(How) To influence or not to influence
Leave your thoughts
Have you ever been in a situation where stakeholders presented you a solution to analyse and get implemented? Where your devotion to your analysis work uncovered more insights on the real need or root cause, and brought up alternative solutions? Where you have been unable to convince your stakeholders hereof and really influence the project’s focus?
Having impact is not only of direct benefit for your organisation, it’s also important to feel valued for your work.
At the recent BA & Beyond evening event, Adrian Reed provided us with his insights and tips on leading without authority. It was followed by a panel discussion where Joannes from Namahn, Kim from The Business Analysts and Stefan from the IIBA Brussels Chapter shared their thoughts on influencing. Some take aways:
You are involved
Understanding and dealing with political and cultural aspects is a key part in delivering change. You are involved in these aspects.
This means leading from the middle requires more than simply delivering a correct analysis from the sidelines. Different people have different perspectives on the same service / product / process / situation / … Can you bring these different perspectives to the surface and help create respectful understanding across all people involved? Finding a common interest is very helpful in creating that understanding.
Communication is key: what “tool” can you use to get into people’s heads, to make your message stick? If for example people find it hard to talk “process”, perhaps you can talk “data”, or “physical flow” instead.
Is influencing OK?
Is it ok to influence people, or are we tricking people into something? There was agreement that it’s ok to influence people: any act of communication will influence. However, for respectful influencing, you have to earn the right to influence, to give advice.
Listening and understanding is probably the first step towards earning that right. Show genuine interest and curiosity. Start for example by observing people and show them you want to learn and understand their context.
By then acting with integrity, you will stay away from (the perception of using) Machiavellian tricks.
Are you technocrat or mediator?
There’s influencing to bring people towards a specific (often pre-defined) decision or end goal. A (better) alternative is to guide people through a collaborative design process and influence them by showing them the big picture or complex whole. Then together, they come to the “right” decision, which is the shared decision that naturally follows from such a well facilitated process. They define the end, and you define the means.
This requires openness and a safe environment to talk about problems, and not just solutions. It also requires strong facilitation skills.
Take away quote
You can only be a leader if people follow you.
— Ingrid Vanden Berghe
Want some more practical tips and tricks?
Get in touch with Adrian, one of the panellists, or one of the organisers.
- Kim Vrancken, The Business Analysts
- Joannes Vandermeulen, Namahn
- Stefan Bossuwé, IIBA Brussels Chapter
- Adrian Reed, Blackmetric
- Patrick Van Renterghem, IT Works
- Filip Hendrickx, altershape
Or join the discussion on LinkedIn.