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Training Tip

Using Influence Tactics by Cathy Bolger

Most of the managers we coach and train can no longer rely on the traditional "command and control" management methods to get things done. Today, effective managers must master the skills of influence to get things done through others. The good news is that the effective use of influence skills is more likely to result in commitment.

In order to gain a common understanding of vocabulary, let's start with a few definitions:

Commitment—The recipient (person being influenced) internally agrees with a decision or request from the agent (person influencing). The recipient will usually make a great effort to fulfill the agent's request.

Compliance—The recipient agrees with a decision or request from the agent (person influencing) but is apathetic or indifferent, and uses minimal effort to make something happen. Often, for routine matters, compliance may be all that is necessary.

Resistance—The recipient actively avoids doing the action or task that was requested, often making excuses for lack of action. The recipient may even ask a person with higher authority to overrule.

Gary Yukl, PhD, researcher into leadership and influence, and professor in the School of Business at the University of Albany, divides influence tactics into two categories, primary and secondary.

Primary influence tactics are more likely to result in commitment. Secondary influence tactics, when used alone, are more like to result in compliance or resistance.

The primary influence tactics are described below. They include inspirational appeal, rational persuasion, and consultation. Secondary influence tactics include ingratiation, personal appeals exchange, coalition tactics, legitimating tactics, and pressure.

Inspirational Appeal involves making a request or proposal that arouses the recipient's enthusiasm by appealing to their values, ideals and aspirations. To use inspirational appeal:

  • Appeal to the person's ideals and values
  • Link the request to a clear and appealing vision
  • Use a dramatic, expressive style of speaking
  • Use positive, optimistic language
Rational Persuasion involves the use of logic and facts to result in attainment of desirable outcomes. To use rational persuasion:
  • Explain the reason for a request or proposal
  • Explain how the person would benefit from your proposal
  • Provide evidence that your proposal is feasible
  • Explain why your proposal is better than competing ones
  • Explain how likely problems or concerns would be handled
Consultation involves seeking the recipient's participation in planning a strategy, activity, or change for which the person's support and assistance are desired. To use consultation:
  • Ask for suggestions on how to improve a tentative proposal
  • State your objective and ask what the recipient can do to help you attain it
  • Involve the other person in planning how to attain an objective
  • Respond to the person's concerns and suggestions
Former Vice President, Al Gore uses all three of the above influence tactics in his movie, "An Inconvenient Truth." He appeals to our values of making the world a safe place for generations to come. This is an appealing vision for many of us. He also uses rational persuasion as he sites reputable research on global warming. He then asks us to join with him in doing what each of us can do help decrease global warming.

By using Dr. Yukl's primary influence tactics as a framework, trainers and coaches can more effectively help managers master the skills involved in influence and persuasion.

Yukl, Gary. Leadership in Organizations, 2006. Prentice-Hall, Upper Saddle River, New York.

Cathy Bolger is a San Diego-based consultant specializing in Conflict, Presentation and Meeting Skills. She can be reached at cathy@cathybolger.com or at 619-294-3522.

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