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Try to remember the last time you made a decision, whether that decision was to buy a house or to rent; to outsource a component of your project or to create it in-house; or to have milk or cream in your coffee. What factors influenced you in this decision?

As social beings, we are constantly subject to the powers of influence. You can learn to recognize it as you become familiar with the tactics of influence. If you find that you have changed your mind, then you have been influenced. The ability to influence is powerful, and can be used for good or for “not-so-good.” To be an effective project manager, you need to become an expert influencer in order to manage your project teams and to commandeer the resources that you require to accomplish your project goals.

They key behind influencing is the ability to change others’ behaviors. Being an effective influencer is difficult because it is complex and hard to change the behavior of another person against their will – so don’t. Rather, change their behavior willingly. Kerry Patterson, author of the book “Influencer,” identifies six main factors that affect our behavior and how we can use influence to change these behaviors.

  1. Personal Motivation– Rather than motivating people using strictly extrinsic rewards (money, prizes, etc.), reward your project team with intrinsic rewards (respect, recognition, more autonomy, etc.). By doing this, you are satisfying a more primal need – the need for people to do work that they enjoy and are satisfied with – and you are harnessing their personal motivation.
  2. Personal Ability– Have you ever been in a situation where you desperately wanted to perform a task that your supervisor just assigned to you, but you had little resources or knowledge to actually pull it off? Remember this when you assign team members roles in a project. 
  3. Social Motivation– In a project team, it is especially important that all team members are motivated by their peers to practice behaviors that will result in project success. Say you just became the project manager of a team that already has been working together, and every day they tend to take a two-hour lunch, resulting in delayed deadlines. As the project manager, set up social motivations for the group to change their behavior, such as requiring extended lunch hours to be made up at the end of the workday.  
  4. Social Ability– It is important that your project team works functionally in that they hold all team members accountable for their actions, and that they can rely on each other for help when they have questions or problems. Ensure that everyone has a go-to-person whom they can ask questions of to ensure expediency in all project tasks. 
  5. Structural Motivation– Is there a reward system put in place to encourage the behaviors that you desire out of your project team? If people are rewarded for a good job by simply not losing their job, they will only work just so hard that they won’t get fired. If employees are promised a bonus if they do a good job, they may slacken their efforts when no bonus is in place. So instead, focus on intrinsic rewards that enhance personal motivation. 
  6. Structural Ability– One of the easiest, and most overlooked, components in creating a successful project team is the physical environment that your project team is working in. If you’re having problems with team communication, you can improve this by calling daily face-to-face meetings. If you want two or more of your project team members to collaborate on a task, not only tell them this but also sit them close to each other to make collaboration easy and natural. 

    When you utilize all of these tactics to help create change in your project team, you are becoming an effective and efficient influencer.

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