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Influencing Decisions When You're Not the Most Senior Person

Influencing Decisions When You're Not the Most Senior Person

Influencing Decisions When You're Not The Most Senior Person

It is true that the most senior people need to make the final decision, but they should only do so after hearing the best ideas and proposals, which may come from the less senior people in the room. If the less senior people want to influence the decision makers, then they develop the following specific skills and attributes:

  1. Clear thinking.
  2. Accurate language.
  3. Reasoned arguments.
  4. Logical Proof
  5. Answers to objections.
  6. Self-confidence.

1. Clear thinking.

The first cause of all successful action is clear thinking, which implies:

  • An accurate perception of all the relevant facts
  • A rational evaluation of them
  • The creation of practical plans and proposals that are capable of achieving specific goals.

If you want to influence the decision, then this thought process is best done before you arrive at the meeting.

So, the first step to influence a decision is to mentally prepare yourself.

2. Accurate use of language.

Mental processes must be accurately worded, which implies the following three rules:

  1. Use Numbers: Numbers are the easiest way to clarify your meaning. Whatever can be described numerically, should be.
  2. Provide Definitions: Many concepts are NOT amenable to mathematics. So instead we need to give all our abstract concepts clear and unequivocal definitions. For example, if you are going to use the term, "sustainable solution", then you need to have a prepared definition of that term, so you have an answer ready if someone asks you, "When you say sustainable, what do you mean, specifically?".
  3. State the Affirmative: Affirmative language tells people "What is". Negative language tells people, "What is NOT". Progress is only made by describing what IS possible. If you want to be influential, then emphasise the affirmative, can-do portion of the job.

3. Rational arguments.

Whoever wants to influence decisions must back their proposals with rational arguments. If we offer no rational argument, then all we have to offer are unsupported opinions, feelings, conjectures, or guesses, which have no power to influence intelligent decision makers.

In order to influence the decision, we must support our statements with arguments.

4. How to prove your ideas.

There are four methods to prove that your proposals are sound:

  • By reference to specific facts: Ultimately every proposal and opinion should be based upon factual evidence, observation, and study. Use numbers, statistical analysis and clear definitions to support your case.
  • By reference to accepted principles. There are principles that govern every sphere of human activity: principles of law, economics, ethics and science. Reference to principles should be resorted to, whenever possible. We do things because they are right, good, and fair.
  • By reference to historical examples. History provides us with insights about what individuals, organisations and nations do under certain conditions, and if we are wise, we can learn from what has worked and what has not, in the past. If you want to strengthen your case, then use historical examples and draw analogies from the past experiences of others, who have faced similar situations.
  • By reference to pleasure / pain consequences. Decisions have consequences which may be either pleasurable or painful. If you want to persuade people to make a particular decision, then show how acting in accordance with your idea will bring pleasurable consequences, AND that failing to act in accordance with your idea will result in painful consequences. This principle of persuasion is the "Pleasure pain theory of motivation". If you want to persuade people to act in accordance with your proposals, then learn to make use of the "pleasure / pain principle".

5. Prepare answers to objections.

In order to test the validity of your plans, intelligent people will raise objections, which will come in the form of difficult questions.

So, expect and be ready to answer difficult questions, by preparing convincing answers. Only if you can answer their objections, will they accept your proposals.

Therefore you should plan your answers in advance.

6. Speak with self-confidence.

People are affected by the confidence with which an idea is expressed. If a good idea is expressed in a hesitant way, then it may fail for the wrong reasons.

If you want to maximise your chances of successfully influencing decision makers, then state your case with self-confidence.

Speak with a slightly louder voice volume and look directly into the eyes of the decision makers, as you speak.

This causes you to appear and sound confident and it will improve your chances of influencing the decision, even if you are not the most senior person in the room.

Communication Skills Training

To learn more about influencing decision-making and improving your self-confidence, please attend our Communication Skills Training Course.

About the Author: Chris Farmer


Chris Farmer is the founder of the Corporate Coach Group and has many years’ experience in training leaders and managers, in both the public and private sectors, to achieve their organisational goals, especially during tough economic times. He is also well aware of the disciplines and problems associated with running a business.

Over the years, Chris has designed and delivered thousands of training programmes and has coached and motivated many management teams, groups and individuals. His training programmes are both structured and clear, designed to help delegates organise their thinking and, wherever necessary, to improve their techniques and skills.

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Further Reading in Decision Making and Problem Solving

  • What is the Law of Cause and Effect?
    "Everything happens for a reason" is a commonly used expression, but not necessarily accurate. Everything that happens has a cause, or causes. "For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction."
    Read Article >
  • Unlocking the Power of First Principles
    When supporting our opinions, we often turn to facts or fundamental principles. However, one of these approaches emerges as significantly more impactful. We explore why this is important.
    Read Article >
  • Influencing Decisions When You're Not the Most Senior Person
    Decisions are usually made by the most senior people in an organisation. But less senior employees can influence the decisions if they develop certain skills and attributes. We examine how you can influence decision-makers.
    Read Article >
  • How to Make a Good Decision
    You are faced with making decisions every day, and it is important to make the right one. We explore the different types of decisions you will face and some fantastic tools we have developed in order to help decision-making easier for you.
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  • When and How to Use the Five Whys Technique
    Discovering the root cause of a problem is vital to finding a satisfactory solution. The 5 Whys Technique is a method of problem solving based on asking "Why?" five times. Corporate Coach Group have an improved version of the 5 Whys Technique.
    Read Article >

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