How to influence the big decisions at work

Posted on: October 24, 2014

Sarah is an in house lawyer. I was coaching her recently on how to influence a major decision in her organisation. They were going through a restructure and there was a risk that the excellent team she led would be disbanded and their work outsourced, yet she passionately believed that it would be better for the organisation to keep her team in place.  She had been through restructures before which had left her feeling demoralised and was afraid of this happening again.

Sounds familiar? In her situation it would be easy to feel helpless and merely on the receiving end of decisions handed down, or to go into scheming mode, trying to influence people indirectly.  Neither feels good.

A resource that is often overlooked in such situations is to use your intuition rather than just relying on logic.  According to leadership expert Otto Scharmer, there are multiple possible futures waiting for us (we live in a “multiverse” not a “universe”) and if you connect with the best possible future and set your course in that direction, you can influence events much more effectively than by plotting and strategising.

I took her through the following exercise:

  1. Imagine it is a year from now and you have been able to influence this restructure to get the best possible outcome for you and your organisation.  Notice and describe in great detail what you are seeing, hearing and feeling.
  2. Look back from this vantage point and describe the steps you have taken to get to here.

Without missing a beat, she quickly described a series of actions which added up to a coherent plan, and which included fresh ideas she never would have come up with by just thinking about it.  In less than 20 minutes of coaching she had clarity and confidence about how to tackle an issue that had been troubling her for months, and rock solid confidence in her ability to act on her plan.

So, don’t overlook the power of your intuition as a source of ideas for how to respond to a challenging situation. Next time you are unsure what to do, try this exercise – you’ll be amazed by what you discover.