As I have said before, unless you’re working in a cave somewhere, cut off from the internet and other means of communication, your productivity and success depend at least to some extent on the productivity and success of other people.
But simply hoping for them to help you is usually a losing strategy. Instead, what you want to do is get out there in the trenches and influence the people on whom you depend, so they feel more enthusiasm and better understand what they can do to help you make progress in the direction you’re seeking to move.
This essentially boils down to your ability to influence them. And influence depends to a large extent on your familiarity with and skill at applying some key techniques.
The proven techniques for wielding extra influence include the following:
Give and Take
Many people will happily contribute a certain amount of effort to help you accomplish more. But this voluntary willingness is naturally subject to their own agenda and priorities. It can fade just when you need it the most.
To more reliably get people on board for the long term, you must engage in meaningful give and take, making sure you help them in ways they appreciate enough so they will move your agenda higher up on their list of what’s important.
This give and take approach works best when you’re offering to give something the other person really values, so it’s worthwhile considering many possibilities before you suggest a specific quid pro quo.
Note: This give and take doesn’t have to happen simultaneously. You can also remind people of what you’ve done for them in the past, or offer them your future allegiance and support if they help you right now.
The human animal has a curious propensity to stick with a belief, task, or project to which s/he has already committed. In practical terms, once you get someone to help you a little, they’re much more likely to keep helping you – even if that later turns out to require a lot.
Because the power of this “buy-in” lasts a long time, you can start working toward buy-in way before you actually need to ask for help. In fact, if you generate buy-in before you need help, you’ll have a cadre of potential supporters when the moment for others to pitch-in actually rolls around.
Most of us are not free spirits or loners; we feel more comfortable doing something that others are doing. You can utilize this tendency by snowballing the early help you get from a few people so that later on many more others are willing to provide support.
This gives rise to the importance of including in your pitch for assistance, at least some indication that others are already on board with your agenda.
Crowd power actually comes in at least two flavors: you can generate “buzz” that indicates large numbers of people are on board with your effort, or you can line up some buy-in from a few heavy-duty influencers – industry leaders, celebrities, or anyone that’s well-known and well-respected among those you hope will help you.
We like to work with people we like. It’s just that simple. If you want to get help from others in order to boost your productivity and success, start by asking for help from people who already like you. Then go to the people you like, in hopes they already, or soon will, like you in return.
Finally, over the long-term try to cultivate a personality and working style that draws other people to you. The grumpy person with a heart of gold makes for a great piece of fiction, but in real life that’s not the kind of person others will enthusiastically support.
Phony friendliness will not pan out in most situations, either. So take the time and put in the effort to be genuinely liked by others. This generally involves active listening, personal honesty, and efforts to build real trust.
You’ll find it easier to get help from others when you have a title, or authority, or an aura of personal power. That’s because these attributes tend to generate in others a sense of obligation or a strong desire to help. The more personal power you can accumulate, or exude (even if you don’t have as much as others might think), the more easily you can get others on board with your agenda and goals.
Naturally, you won’t use this personal power as a cudgel to force compliance with your wishes. Instead, you’ll use it as an attractant to bring people into your orbit and make them feel comfortable operating as part of your team.
Scarcity or Urgency
Not strictly related to influence, nevertheless the general tendency for people to want more of what’s less available can help you gather assistance to your project. For example, if you’re asking for no more than three volunteers, or canceling in a few hours your invitation to be part of your team, you’re adding this hard-wired emotional draw to your basic request for help.
Influencing others to enhance your productivity and success can be difficult. And there’s never a guarantee of success. However, understanding and utilizing the techniques of influence can maximize your chances of getting others onboard with your agenda for your work and your life.
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