27 things every engineer needs to know about influencing their stakeholders

  1. From the common task of resolving a misunderstanding with a colleague, to more complex tasks like negotiating the terms of a deal, we all use a variety of communication strategies aimed at influencing the people around us every single day.
  2. What we know from the research into psychology and human behavior since the 1960s is that that influencing skills are integral to good business.
  3. Regardless of whether you are the team member managing upwards, the team leader managing your team or perhaps you are even tasked with managing both, when you need to get people to do something for you or agree with your assertions it is preferable to rely on strong influencing skills than on your authority.
  4. It can be interesting to think about what is desirable influencing and what is overstepping the line into the realm of unethical manipulating or misuse of power.
  5. There are five main ways that we influence the people around us and we move from one to the other depending on how ‘attached’ we are to the outcome of the influence scenario. The first two ways are forcing and directing and are the aggressive approaches; the second two ways are modeling and guiding and are the passive approaches and the middle of the road is persuasion – that’s the assertive way.
  6. There are 3 Ps of persuasion: Position Shifting; Pacing and Leading and POO!
  7. You can communicate with stakeholders from three potential ‘positions’. 1st position is where you are in your own shoes – completely self indulgent and all you care about is yourself. 2nd position is where you are completely and utterly in your members’ shoes. 3rd Position is the helicopter view. From up in 3rd Position you can see your needs (1st Position) and you can see their needs (2nd Position) so from 3rd Position you can make some very good decisions about what is best for you and what is best for your stakeholder. Spend more time in 2nd and 3rd position than you currently do!
  8. Expert communicators analyse their stakeholders, prepare their messages and even rehearse the delivery so they increase their chances of success.
  9. Expert communicators get into their stakeholders’ shoes and build both conscious and deep unconscious rapport so they can present meaningful, needs based solutions.
  10. Expert communicators know how to design, persuasive, powerful, memorable messages and as a result expert presenters compel their members to action.
  11. Rapport is all about a relationship or connection with your audience. It’s easier to build rapport with people who are like ourselves.
  12. You can’t ask for anything unless you are in rapport – well you can ask but they’ll probably say “no”!
  13. Pacing is being as ‘like’ your audience as possible without mimicking them. You build rapport though pacing their energy and the speed, volume and pitch in their voice.
  14. You can also pace your audience’s attitudes.
  15. Universals and truisms are statements that reflect back to the other party what they already know to be true. We call them ‘pacing statements’ because universals and truisms ‘pace’ your stakeholders’ attitudes.
  16. You don’t have permission to ask for anything until you have first paced them.
  17. The number of pacing statements that you need to use to be a master of influence is directly related to the existing level of rapport.
  18. You can be in (or out of) rapport using two separate criteria: 1. Personally; 2. Contextually.  If rapport is non-existent using either criteria you need at least 3 pacing statements before you lead.
  19. The filter that determines our propensity to accept information on face value or not is called the Matcher/Mismatcher filter.  People with a matching preference are those who look for what is true and correct, for what matches what they know to be true. People with a mismatching preference look for what is different to what they know to be true – where their reality is different to the communicator’s reality.
  20. To meet the needs of both preferences in your conversation/meeting or email it’s a good idea to avoid absolutes in your pacing statements such as “never”, “all”, “everyone”, “must”, “should” and use CABS instead: “or not”, “many”, “most”, “some”, “few”.
  21. “No” is just feedback that you didn’t pace enough or properly.
  22. It’s not about me, it’s all about the other person. It’s not about what you want to say or the way you want to say it, it’s not about how you want to stand, sit or move your body, and it’s definitely not about the PowerPoint slides you want to show. It’s all about your stakeholder and what they need to hear from you in order to understand your message and change their behaviour accordingly. Understand this and you’ll never be ‘nervous’ or lacking confidence as a communicator again.
  23. It’s best to manage objections BEFORE they are raised. We manage objections with the POO technique – Pacing Out Objections and we don’t say ‘but’.
  24. ‘But’, ‘However’, ‘Alternatively’, ‘Although’ all negate what you have just said and activate the fight/flight response in the other party and incite them to fight you! Choose to say “and”, “so”, or just pause and say nothing at the link.
  25. Try using the words ‘actually’ or ‘in fact’ before you give your solution and remember to say ‘because’ after your solution and back up the solution with more information.
  26. As you can’t always foresee every single objection that could be raised, you can also use the POO technique for managing objections when they are raised.
  27. Once the meeting is over, expert communicators take 5 minutes to think through what went well, what they need to do more of, and what they should improve.  So take the time to congratulate yourself on the things that went well in the meeting and determine where you need to improve for next time.

I know you know this, it’s not rocket science, so take the time to plan your meetings in advance, analyse your performance at the conclusion of every meeting and continuously strive to be an expert communicator who compels your audience to say ‘yes’ to you.

Good luck!