How To Influence Others Without Authority

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How To Influence Others Without Authority

Have you ever tried asking for support from someone who is not interested in helping you? Or maybe you have an idea that you’re sure will take your team to the next level, but you can’t get anyone on board? These are common frustrations in the workplace… maybe even at home!

When you don’t have authority over others, it can be difficult to get them to help you or take your ideas seriously. But you’re not out of the weeds even if you do have authority! According to Allan R. Cohen and David L. Bradford, authors of “Influence Without Authority,” having authority can actually present problems. Why? Because it doesn’t always mean people will follow and support you. Instead, authority can create fear, and can potentially motivate people for the wrong reasons.

The common denominator here is the impact that authority has on influence. Learning to influence without authority is vital for both those who don’t have any, and those that do. So how do you do it? That’s is where the Cohen-Bradford Influence Model comes in.

The Influence Model: Six Steps

How to Influence

The Influence Model, also known as the Cohen-Bradford Influence Model, was created by Allan R. Cohen and David L. Bradford. It consists of six steps. Let’s take a look at each step, and then go through an example in detail.

Here are the 6 steps to the Cohen-Bradford Influence Model:

  1. Assume That Everyone Can Help You

Keep in mind that every single person around you has something unique to bring to the table and could be a great ally. Give everybody a fair chance to prove their value including the most challenging person in the room. Always take the first step to trust the people around you.

  1. Prioritize Objectives

You have to stay focused and remember the very reason why you want to influence these people. What is the benefit of having these people on your side? What is your ultimate goal?

Stay on track and do not confuse your work goal with your personal feelings or motives. Strong emotions such as wanting to “be right” can easily take over and distract you away from what is important, so remain focused on your work goal.

  1. Understand the Other Person’s Situation

Understanding where the other person is coming from is the key in identifying what drives them. Listening to what they have to say will not only make you understand where they are coming from but most importantly, where they would like to go from there.

  1. Identify What Matters, to You and to Them

If you take your time hearing the other person, you will understand exactly what is truly important to them; knowing what he or she values most is likely to be the determining factor in this model.

  1. Analyze the Relationship

Ask yourself: What kind of relationship do you share with this person at this time? Are you comfortable enough to ask what you need from him or her?

If you’re still at the early stage of your relationship, you may need to start by establishing trust and then start building up your relationship from there before you make the “exchange”, which is the final step.

Develop your communication skills by paying attention and using active listening techniques during conversations. Use your emotional intelligence and consider what each person is feeling.

  1. Make the “Exchange”

It’s time to put the model to work. Establish what you have to offer that is valuable to your ally and then make “the exchange”.

Remember to keep building your relationship with mutual respect for each other. Stay engaged by continuously trusting, understanding, and empathizing with the other person. Make sure to show how thankful you are and always look for more ways on how you can help them.

Check out this video for even more insight into the Influence Model

Now let’s take a look at an example.

Here is an example…

An Example of Influencing Without Authority 

How to Influence

Jay has been assigned as lead for a cross functional team to develop a new organizational strategic plan. Each team member works in a different area of the company and comes to the team with their own expertise. They’ve been selected to collaborate and come up with a new strategic plan in a short amount of time.

Since this special task is outside of everyone’s primary duties, Jay finds it hard to schedule a time that would fit everyone. Mike, in particular, is currently working extra hours and therefore delaying the team’s progress. So, Jay applies the Influence Model:

  1. Assume That Everyone Can Help You

Jay recognizes that everybody has something valuable to offer; the first task for Jay is to hear what everyone has to say. Mike is not able to attend the meetings due to his heavy work load because he’s short-staffed.

  1. Prioritize Objectives

Jay’s objective is to create the best possible strategic plan while utilizing input from all of his teammates. Mike has the expertise Jay needs to make sure that their new strategic plan meets all requirements. 

  1. Understand the Other Person’s Situation

Jay can empathize with Mike. He knows that Mike’s been working extra hours because they are short staffed and that Mike values whatever little time that is left for him to catch up with his family.

Jay knows the mental and physical stress of how Mike’s work schedule is impacting him. As a result, even though Mike understands that importance of this special project that he was assigned to be a part of, he is not happy giving up more of his personal time to work.

  1. Identify What Matters; to You and to Them

Jay knows that Mike is passionate about his field of work, is a great asset to the company, and has much to contribute to the strategic direction of the company. Jay has heard Mike is in the process of hiring a new person to share the work load with him, which would allow him to go back to his normal schedule and free up time to support the strategic plan development project. If only he could find time to go through the applications that he has on hand, to expedite the hiring process.

  1. Analyze the Relationship

Jay and Mike don’t see each other often since they work in different buildings but they know each other enough to know they are both from the west coast and share a love for college sports.

  1. Make the “Exchange”

Jay decides that it’s time to make his exchange. Jay will offer Mike his assistance in interviewing candidates to help expedite the hiring process. In return, Jay will ask for half a day of Mike’s time to catch up on what he’s missed so far in the strategic plan development, then participate regularly in the team meetings.

Mike was surprised to hear Jay’s offer but he accepts without any hesitations. Jay showed his appreciation by showing up early and took his time by going through each and every applicant seriously. Mike in return showed up early the next day to help Jay; the two came up with Mike’s strategic plan input faster than they both expected. Jay then showed his gratitude by buying Mike a craft beer from the west coast.

The next time you want to influence others, give these six steps a try. You may find that influencing isn’t as hard as you think! I have a bonus tip for you as well: Be sure to use your EQ. Here’s what I mean.

What challenges have you run into when attempting to influence others? I’d love to troubleshoot with you. Leave a comment below, send me an email, or find me on Twitter to let me know.



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