How to Dramatically Increase Your Influence

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Do you have a seat at the table?

I am often asked to speak about how to have more influence. Executives often feel like they are getting blocked or ignored by the power structure in their company.

How can you make sure you are included when important strategies are being decided? How can you impact them?

There are many aspects to this.

In my blog and in my book, I talk about many ways to increase the impact of your work, build your credibility, make the right connections with people, and create a network of support for your ideas, your work, and your career.

But today I want to talk about something very specific. A powerful, practical approach to dramatically increase your influence with your stakeholders.

Be a Translator

I can’t overstate the importance of translating what you talk about into the language of your stakeholders.

It starts here.

No one really cares what you do (At least not as much as you do).

Don’t educate — be more relevant

Don’t try to educate your stakeholders. For example, I was talking to a group of Marketing Executives at the CMO Club last week, and we talked about the challenge of needing to educate the CEO about what marketing does.

My advice: Don’t bother. It doesn’t work and it only annoys both of you!

But the important thing to realize is this: If you have to educate people about what you do, you are not relevant.

Just think about that; If you have to educate, you are not relevant.

What IS relevant? What they already know and care about.

If you want to increase your influence, the way to be more relevant is to always start your conversation with something they already know and care about. Use that as a hook, and then hang your information that hook. They will think you are smart and be motivated to listen to you because you are starting the conversation by making them feel smart.

You are engaging them on terms they already know and on things they want to make progress on. Once they are thinking that, they will be ready to listen to you.

Translate your ideas, use their hook

To follow the marketing example, don’t talk about a multi-quarter integrated marketing campaign. While you are at it, don’t even use the word marketing. Talk about building pipeline, decreasing the time to close a sale, or opening new revenue streams.

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If you are in IT, don’t talk about data centers and virtualization. Translate to improving sales effectiveness, helping reach new markets, or reducing the cost of acquiring customers.

Here is a very specific bit of magic to make your work and your ideas much more relevant to the rest of the business.

1. Interview your business stakeholders about what they care about. What is driving their business? What are their pressures and opportunities? What are their key “can’t fail” initiatives right now

2. Listen for two things:

  • What are the things on their list?
  • What are the exact words they use to describe them?

3. Go back and summarize their top initiatives in their words.

4. Prepare your next communication about what you are doing or trying to influence and ONLY USE THEIR WORDS.

Use your “outside voice”

Remember your plans and your budget are riddled with jargon from your own function. I call that your “inside voice.” You need those things to run your function but don’t – under any circumstances – use those those same artifacts to communicate outside your function.

You need to use your “outside voice.” You need to specifically create new communication tools that are versions of your plans, your proposals, and your budget, but using the language of your stakeholders.

The magic then happens when you are suddenly asking them to approve budget for things they want anyway!

When you translate and use their words, not yours, you are more relevant, you appear more credible, and you dramatically increase your ability to influence.

This article was originally published on Patty Azzarello’s Business Leadership blog.

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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