Understanding Your Influencing Environment

Most organisational initiatives require the buy-in and engagement of multiple stakeholders in order to maximise the chances of the initiative gaining traction and momentum. Sometimes the initiatives are low-level and present very low risk at individual and organisational level, these tend to be easier and quicker to get off the ground. High level initiatives are more complex and take much longer to get implemented. They involve many more stakeholders, present some degree of risk at individual and organisational level and can introduce competing demands on groups within the organisation. Irrespective of your influencing goal, your starting point is always to map the terrain ahead.

Strategic Influencing


Plotting the influencing journey involves 3 key tasks;

1. Know your stakeholders

A stakeholder is someone that can influence the decision making process in some way, both directly and indirectly. These are not always obvious for example, assuming your CEO is a key stakeholder, their Personal Assistant is unlikely to have any direct influence over decision making but they will control access to the CEO’s diary – so they’ll be an important stakeholder.

2. Know what power you hold (and don’t hold)

When we think of power within any organisation we often think about power in the traditional sense. In other words, the person who is most senior by title or has the authority to hire and fire is seen as the most powerful. But there are many different types of power that exist and can be used effectively, providing you know what power you ¬†hold in relation to each stakeholder. The CEO’s PA might have no authority power (in the traditional sense), but has the power to control access to the CEO. This is referred to as resource power.

Understanding  your own source of power and the power held by those you are seeking to influence enables you to plan a strategy that allows you to compensate for any imbalance in power and fully access the power you do have but may be unaware of.

3. Understand the hidden agendas of your stakeholders.

There are two ways of thinking about the hidden agendas of your stakeholders. The first relates to the particular interests that a stakeholder may have in relation to your proposal or initiative. The second relates to their concerns about your proposal or initiative.

Stakeholder Concerns and Interests

Interests are defined as any criteria that need to be met so that a solution or decision can be supported. It’s important to note that stakeholder interests are very different from stakeholder positions. Often stakeholders will adopt positions in relation to an influencing initiative.

For example they might say that “…your proposal will take too long to implement“, this represents a statement of their position in relation to your proposal.

What they might be trying to say is that “…I don’t have the time or resources to devote to your initiative”. This response still doesn’t reveal their interests but at least gives you a clue as to the direction of further inquiry.

Maximise Success – Strategic Influencing

Understanding your influencing environment is a fundamental component of your strategic influencing toolkit. If you’ve done a thorough job then you’ll know exactly;

  • Which stakeholders to lobby
  • How to lobby them
  • In what order to lobby them
  • How to overcome your limitations in power
  • How to mitigate resistance and objections

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