Do you need to get people to agree and come to consensus so you can grow on your software project, or in your career? Today I’d like to share a few resources, and some simple concepts to consider, when influencing others to make a decision.
When I started out in my career, I was a good software developer and could write code and work with many complicated pieces of technology. But I didn’t become good at influencing people until I began consulting a decade later.
The Circles of Influence
Stephen Covey’s famous book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, introduces many powerful concepts for better work. I’d like to mention his concept of circles of influence, which is important for thinking about how to build consensus.
The first circle is the circle of control, and typically only includes yourself. If you have children, or subordinates, you may consider them within this circle. In most cases however, there is little you can actually control.
The second circle is the circle of influence, and is comprised usually of people on your software team who you already have good relationships with. These are people who will take your advice seriously, and expect you to influence them.
The last circle is the circle of concern, and includes people that we have no direct control over OR influence with. Influencing these people usually takes indirect influence through another person.
Who Can I Influence Already?
It makes sense, especially within the context of Stephen Covey’s book and recommendations himself, that we focus on those we can influence first. If we already have great relationships, those should be the first people we bring over to our side with a decision.
Identifying Stakeholders of Your Circle of Influence
Because it often takes getting agreement from people outside our circle of influence, we next need to identify who these people are. We can typically influence them indirectly through the relationships we already have. If not, we can look to someone else we know, that knows this person already, to open a door to a conversation.
You May Need to Influence “Up the Ladder”
Many software companies can grow into a structure with multiple levels of people. Even when using agile development methods, communication across people continues to be a challenge. In addition to building consensus across our circle of influence at our level, we may need to get agreement UP the “ladder” of people in the company so we can reach consensus.
Beware of Team Dysfunctions
While attempting to influence others, it’s common that due to past failures or trust issues, you may run into politics. The book by Patrick Lencioni, “The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team”, is a great resource to help you win back the support of difficult people and get everyone talking honestly again.