influence over the telephone and by videoconference! Enjoy your new skills and use them every chance you get.

Tune in next week for Influencing by Letter.

Angela Steatham is an expert trainer for CGWA. Based in the U.K., she delivers the Positive Power and Influence program throughout Europe.


Introducing our 5-week series: Influencing when not face-to-face

Posted by on August 8, 2011

Now that you know how to overcome objections during an influence encounter, and you’ve mastered our 3 easy steps to improving your overall influence skills, you should be prepared for another type of influence situation: Influencing when not face-to-face.

Influencing when Not Face to FaceMore and more of our business interactions and relationships are being managed at a distance. It is not unusual to have clients, suppliers and teammates spread across the globe. Successful influence is founded upon clear communication–and communication only really occurs when the recipient has received and understood our message. This article suggests some ways in which we can positively influence people, even when we can’t speak with them face-to-face.

We influence others through the actual impact we have on them, not through our good intentions. Research has consistently shown that our impact comes as much from the non-verbal components of our communication as it does from the words alone. One of the difficulties we have when seeking to influence someone when not face-to-face is that the non-verbal part of our message is either diminished, or completely nonexistent.

Another essential ingredient of successful influence is flexibility of style. The most effective non-face-to-face influencing media are those that give us a chance to see how the other person is reacting to what we are saying, such as video conferencing. This provides us with verbal and fairly good visual feedback so that we can adapt our style and behaviour appropriately.

But life isn’t perfect! Often we are forced to influence over the phone, by email, and even by letter! Over the next 5 weeks, we’ll take a look at the impact that non-face-to-face interactions have on your influence effectiveness.

Where to start?

Positive Power and Influence is a model of positive influencing behaviours. This model describes the styles and behaviours you can choose to employ when seeking to influence others and build or maintain a positive relationship. The model also describes the key components of communication:

  • the words you use
  • the music you employ – how you use your voice
  • your “dance” – how you use your body, gestures and facial expressions

You really can have successful “virtual” influence encounters! Please join us next week as we talk about influencing over the telephone.

Contact CGWA

Angela Steatham is an expert trainer for CGWA. Based in the U.K., she delivers the Positive Power and Influence program throughout Europe.


Improve your influence skills in 3 easy steps!

Posted by on July 25, 2011

Often we get stuck in a situation where simply asking is not enough to gain cooperation from someone else. Perhaps it’s a store clerk who is always grumpy and unwilling to help, a co-worker who thinks you’re pushy, or even someone on the homeowner’s association board you have to reach agreement with.

There are so many interactions that call for a skillful, targeted application of influence skills without positional power. How can you resolve these situations to the satisfaction of both parties?influence skills

Many books have been written, classes taught, and conferences held on this very topic. There are different influence styles out there, and you can get pretty fancy with your planning. But you know you’re going to run into that person today! How are you going to handle it? Rest assured, you can improve your influence skills in 3 easy steps—right now!

  1. Step 1: Go in knowing what your influence objective is. Are you hoping to get a discount? Do you want help on a special project? Would you like to finally pass that bylaw?
  2. Step 2: Prepare yourself to listen to the other person’s needs. Do they want something out of this? What are they worried about?
  3. Step 3: Be prepared to be flexible. You will likely get what you’re asking for, but perhaps in a modified way. Or, the other person may ask for something in return. This is to be expected, and if you are willing to bend, they will be just as happy with the final agreement as you are.

Of course, this is the just the tip of the iceberg. Truly great influence skills must be learned and practiced, ideally in a classroom setting. CGWA is proud to offer the Positive Power and Influence program, which expertly guides participants through the process of becoming savvy influencers.


Remain calm and listen! Influencing to overcome objections.

Posted by on July 5, 2011

Get Adobe Flash player

When you have that all-important influence conversation, trying to get someone’s help or cooperation, you may run into some difficult objections from the other person. This often seems like an impossible challenge, since you were really hoping to lay out your request and get immediate agreement. When you meet resistance, panic sometimes sets in–causing you to sabotage yourself during the influence encounter, destroying your chances of a successful outcome.
But instead of giving in to panic, remain calm! All will be well. Remember that listening is key. Of course, really listening to the other person involves understanding, responding to, and overvcoming any objections they have to your request. And believe me, you will almost always hear an objection or two!

So, how do you handle objections in the proper way—without getting upset and shutting down the conversation? Well, here are 4 proven ways to keep that positive influence dialogue going:

  1. Things to Avoid:
    • Do not get defensive! I can justify that… But…
    • Do not avoid the objection.Oh, that’s no big deal… (or change the subject)
    • Do not “knee-jerk” to quick fix. I can take care of that!
    • Do not make assumptions about their real need.
    • Disengage—do not avoid. Calmly bring the conversation to an end for now, and come back to it later when cooler heads prevail.
  2. Make sure you understand the objection:
    • Involve to clarify: Could you expand on that for me? Tell me more… What are your concerns?
    • Active Listening — Restate: So your concern is… You’re saying that…
    • Disclose to connect and build trust: I was unaware that X was causing… My intention was to…
  3. Ask appropriate questions to get to the real need:
    • What are the consequences of this concern?
    • What would you like to see happen ideally?
  4. Respond appropriately:
    • Persuading: Here is what I suggest and why it makes sense…
    • Asserting: If I did X to meet your need on Y would you be willing to go forward… In my opinion it would…

This process shouldn’t take long. If you are really listening, your influence conversation will have a positive outcome for both of you. Not only that, the other person will be much more willing to deal with you in the future. But the real bonus is that you are actually improving your relationship with that person!

Positive Power and Influence

Sorry! We’ve given away all our free sessions. Check out our other posts for more freebies!