Monday, 18 October 2010 11:47

Positive Persuasion: Influence Factors That Create a Win-Win Scenario

Written by Jean V. Corson

Oct_18_FeatureBecause so many of today's organizational initiatives involve melding the agendas of several individuals within a company into one solid plan for success, the art of building consensus has become increasingly critical. To achieve this end, persuasion and influence-often seen as tools used to create divisiveness-can be applied positively to bring individuals together for a common purpose that transcends their own immediate needs and/or goals. This approach also encourages information-sharing between different operational areas, thus providing a better understanding of how interdependent everyone is and promoting more effective and efficient communication and collaboration.

Here's a scenario where persuasion and the right influence factors could be applied to bring diverse factions together to achieve an organizational goal: Due to a downturn in business, a manufacturing firm tasked six of its managers with creating a plan to help the company restore its productivity and, more importantly, its profitability. Respectively, the managers were in charge of materials, QC, scheduling, product development, shipping and inventory control. Unfortunately, within the existing organizational structure, the managers had no idea what happened in other departments, so they had no deep sense of their colleagues' responsibilities or day-to-day concerns.

Furthermore, in this environment, "getting things done" simply meant directing each other to do something and complying with each other's requests in order to accomplish the task. Commitment towards anything larger than meeting those individual needs simply didn't enter into the process. In this scenario, the directives they received from one another fell outside the standard "request/comply" process they were used to. As a result, they began engaging in turf wars, pulling in six different directions with each member trying to win out over the others-a strategy that was ultimately going to result in a loss for their company.

Recognizing the dilemma, senior management staged a coaching intervention that resulted in the group coalescing as a team. Together, they learned-and applied-a formula for success that identified Five Critical Influence Factors which would enable them to move beyond settling for compliance and on to something better: commitment.

The Five Critical Influence Factors used by the management team can be explained using the following formula: To gain commitment for any endeavor, individuals need to see that the Value + Capability + Realization of Value is greater than the Cost + Risk. Or, in short, (V + Ca + RoV) > (Co + Ri). The three factors represented on the left hand side of the equation that must "add up" in order to influence an individual towards commitment are:


Our actions are motivated by what is important to us.

Furthermore, the list of motivators that are based on personal values alone can be quite extensive and includesuch drivers as recognition, power, professional challenges,career advancement and more. The assumption that othersvalue the same things you do is the most common mistake.

To influence and gain commitment from another individual, you must meet their values, not yours. When the other personcan see "What's In It For Them" (WIIFT) in terms that take into account their own needs, they take ownership. You can often tell what's important to an individual by simply observing them in action and then communicating with them openly to build a stronger working relationship. However, you should always monitor whether you're substituting your values for theirs in the formula.


If you find that someone isn't doing what needs to be done, it could be because they don't feel capable of doing it. Although you may not agree, you must take their perception into account.

Address the issue by asking them whether they feel they have the training, experience and confidence to do the job. Also, ask yourself if you have clearly communicated your expectations and are certain the individual understands them. Most importantly, respect their concerns and don't dismiss them.

Realization of Value

Once you determine the core values that motivate another person, you then need to create an environment that will enable that individual to achieve them. By making sure they realize the values that are important to them, you also ensure their commitment.

Again, the preceding three factors must be greater than the sum of the two factors on the right hand side of the equation which represent obstacles in the way of gaining commitment. These factors are:


For any employee, commitment has a perceived cost in terms of time, effort and/or resources. These costs can also change over time. For example, someone might hesitate to accept a task because of their workload at that moment, not because they don't want to do the work. In another example, a team member may want to commit to you but their team leader may not be able to afford giving them up. By taking the time early on to understand the factors an individual will need to weigh when making their decision to commit, you will be in a stronger position to influence them when negotiating work distribution, prioritizing tasks and accessing resources.


Individuals have different tolerances for what they believe is risky. As before, it's the other person's perception of risk that matters, not yours. For some, making a minor mistake or working on a project that uses a technology out of their comfort zone may hold a level of risk.

Consider what you can do to reduce the perceived risk. Perhaps you can break a complex project into phases to increase the other person's feeling of safety by limiting the scope of the activity. Other strategies include sharing the risk or formulating an exit option for them.

The most important thing to remember is that these factors are based on the other person's perspective. One of the greatest challenges is learning how to suspend your judgment and opinions in order to see another point of view. Making the effort is well worth the time because it is the key to successful persuasion.

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Jean V. Corson is a workplace behavior consultant focusing on leadership development, executive coaching and improving team performance. She is an instructor for several Learning Tree management courses, including Course 294, "Influence Skills," Course 292, "Communication Skills," Course 904, "Responding to Conflict," Course 244, "Assertiveness Skills," and Course 224, "Coaching Employees to their Potential." Since 1974, over 2 million course participants from over 65,000 organizations around the world have trusted Learning Tree to enhance the professional skills.  For more information, call 1-800-843-8733 or visit

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