How To Influence Without Authority



“If you were born with the ability to change someone’s perspective or emotions, never waste that gift. It is one of the most powerful gifts God can give—the ability to influence.” — nnon L. Alder

I got some relevant training for today’s world.  The training was “Influencing without Authority” and it was based on the book, Influence Without Authority.

The focus was how to succeed when you don’t have authority and control over execution.

The Ability to Influence Without Authority Helps for Work and Life

This is a common scenario in cross-team, cross-group scenarios.

At Microsoft, you don’t get rewarded by saying, “…if only I had control over authority and execution … I would be successful.”

This training is actually useful beyond just the work scenarios.  You can use it in any situation where you don’t have authority over somebody else.

For example, if you find yourself on the receiving end of bad customer service, before lashing out, test your influence without authority skills and see if you can have a better day, or at least a better outcome.

Influence in a Nutshell

You deal with relationships throughout the influence process.

If you assume that those you need to influence are your allies, you’re in a more resourceful state.

If you don’t clarify goals or understand the world of those you influence, then you can miss out on finding mutual purpose or understanding why or where you get stuck.

You improve your influence if you speak about currencies that the other person values.

Currency is more than money; it’s any type of exchangeable value, such as expertise, resources, … etc.

The Influencing Without Authority Model

At the heart of the class was the model of influence without authority:

  • Assume all potential allies
  • Clarify goals and priorities
  • Diagnose the allies world
  • Identify relevant currencies
  • Deal with relationships
  • Influence through give and take

Influencing Without Authority Explained

Here are some key points to highlight

  • Assume all potential allies.  If you start off by assuming your dealing with an enemy, it quickly turns into attacks and defenses, and nobody wins.  If you start with the mindset of “how can we partner on this” or “how can we team up?”, you set yourself up for success.  Sometimes it’s a simple as telling somebody what you want to accomplish and asking for their help.  Involve them.
  • Clarify goals and priorities.   Before you get stuck in the content or mired in the details, you want to frame the discussion around what you want to accomplish and what’s important.  It’s all too easy to get stuck in a rat-hole or escalate minor issues into major things if you don’t have a frame.  The frame helps you get back on track.  Remember to identify what you want and what you don’t want and keep your bearings on how important things are.  This also gives you the ability to quickly trade lower priority items for the greater good of the relationship.  Lose some of the battles to win the overall war.
  • Diagnose the allies world.  This means stepping out from your world, and looking at the world through the other person’s eyes.  How do they currently view the situation?  What’s their threats?  What’s their goals?  What do they want?  What do they not want?  What do they value?  What’ are their triggers that might cause unnecessary emotional reactions or that you have to be sensitive too?  The more you know their world, the more you can build bridges.
  • Identify relevant currencies.   This is the infamous What’s In It For You (WIIFY) question.  You need to know what’s most important to the other person at this point in time.  It could be time, it could be money, it could be resources, it could be appreciation, … etc.
  • Deal with relationships.  This is where your Crucial Conversations skills come into play.  The key here is to avoid going into fight or flight mode.  The way to do this is to focus back on what you want to accomplish.
  • Influence through give and take.    You may potentially have to play a game of trade-zies (I give you this, if you give me that).  Ultimately, you’re going for the win-win, but you might have to give some to get some.  One of the things i find that helps the most is painting a picture of a bigger world.  The big thing you want to remember here is that if you go for a win-lose, you burn bridges.  it’s a small world and you don’t want to burn bridges.  What goes around, comes around.

Additional insights

Here are some additional insights I found useful:

  • Silence patterns.  Dancing around the topic, hidden agendas, revisiting decisions, strong opinions, hard to break past, feel stuck consistently, don’t know goals, don’t know strategies.
  • Creating safety.  Can you share without retribution or fear?  Can you create mutual purpose and mutual respect?  Can you create win/ win with mutual benefit?
  • When it counts, slow it down.   Sometimes it’s trying to rush through to the finish line that gets in the way.  Be efficient with things, but effective with people.
  • Separate the facts from the stories.  The goal is to check your stories versus react to your conclusions.  One of the most powerful things you can do is separate the facts from the stories you tell yourself.  Every situation is open to interpretation.  Your goal is to use the most effective lens.  To do this, first recap what you actually see and hear.  This is the toughest part.   You also want to know the literal facts – the quantifiable or non-disputable.  Getting your facts straight first, opens you up to different stories you tell yourself to make sense of what’s going on.  This keeps you from jumping to one conclusion, which can easily be wrong or at least one-sided.


We went through some thought provoking exercises, using the following questions:

  • Where are you stuck? (for example, with collaborative efforts, key projects, or day to day tasks or relationships)
  • What are the recurrent patterns?
  • What’s the crucial conversation you need to have? (Either stuck or not going well)
  • What would you need to see for that to be true?
  • Why is that not true today?

While the training covered a lot more, this is the subset that I found to be the most helpful and memorable in my day to day.   If you have any lessons learned or stories of how you influence without authority, feel free to share.

You Might Also Like

Make it Safe
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Mutual Purpose
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  1. J. D. Meier

    Influence is such a key.

    Sounds like a very useful course with a good dose of Crucial Conversations thrown into the influence method. Have you read The Influencer? It is by the same people as Crucial Conversations. I quite appreciate the perspective.


  2. Hey David

    Thanks for stopping by. Nope, I haven’t read it, but it sounds like a good book, so I’ll add it to my hit list.

    The folks from Crucial Conversations rock. It had some of the punchiest prose and it was insanely insightful. The patterns just really stick.

  3. I love the questions especially, What’s the crucial conversation you need to have?

    Also the questions under Diagnose the allies world, could be used well in any relationship enhancement work. They made me think of my favorite “walk a mile in another s shoes” question. What else could this mean?

  4. @ Tom

    Thanks for stopping by. It’s funny how the right questions can help spiral down on a solution or find a better path! I very much like the saying “walk a mile in another’s shoes” and I haven’t heard it in a while, but it’s spot on. It also helps illustrate empathic listening.

  5. I remember in my own consulting training the importance of knowing exactly what you want so that you know what you can sacrifice to make everyone goals be met.

  6. @ Jarrod

    Having clarity on what you really want is key. I’ve seen people get caught up in the heat of things and it’s easy to hold to stuff that’s not important, if you aren’t firm in what really matters.

  7. Wow, there is a wealth of information in these little nuggets. My husband is so good at all those six, (before the additional ones.) Not that he’s not good at the following four, he just excels at the first ones. He is an incredible salesman and it comes soooo naturally. Me – not so much, might have to keep those handy to refer to.

  8. @ Jannie

    That first one is so key. It was one I had to learn, and it didn’t come naturally for me. I came from a very competitive environment.

    The light bulb went off some time ago when I realized that you often have a lot of control or influence in whether a situation is a competition or a partnership. Unless you have any arch enemies like Lex Luther or Dr. Octopus, most people are just trying to make the most of the situation with the resources they’ve got. Just by showing how there’s a bigger pie or better possibilities usually opens things up. It’s what Covey would call the 3rd alternative, and we just have to look for it. If there is a threat, one of the best ways to build collaboration is to take the threat away. When people are fear based, that’s when things get cut throat and defensive.

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