Lead Your Team to Victory: The Do’s and Don’ts of Effective Group Influence
By Alan Vengel
Much of our work today depends on our ability to influence groups of
people we lead or work with on projects. Groups are made up of many
personalities, mindsets, motives and agendas—some explicit and
others hidden—so having a specific strategy for influencing teams
can mean the difference between success and failure.
influencers have a good set of communication behaviors and know how
and when to use them. They strategize which to use based on their
assessment and the result they want. They are flexible in developing
an approach and responding in the moment.
As an influencer, you assert your needs and make specific
suggestions to others about how they can meet your needs. Influence is
not manipulation. These
behaviors should not be exercised aggressively, or else the team or
group you’re seeking to influence may resist or withdraw.
successfully lead a group or team, consider the following do’s and
don’ts. These tips will help you to be an effective influencer and
to prepare for the unique challenges you’re likely to experience
when you seek to lead teams and groups.
separate the group.
beforehand is essential to efficient planning. In order to influence
the individuals in the group, you must target each of them before
the meeting takes place. Think of the group as a collection of individuals, each of them having opinions and issues
that you must seek to understand in order to influence them. Put
yourself in each team member’s shoes and make some assumptions about
what their main concerns might be so that you can create a strategy.
For example, looking at individuals on a work team, you might think,
“If I were ___, what would I be most concerned about? What would be
___’s response to my efforts to influence the group? If I were ___,
how would I respond to “me?” What does ___ feel he or she has to
gain and lose?”
a common ground coalition.
Before the group meets, contact those whom you’ve identified as key
stakeholders and listen to their concerns. Check out the assumptions
you’ve made. Ask questions to find out stakeholders’ main
concerns, how each views the issues, and where you might experience
resistance. Consider some disclosure of your own as you feel it’s
appropriate, such as similar situations you may have been in or ways
that you feel you can identify with a key member’s position. When
you have established a rapport with these key people, you establish
your approach and will be prepared to capitalize on common ground
issues when the full group meets. You can open the meeting by saying
something like, “I know that none of us in this room really are
welcoming change right now. All of us have something to lose in this
proposition, but we all have something to gain. I believe we can work
together to make that gain something that outweighs the loss.”
desired results clear.
From the group’s first meeting, let them know what you expect the
team to accomplish. Create a vision for the group by presenting a
clear picture of future success. This can play a key role in your
ability to influence them. For example, “What I can see us doing
today is coming up with a strategy that all of us can buy into and
accomplish.” Or “I can see us looking back at this meeting a year
from now and saying that it was then that we really turned things
rationale for your ideas.
Supporting your contentions with facts shows that you have done your
homework and provides a good balance to your vision. Remember, people
may be convinced by rational
reasoning, but they will be more likely to be moved to action when you supplement rationality with emotion-based
open-ended, focused questions.
goal should be inclusiveness and rapport building with everyone in the
group. Without being passive or giving a lot of ground, ask how, what,
where and why questions that drill down, focusing on one particular
issue or statement. For example:
do you suggest we proceed with an initiative like this?”
are some ways you think we could move more quickly on these
you tell me more about your scheduling concern?”
do you think we ought to do, ___?”
do you think we need get on board to make this happen?”
a brainstorming atmosphere.
Let the group know that they will need to create and explore many
options and that you are open to hearing their ideas. Motivate the
group by establishing ground rules for brainstorming and for how the
group will listen to each other in order to promote open thinking.
Votes should be private because when individuals must publicly take a
stand, they’ll naturally feel more defensive. Always vote only when
there are a number of options on the table. Before the vote, keep
people open and thinking about possibilities, rather than just giving
them two choices: this or that.
Otherwise, they will select that
and have a tendency to defend their choice, even if they don’t
wholeheartedly believe in it.
allow people to take a fixed position.
To avoid defensiveness, encourage openness and collaboration right at
the beginning. If people take a position too early, they will have the
tendency to dig in and defend it. Suggest putting several options on a
flip chart and then narrowing those down to a top three before voting.
If you do your homework, you will remain unsurprised by team members
who come into the meeting with fixed positions that they try to push
through. You can best deal with this by saying, “I know some people
have a strong idea about how we should do this. I’ll put that option
up on the board. I also want to get a couple of other
options up here, too, so what are some other possibilities?”
put people into like-minded discussion groups.
To encourage a diversity of opinions, group people who have
contrasting views. That way, rather than reinforcing each other’s
positions, groups will explore new territory and create new material
through the interplay of their ideas. Blend the groups so that they
debate one another and you’ll eliminate “groupthink” reinforcing
let objections sabotage the team.
When a team member presents an objection, it
need not sink the ship. Look at objections as signals of an
opportunity for you to obtain information that will allow you to
influence the group. Probe more deeply into objections and empathize
with team members who raise them, really listening to what they have
to say about why they disagree. Then take some time to mull over the
information before you attempt to overcome the objection. Don’t come
up with an answer too quickly or the objector will feel you didn’t
really listen or are giving a prepared answer.
Influencing Your Way to Success:
Great communication skills are essential for you to effectively
influence teams and groups. You can’t lead a group well if you go
into the meeting unprepared. You must do your homework in advance so
that you can understand their concerns and move the team in the
direction you want it to go. When you’re prepared, yet remain
flexible, your influence will also extend to those in the group who
might tend to dig in behind a predetermined position to defend it.
Practicing and refining your team influencing strategy will lead to
success for your group, its project and you!
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