Are you working on a result that requires a complicated set of co-creators across your organization or your client? Do you think of them as spokes in a wheel with you changing the gears? I thought it was a great analogy for this complex influencing work.
This is the first of two or three posts on influencing to gain alignment.
A common way to think about gaining alignment across different people is to “pre-sell” the solution. Most successful leaders and teams say they take the time to do some pre-selling with key people. This usually means that they review the discussion document with their boss or the committee chair or maybe even one or two tough ones. The intention is generally to give the person a heads-up or make a case for the desired solution to test alignment.
Yes, you need to have these pre-sell conversations, but they should be part of a thoughtful strategy, one that addresses individuals and dynamics across people. That strategy comes from two things: 1) a clear intended outcome and 2) what you know about the people that matter.
Create a Strategy Grounded in Clear Intention
First, what is your intended outcome? Don’t push this question aside with an “of course, it’s to get them to agree with X.” The clearer you are about all the aspects of success (e.g., decision, relationship, future positioning, alliances, etc).
Analyze the Human Database
With your intended outcome in hand, here are five ways to slice the data you have on the people (we call them co-creators). If you haven’t tried it, use my Co-Creator Database modifying and adding any questions specific to your outcome.
- Structural Power: Who has what power to actually make decisions? Assign resources? Give access? Is the power recognized or accepted by others? Or is it assumed? Does has s/he uses that power in the past? With what attitude?
Caveat: Often when I’ve done this analysis with a leader, there is little clarity about structured power of positions. People sometimes raise their eyebrows in amazement that “no one has decision power” — yikes!
- Personal Power: Are there informal coalitions? Is there one or more people who have an individual force on the matter? Where does the power come from? How has it been used in the past?
- Dynamics of the Dance: What is the typical inter-action? What questions and conversation? What actions go on behind the scenes?
- Perspective: How do key players think about the topic, the decision, or the proposed direction?
Note: If you do not know this information, you should stop and get it —before you do anything else.
- Impact: Influence is often critical because there is an important impact on personal and professional interests (gain, loss) for each co-creator. What do you know about these? What can you imagine or assume?
Put the People Into Play
One final critical point: You most often cannot be-the-one-to-make-it-all-happen. The best strategies often require you to put a co-creator into action, using relationships and mutual interest across the set of individuals. We’ll see that in a future case along with how to create a picture of the dynamics, analyze your human data, and find strategies as alternative paths forward.
P.S. I am following up with folks from my recent survey on influence. If you didn’t take it, you can still do so here.
If you have like this series underway, let me know by posting on the blog or with an email response at I also encourage you to share this email with a handful of folks who you think would benefit…maybe your team or a set of colleagues.