Building Influence: It’s About Making People WANT to Help You

HRSo many of my clients ask me about influence. They want to know how to better personally influence others or how to train their managers on influence and engagement.

The answer is simple but not easy.

The simple answer is to make people WANT to help you.

Don’t be THAT guy

Here is what I mean.

Think about when you are really busy and you are in your office working on something — and how there are some people who, when you see them coming, you are still glad to see them — even if they ask you to do something for them.

Then there are other times when you are really busy and you see someone coming, and you want to shut the lights out and hide under your desk.

If you want to have influence, make sure you are not that second guy.

What motivates influence?

Think about why you are motivated to help the first person:

The reason you don’t dread seeing the first person walk toward you is probably because the first person a friend, or is someone you know you can count on to help you, because they have shown you some generosity in the past. You actually want to help them. You are really busy but you don’t mind squeezing in the extra task for certain people.

Think about why you are not motivated to help the second person:

The reason you wish you could avoid seeing the second person is probably because they are not your friend, and they have not helped you in the past, and the only basis of your entire relationship is that this person asks you to do stuff.

Again – don’t be that guy.

The most important thing you can do to increase your influence is to expand your relationship with people beyond “the ask.”

Getting beyond “the Ask”

Think about the person in your work, right now, who you need to get information from, or cooperation from, and they are just not helping. Then think about your relationship with that person.

How much relationship do you have over and above your asking them for things?

If the answer is none, that is the problem. (And by the way, you are THAT guy.)

If you need to influence someone, think first about being generous to them. Take the time to get to know them.

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Understand their schedule and their pressures, so that you can ask at the right time. Offer to help them. Learn about their background, learn about their goals. Learn about their family or their hobbies. Give them something of value.
Become the person that they look forward to see coming into their office.

Build your extra team

The most successful people have the most people helping them.

You should always be putting effort into building a team of people around you that is motivated to help you. I see this with all successful people. They always seem to have an army of supporters, whether or not those people work for them.

The way to do this is to make time for networking and to think about being generous and helpful to people around you. You are not the only one who is really busy.

Remember, your tasks (that are so important to you) are not as personally important to others.

The way to influence people to care about your tasks, is to first get them to care about YOU. And you do that by first caring about them.

Some people react to this idea as being political and therefore a bad thing because you are giving only to get something in return.

It’s all about being generous

I prefer to think of this simply as being generous because it’s a good and right thing to do. And it’s quite fundamentally, a positive and necessary element of being effective in your job.

Here are specific, practical ideas to build your extra team.

  • Invest before you need anything;
  • If want to have more influence, you need to put in the effort to build a network ahead of time.

It’s important to build a relationship before you try to use a relationship. How will you expand that relationship beyond “the ask?”

This was originally published on Patty Azzarello’s Business Leadership Blog. Her latest book is Rise: Practical Steps for Advancing Your Career, Standing Out as a Leader, and Liking Your Life.

Patty Azzarello is the founder and CEO of Azzarello Group. She's also an executive, best-selling author, speaker and CEO/business advisor. She became the youngest general manager at HP at the age of 33, ran a billion dollar software business at 35, and became a CEO for the first time at 38 (all without turning into a self-centered, miserable jerk). You can find her at patty@azzarellogroup.com .

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