Sister act: A tale of two influencers

Sister act: A tale of two influencers

The ability to influence is a learnable skill - with a little will and work.

Sister one, KatieI arrive home after a long days work. Katie greets me as I come in with a bright and cheerful "Hi, Dad". I say, "Hi back" and continue on. I head upstairs drop my briefcase and get changed. I then head back down to the family and greet them all properly. As I do this Kate asks me if I would like a glass of wine. Yes please. A red would be lovely. Umm, something's up. Kate's always helpful but this is unusual. She brings me a glass of wine, my favourite central Otago pinot. I take a sip and relax.Later that evening after tea Kate comes and sits beside me with her notebook in hand. "Dad the school has an exchange trip to Germany later this year. The purpose of the trip is to help the students with their German language skills and to give us the opportunity to see Germany and German culture first-hand. The trip is for two weeks and costs $5000. Normally you give us a deal that if we raise half the money you will pay for the rest. I have worked out in my notebook what I would need to do to raise my half in time for the trip including earning some spending money."She hands over her notebook to me and shows me her workings. I ask her a few clarifying questions which she answers simply and matter of factly. Then, she says, "I really like German and I think this trip would help me get even better grades. Can I go?"Now I knew why I got the royal treatment when I got home, but the answer was easy. "Yes, of course you can go."Sister two, EmilyI arrive home from after a long days work. Emily comes running right at me and yells "Dad, can I have $5000?" I am taken aback both by the request itself and the forcefulness with which it was presented."What are you talking about? No wait, let me go upstairs and change.""But Dad! Oh, it isn't fair", and she huffs off to her room.Unsurprisingly, Katie has a reputation in our family for having me wrapped around her little finger and getting whatever she wants. In a more formal context, however, we would say that Katie is good at influencing others. So, what can we learn from Katie? As part of writing this column I asked her to explain what she does to get me to say yes. Here is her answer: If you ask me to do something, I try and do it without having to be asked over and over. This makes it much more likely that you will do what I want when I ask you (influence experts call this the law of reciprocity).I know what you want and I make sure I give it to you (ie she provides value to me in return). With my children what I want is to know that they have thought about things thoroughly and are committed rather than they just want to spend my money. In business this is likely to be some benefit like increased margins, reduced costs or some more personal organisational benefit).I try and make it easy for you to say 'yes'. I don't just say what I want, I try to make the case for why it is a good idea and I give all the information I can.If the first answer is 'no', I don't whine and moan but give you time to think about it. I then come back and ask why or what can I do to get a yes (at this point I often give some advice on what they need to do to get a yes or make a counter offer for her to consider).I readily concede that there is more to influence than what Katie has set out here however this is a great start and well ahead of the skills demonstrated by many IT pro's. Too many take Emily's approach to influence making it really hard for people to say yes and then they wonder why their boss, their peers or their customers are so stupid. Lately I have noticed that Emily has been getting coaching from Katie on how to get to yes. Emily is improving, showing that the ability to influence is a learnable skill with a little will and work. Owen McCall is director of Viewfield Consulting and a member of CIO New Zealand's editorial advisory board. He can be reached through and through his blog at

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Tags business managementViewfield Consulting

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