By Sree Rao, PMP, PgMP, PMI-ACP
The ability to influence is one of the most valuable—and
underrated—leadership traits. It’s particularly important for program
managers, since we must influence cross-functional team members over
whom we may have some positional authority—but not enough to get things
Here are 7 ways to influence:
1. Identify your style
We all have our own ways of trying to impact other people’s thinking and
actions. Chris Musselwhite and Tammie Plouffe identified five different
Rationalizing: Using logic and reason to advocate for a solution
Asserting: Stating ideas confidently to directly drive action
Negotiating: Finding favorable compromises without sacrificing the long-
Inspiring: Drawing on passion to open people’s eyes to new possibilities
Bridging: Resonating with others by listening and building coalitions
We often try to influence the way we like to be influenced—but that doesn’t
always work. Instead, try to match the style of the person you’re trying to
2. Establish trust
Influence is based on a foundation of trust and credibility that’s been
solidified over time. We cannot build trust overnight. The best way is to
continually deliver on your promises and be transparent when there are
roadblocks. Encourage others to express their honest opinions, concerns and
doubts, and give open, honest and constructive feedback.
3. Build social capital
Look beyond your role and offer help: Volunteer to pitch in on mentoring or
other company initiatives that you’re passionate about. You’ll get to network
with people across various departments and build social capital. Give help—
and then ask for help.
4. Think like a hotshot
Consider this as a variation of what former Focus Brands COO Kat Cole calls
the hotshot rule: Think of a colleague that you admire for their influencing
skills—aka, a hotshot. Now imagine if that colleague took over your role.
What would they immediately change? How would they interact with the
person you’re trying to influence? This might not be feasible in all situations
because of personality differences, but you can gain some insights from the
5. Influence the influencer
If you’re trying to influence a team, identify the person on that team with
the most sway and influence them. And they will in turn influence the team.
6. Unlearn what you know
Keep an open mind and don’t write anyone off. There might be ways to win
over even the biggest skeptics. Initiate a conversation, acknowledging that
your view is different from the other person’s and have them help you
understand their perspective.
7. Know your value
The Cohen-Bradford influence model recommends that you think of what you
can offer in exchange for what you’re asking for. That can be your technical,
organizational or process knowledge, a tool, an expression of gratitude or
recognition, or help with tasks you have expertise in. Be mindful to do
something the other person values, which may not be what you value. As an
example, some people don’t like public recognition. Knowing that and
respecting that will go a long way.
Let me know your favorite influencing technique in the comments.