In Influence

I recently conducted a webinar on INFLUENCE WITHOUT AUTHORITY for Toastmasters of District 92 comprising Karnataka and Kerala. I received over 100 questions in advance. Overwhelming. Since the webinar was only for an hour,I presented my points and answered some of the questions and promised to answer their written questions on my blog. Inspired by Saro Velrajan who ran a webinar on Mentoring for the same audience and compiled his answers in his excellent blog

I began with a quote by Prof Rosabeth Moss Canter of Harvard Business School, “ Crutch of unchallengeable authority has given way to the need to juggle constituencies rather than control subordinates.

I then went on to give a list of ‘ a constellation of capabilities’ EXPERTISE,EMPATHY, PROFESSIONAL NETWORKING,BUILDING A COALITION,GENEROSITY and HUMOR.

Out of the 100 plus questions,many were repetitive. I’ve distilled them and answered questions on topics ranging from influence,public speaking,self-esteem and inter personal skills.

Here is my first list of twenty answers to your questions. Please your feedback here so I can make the next posts even more meaningful. Thank you both for your spirited participation in the webinar and your questions.

1. Can you influence your wife? Yes. Especially in these lockdown times,by being a good listener, sharing work, being a friend, showing empathy by acknowledging her role instead of trivialising her role. ( applies to those whose wives are home makers). I owe this answer to my dear friend Aseem Purohit. I had originally thought of a whacky answer but Aseem changed my perspective.

2. How do you deal with colleagues who think they are smarter than you? What if they really are?😎😜 In which case you need to work on improving yourself,in terms of knowledge,skills and attitude. However,if they continue to think they are superior,the best way is to respond with your EXPERTISE- be so good that you command respect.

3. How do we tackle the assumed conflict that the other person has about us…. Integration or having an open dialogue in an informal setting would clear assumptions on both the sides. Suppress your ego and initiate a dialogue.

4. How do you influence authority? By understanding how does he/ she like to receive information. By analysing their style of decision making. Suit your persuasion to match their style without sacrificing your core beliefs and you will find it easier to influence. You my want to pick up this book ‘ The Five Paths to Persuasion’ which will give you a lot of clarity.

5. How do we create context? Prepare,prepare and prepare. Get to know whom you are trying to influence by gaining as much information as possible so you ‘cut the crap’ and stick to the context. You don’t write a love letter to ‘who so ever it may concern…’, right? 😎😜

6. How to influence people who pretend that they understood even though it’s evident that they don’t… Dr Robert Cialdini’s principle of scarcity may work here. Make them understand what they stand to LOSE if they continue to pretend or ignore your point or proposal. Most of us are tuned to respond to negative news better than the positive.

7. Handling People who always object to your views: Here is a 5P method of handling objections given out by a famous consultant whose name I forget. PAUSE – uninterrupted listening to understand the basis of their objection PARAPHRASE – Restate in your words, PROBE by asking open ended,reflective and hypothetical questions to get to the core of their objection, PROVIDE AN ANSWER which should be accurate,brief and clear. PATIENCE is the crucial 5th step.

8. How do you stop exasperation flowing in when trying to put forth points that the opposite person fails to understand… Please see the previous answer. Another way is to find out from his/her colleagues,how do they like to receive information. For example,to a detail oriented person,are you only giving superficial information in bullet points because that’s how YOU prefer to put forth ? Give it a thought.

9. How to improve self esteem & self worth… try to rewind all the good things that have happened to you in life, hum your favourite song. I carry my Toastmaster award ribbons in my wallet and look them up during moments despair to assure myself that I am good in certain things which no one can take it away. You may also want to pick up these two books by Marcus Buckingham.

10. How do you influence when people around you are much more experienced and they have to be convinced to execute? Firstly,build as much credibility as you can garner so they take you seriously. Alternatively,build a coalition of those who form his/her close circle,think tank,those they rely on and get their agreement first to present your case. Since experienced people often rely on reliable sources, persuading through a coalition may be a smart move.

11. What is ‘Authority’ as per you? Is it based on age, experience or educational qualification of a person? There are two facets of authority as explained by Dr Robert Cialdini. 1. IN Authority which means you have a title,a designation- CEO, GM, VP, why, the secretary of my apartment block, a retired old man wields much more influence with the security guard than the rest of us occupants simply because of his ‘title’ which is responsible for the guard’s salary and other benefits. 2. AN Authority by means of your expertise or skill that you bring to your job. In the second case,age and experience need not be a limiting factor. Knowledge workers from India are welcome across continents.

12. Chendil sir, for those of us who love talking, i mean the non stop talkers – whats your 2 cents How can a Toastmaster ask this question? 😎😜 There’s an entity called the Time Manager who curtails your incessant flow and disciplines you into talking within set time limits. And the online meetings are getting scarier. Recently, a time manager announced that if you continue to speak after the red signal, the host will mute you! 😎😜 However, if this question is from a non-TM, my simple answer would be, JOIN TOASTMASTERS! WE WILL CURE YOU OF YOUR HABIT!

13. How to influence bosses at office and at home ? For influencing at home, please refer my answer 1. For bosses at office, apart from my previous answers, ask yourself these questions, how can I solve my boss’s problems? What are his hot buttons? Without being intrusive can I offer to help in his problem areas? How can I make my boss look good in the eyes of his/her customers,bosses?

14. Would influencing someone turn an obligation because others made those decisions by our influence There’s a thin line between influence and manipulation. Here’s where your credibility matters. If you are known to be playing games with people with a ‘use and throw’ attitude, you will DEFINITELY be misunderstood as a manipulator. However, if you’ve been ethically persuading people,they may not mistake your moves.

15. How do you disagree with someone without being rude You need to be ‘SOFT ON THE PERSON and TOUGH ON THE ISSUE’.

16. Authority without accountability is dangerous – I AGREE.

17. If authority is not important, why do we have/create positions with authority in the first place Says WHO? No one says authority is not important. It is required to regulate and to have a smooth work flow. The point we are trying to make is using authority as the ONLY way to get things done will not work in today’s world.

18. Can you share 3 actions to follow daily to practice influence without authority? 1. Develop your expertise. Keep getting better at what you do. 2. Invest time regularly on professional networking 3. Show empathy,starting with your spouse,kids,your neighbours and associates. After 6 months of practising this regularly,review and you’ll be surprised at the level of your influence.

19. How to influence my own son, family members first ? By being a good role model. All your sermons will not move them one bit but your behaviour will. I picked up a good habit from a friend, that is whenever I call a friend on his/her cellphone, I first ask,” Is it a good time to talk”. I haven’t advised my young son but he’s been observing me and I was pleasantly surprised when he called his friend,” is it a good time talk,dude?”

20. Can I influence someone to do something if I myself have not done it? Most managers today grapple with this dilemma. No easy answers here. A good practise would be to learn/ get trained and then instruct. However, please don’t forget exceptional leaders are not necessarily domain experts but they have mastered the art of managing people, the art of harnessing talent and resources. I will illustrate this with an anecdote. A lawyer was trying a case of drunken driving. He knew that the judge was a teetotaller. So, he begins by saying, Your honour, you don’t drink. How can YOU try a case of drunken driving?. The judges cryptic reply, ‘That’s ok. I also try rape cases.’ I hope you get the drift.

Here ends Part 1. Thanks for staying till now. Please leave your feedback here that will me craft the next responses. See you soon in Part 2.

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Showing 14 comments
  • Abhay Bhatt

    Hey CK good one…

    • Chendil Kumar

      Thanks for visiting, Abhay! Stay safe

  • Easwaran

    Complex situations well addressed with clarity and direction. Thank you

    • Chendil Kumar

      Thank you for visiting the blog and your kind words,Easwaran.

  • Kamaraj K

    This is great! Nice compilation of various situations. Looking forward to see the part 3 eagerly.

    • Chendil Kumar

      Thank you,Kamaraj. Part 2 on its way .

  • Nivethitha vijayakumar

    Lots of clarity and emphasises on right practices sir
    Thank u so much
    Much needed for the day

    • Chendil Kumar

      Thank you,Nivethitha for visiting the blog. I’m glad you found it useful. Stay safe.

  • Shalini Gupta

    Sir,your insight to so many things makes tackling so many behavioral challenges super simple and easy.
    Thank you so much for this session.

    • Chendil Kumar

      Thank you,Shalini for going thru. I’m glad you found it helpful. Stay safe.

  • Savita

    Dear Prof Chendil,

    I wish I knew about & attended your webinar session, nevertheless I felt privileged to read your blog of wonderfully designed Q&A, which was shared by a classmate from Cohort 1 of 10k (IIMB). It handles difficult questions with ease and humour. Good food for thought. Thankyou for writing. Will look fwd to more.

    • Chendil Kumar

      Hello Savita, great hearing from you and immense thanks! Trust you are staying safe and healthy

  • Somu

    Delightful and insightful as alway dear CK!

    • Chendil Kumar

      Somu,great hearing from you and thanks for going thru!

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