April 2024

LEADER PRACTICE No. 13: Increasing Influence

Have you ever found yourself banging your head against the wall (figuratively, of course) because a colleague simply won’t advance an important effort? You’re baffled because you feel that you made a logical case for taking action – yet they dawdle. Or, they take actions that don’t support the goal or initiative intended to benefit the organization. Worse, sometimes they choose a course that is counterproductive.

At times like these, effective leaders flex their influencing skills. We can begin by asking ourselves clarifying questions: What is important to the other person/organization? Put yourself in their shoes. What are they trying to achieve? What values, needs and aspirations are important to the other person? What context informs their perspective? Business strategy? Structure and processes? Priorities? Informal and formal power structure? Think broadly. What influences all stakeholders? What is their context? Finally, what are the external trends and issues that impact the larger system? To understand relevant dynamics, you’ll need to listen with an open mind. Only when you understand the situational context can you formulate an influence strategy that’s likely to move the needle.

We all have our favorite approaches to influence others. Perhaps you’re most comfortable with expressive tactics like telling, selling, negotiating, or enlisting. Or you are more in the zone using receptive tactics like inquiry, listening, attuning, and facilitating. Different tactics work in different contexts. For example, you don’t want to use a logical telling approach when it may be perceived as against the others’ interests. At times, being an effective influencer will require you to step out of your comfort zone and use non-preferred tactics that are more likely to get results in this context.



  • How am I truly considering what’s important to the people I am trying to influence?
  • What are my favorite/most comfortable influence tactics? Which ones am I least comfortable with?


  • Exploring the context for people you are trying to influence, including:
    • the values, needs and aspirations of the other person
    • the business strategy, structure and processes, priorities, informal and formal power structure, and all the stakeholders
    • the external trends and issues that impact the larger system
  • Expanding your repertoire by trying an influence tactic that is more aligned with the situation – even if it’s uncomfortable for you. See what happens. Pause and center to support yourself.

In my work, the book Exercising Influence, by Kim Barnes, and the accompanying workbook have been invaluable resources for increasing leaders’ influence skills. This article “Key Components of Successful Influence” by Eric Beckman summarizes the book’s key points and overall approach.

Until next month…

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Founder and Principal Coach