“Everything you do has secondary consequences. Considering secondary consequences is the hallmark of wisdom and the basis of all civilization.”
~ Brian Tracy

leadershipThere’s a conundrum I come across regularly. It affects all of us on a daily basis and occurs both at work and at home or with friends. We want desperately to influence those around us, but we don’t have any control. What can we do in that situation?

Here are just a few examples of this ubiquitous problem that have come up in my practice in the last two weeks:

Of course, if you have authority, you can simply “order” the other to do what you want. That may not be the most effective leadership strategy; still you’ll end up getting some semblance of what you ask for. But, situations that intrigue me share the commonality that we all want to influence someone over whom we have no control, power or authority.

I recently introduced myself to a concept known as the Cohen-Bradford Influence Model that I have learned can help all of us in these situations. It helps us figure out what will trigger a positive response in another person in order to use that information so that everyone gets the outcome they want. It’s useful in all situations where influence is at stake, but particularly when authority does not enter into the dichotomy (this is especially true in very lean large international matrix organizations). In other words, how can you get what you want in the absence of authority? The Cohen-Bradford Model is based on the law of reciprocity – the belief that all of the positive and negative things we do for (or to) others will be paid back over time.

The model has six distinct steps, discussed below:

1.  Assume That The Person You Are Attempting To Influence Is Your Ally.

This is a pretty big step, but walking into the situation with a positive attitude will help you with your nerves and set you up for success, rather than failure. Don’t go into the interaction doubting yourself – the kiss of death. Instead, think positively. You’re undoubtedly familiar with the television show Survivor. Let’s assume you are on that show and want to make an alliance with your teammate. Go into it with the basic premise that you have common goals – assume the person you want to team up with is or has a good reason to become your ally.

2.  Clarify Your Goals And Priorities.

Before you ask for anything, make sure you know what you want. Do you want someone to take you to the final three in Survivor? Do you want someone to deliver the data you need to make a decision? Do you want your spouse to do the dishes? Do you want someone to drop the rate they are charging you for work?

Whatever your primary objective, make sure you don’t have secondary ulterior motives in mind. This is not about “right” and “wrong” but about getting what you want out of the interaction.

Figure out your objective and articulate it clearly. Also, figure out what you are willing to give up in order to attain your objective. If your objective is to get data for a report, are you willing to be satisfied if it’s only 90% complete?

3.  Think About The Other Person And His Or Her World View And Vision.

Unless you know how the other person looks at the world – what he values and cares about – you aren’t going to know his trigger points. This is the hardest step because it requires that you really dig deeply into the psyche of the other – really get to know him or her.

Let’s assume you are in a work situation and you want your colleague’s help in finishing a project. Ask yourself what’s in it for them. The Cohen-Bradford method suggests asking yourself six questions about the other person:

On the other hand, if the situation is more personal, ask related questions such as:

This step can be challenging; and it will determine whether or not you can identify this person’s relevant “currency” which is the next step.

4.  Identify Relevant Currencies – What Matters To You And To The Other Person?

The Cohen-Bradford method identifies five currencies:

5.  Figure Out Your Relationship With The Person

What is your real relationship with this person? Are you close enough to just ask for what you need or do you need to manipulate the situation or even get help from someone else? Use active listening techniques and emotional awareness to ascertain your genuine relationship with the other.

6.  Influence The Other Through Give And Take

Ask for what you want, and offer something in exchange based on the person’s value based currency. Be prepared for a negotiation. Make sure that both of you win. Show respect, dependence, understanding and empathy. By all means, show your gratitude and be prepared to give back.


Influencing another when you have no actual or implied authority over him or her is tough going. But, if you carefully and thoroughly evaluate the situation before jumping in all the way, you will have a far better chance of getting what you want. And, along the way, you are going to build a better, longer lasting, mutually satisfying relationship – one on which you can rely again in the future.

Challenge of the Month

Choose a time this month when you have needed help from others and you were not compensating them. Use the six distinct steps to ensure they feel appreciated while getting you the results and outcome you want.

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