What Is Influence?
In the corporate world, the ability to influence individuals, teams, and organizations is a powerful and necessary tool for leaders. Mastering the art of strategic influence helps ensure your success within the organization. You need to learn how to influence decisions as a leader.

The most effective leaders have strategic influence skills. They know how to deftly navigate through the real way decisions are made. And they do so effectively across multiple stakeholders, agendas, and perspectives. Without that kind of organizational savvy, your impact, career growth, credibility, performance, and employee engagement can be diminished.

How to Exert Influence on Decisions
First, to influence decisions as a leader, you must have a solid understanding of the decision making process. Is the decision being made by one person, a small group, the majority, or consensus?  The better you understand how to navigate decisions in your unique workplace culture and situation, the more influence you can wield over the outcome.

How to Be Influential in the Four Most Common Decision Making Strategies
Here are four of the most common scenarios for making decisions and how to exert influence in each:

  1. One Person Has Ultimate Authority
    In this case, the decision making authority resides with a single person who, in business settings, is usually the Chairman of the Board, CEO, Team Leader, or Project Sponsor who decides for the group or organization.

    To exert influence in this situation, you need to know the decision-maker’s interests. What is most important to them? If you have access, ask them directly what matters most — both personally and professionally; if not, look for clues in past decisions and communications or consult with their most trusted advisors.

  2. A Small Group
    In this case, the decision making authority resides with a small group or committee.

    Ideally, to exert influence in this situation, you need to know what matters most to each decision-maker. In reality, one or two people on the committee probably carry more sway than others. Identify where the real decision-making power and influence resides and map what matters most to them — both personally and professionally.

  3. The Majority Rules
    According to this decision-making strategy, an over 50% vote of the members carries the day. Similar to a small group, influencing in this scenario involves targeting multiple individuals.

    First think through what each team member cares about. Some will be aligned with your thinking, and they should become part of your coalition. Some will not yet have made up their mind; look for ways to bridge the gap between what they want and your interests. The third group will need a tailored approach — craft a case that appeals to their unique perspectives and concerns.

  4. Unanimity or No-Objection Decides
    In this scenario, either 100% of the stakeholders decide together or the decision is carried if no one objects (consensus). In order to influence, you need to ensure no lone member ruins or sidetracks your idea.

    The most effective strategy is to listen carefully to any potential spoilers so that you understand their concerns and respond in a way that shows you have heard them. If objectors are not willing to go along with the group, you can either raise the cost of their unwillingness to compromise or change the decision-making rules. Would majority rules or leader-decides work? Or maybe the decision can be shifted to another group where agreement is more likely.

The Bottom Line
When you want to influence the choices of others at work, pay special attention to the decision-making rules and adjust your approach appropriately. This way, your influence will grow.

To learn more about how to create the environment for good decision making, download 3 Proven Steps to Set Your Team Up to Make Better Decisions

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