Influencing Without Authority: A 4-Step Leadership Solution
How do you get cooperation, compliance, motivation, and momentum from colleagues and cohorts outside your reporting structure? Many top companies have turned to the skills and techniques of persuasion.
As command-and-control leadership has given way to a flatter, more egalitarian approach, leaders who inspire and persuade, helping others to achieve by choice rather than compel by obligation, are far more productive than those who require and demand. But even in today’s increasingly flat organizations, internal relationships are still often informed by job roles and hierarchies. That means securing compliance, especially when you don’t have the actual or structural authority needed to accomplish your goals, is an increasingly common challenge.
How do you get cooperation, compliance, motivation and momentum from colleagues and cohorts outside your reporting structure? Many top companies, including Abbvie Pharmaceutical (makers of Humira, the world’s largest selling prescription drug), have turned to the skills and techniques of persuasion. Far more than just a set of tools for marketing and sales, persuasion is not presentation, coercion, or manipulation. Instead, it’s about making more meaningful connections with people and creating circumstances favorable enough for people to persuade themselves.
Our ability to persuade comes down to what know about how people make decisions, and what we do to influence those decisions. Recent neuroscience upended centuries of assumptions, famously articulated by Aristotle, that logic and reason were the best routes to persuasion by showing a highly disproportionate level of activity in the emotional brain for decisions of every kind – large or small, important or inconsequential. Successful persuasion, therefore, means prompting or triggering the emotional brain.
Scientists, researchers, and communication experts have identified different categories of emotional triggers, which enable us to select topics and design messaging most likely to be persuasive.
Below is a four-step process for using persuasion skills that target specific emotional triggers to get compliance and assistance from those whom you have no direct authority, but whose support and dedication would make all the difference in accomplishing your goals. The process is designed to build the most important interpersonal dynamic for leader-based momentum and productivity in flatter organizational environments: mutual trust. You don’t need to follow the steps in order– think of them as ingredients in a recipe (a communication recipe) rather than a strict sequence.
Mike Iandolo, VP and General Manager of the Mobility Business Group at Cisco Systems, became an advocate of trigger-based communication solutions while president of the Wireless Networks Group at Alcatel-Lucent. “In today’s corporate environments you need to cultivate support and buy-in regardless of reporting structure,” Iandolo shared. “And even if you realize you have to get people’s emotional investment to really succeed, how exactly do you do that, especially across dozens, maybe hundreds, of direct reports? Emotional triggers work like a template, or blueprint, for persuasive communication solutions. There’s really nothing else like it. Triggers are applicable even if you do have authority, and absolutely essential if you don’t.”
The Managed Care team at Abbvie Pharmaceutical had been continually challenged in their ability to get the level of support and compliance they believed they needed from the company field reps, whose client calls covered an array of products beyond just Managed Care. Through a series of workshops, the Managed Care teams developed specific approaches to persuasive communication initiatives using a trigger solution set. Within weeks the metrics identified as those determinative of change and progress – things like access, response time, rep reporting content, as well as client engagement and outcomes – had started to climb. Within several months the Managed Care team had started seeing significant upticks in product orders.