The Influence model – Cohen and Bradford

More on getting the best out of people

The Influence Model devised by Cohen and Bradford can be an effective tool for helping you influence others. It’s especially effective in situations where you have no authority over the other person, or where he or she seems unwilling to help you. The model has six steps. These are:

  1. Assume all are potential allies.
  2. Clarify your goals and priorities.
  3. Diagnose the world of the other person.
  4. Identify relevant “currencies”; theirs and yours.
  5. Deal with relationships.
  6. Influence through give and take.

Once you’re familiar with the model, it’s not necessary to think through each step consciously.

The Influence 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. For example, if you give your boss a tip that cuts hours off her/his workload, you might expect, perhaps subconsciously, that he/shewill do something nice for you in the future.

Using the Model

The Influence Model is useful whenever:

  1. You need help from someone over whom you have no authority.
  2. The other person is resisting helping you.
  3. You don’t have a good relationship with the person from whom you need help.
  4. You have one opportunity to ask the person for help.
  5. You don’t know the other person well.

The model has several steps. These are:

  • Assume all are potential allies.
  • Clarify your goals and priorities.
  • Diagnose the world of the other person.
  • Identify relevant “currencies”; theirs, and yours.
  • Deal with relationships.
  • Influence through give and take.

Looking at each step in detail, and thinking about how to apply the model:

1. Assume all are Potential Allies

Influencing someone else – especially someone who seems to be “being difficult” – can make you feel upset, nervous, or unsure. However, don’t write anyone off: approach this situation by looking at the other person as a potential ally.

2. Clarify Your Goals and Priorities

In this step you need to identify why you are trying to influence this person. What is it that you need from them? What are your primary and secondary goals?

Here, it’s important to keep your personal wants and goals out of the situation. For instance, you may subconsciously want to be seen as “right,” or you may want to have the “last word.” These personal motivations often get in the way of effective negotiation. Focus on your work goals, and leave personal motivators or drivers aside.

3. Diagnose the World of the Other Person

In this step, you need to understand your potential ally’s world, and understand how he or she is judged. For instance, what performance metrics do they work by? How are they rewarded?

These factors play an important role in what your ally can give, and what he or she might want from you in return.

To evaluate this, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. How is this person “measured” at work?
  2. What are his or her primary responsibilities?
  3. Does this person experience peer pressure from his or her boss or colleagues?
  4. What is the culture of this person’s organisation?
  5. What does this person’s boss expect from them?
  6. What seems to be important to this person?

You can also use empathy to step into the world of your potential ally, and to understand what drives his or her behavior.

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”; Theirs and Yours

This is likely to be the most important step in the Influence Model. Here, you need to identify what truly matters to your potential ally. If you pay attention, you should be able to hear or see the currency that this person values most.
Cohen and Bradford identified five types of currency that are most often valued in organisations.

These are:

  • Inspiration-related currencies.
  • Task-related currencies.
  • Position-related currencies.
  • Relationship-related currencies.
  • Personal-related currencies.

4.1 Inspiration-Related Currencies

These currencies are all related to inspiration, vision, and morality/strength. People who value these currencies want to find meaning in what they’re doing. They may go out of their way to help if they know in their heart that it’s the right thing to do, or if it contributes in some way to a valued cause.

You can appeal to these people by explaining the significance of your project or request, and by showing that it’s the right thing to do. Appeal to their sense of integrity and virtue.

4. 2 Task-Related Currencies

These currencies relate to the task at hand and to getting the job done.

Here, you’ll want to exchange resources such as money, personnel, or supplies. You could offer to help these people on a current project they’re working on. Or you could offer your expertise, or your organisation’s expertise, in exchange for their help.

Task-related currencies are often highly valued in new organisations, where supplies and resources may be scarce, as well as by organisations or teams that are struggling to get the finances, supplies or information that they need.

Keep in mind that an important task-related currency is challenge. Many people, especially those who want to test or expand their skills, value the opportunity to work on challenging tasks or projects.

4.3 Position-Related Currencies

People who value this currency focus on recognition, reputation and visibility. They want to climb the organisational ladder, and to be recognised for the work they’re doing.

Here you’ll want to appeal to this sense of recognition by publicly acknowledging their efforts. You could offer them the opportunity to work with a high-profile team. Or, convince them that the project or task will be recognised by respected by senior executives or people in your industry.

4.4 Relationship-Related Currencies

People who value relationships want to belong. They want strong relationships with their team and colleagues.

So, make these people feel they’re connected to you or your organisation on a personal level. Offer them emotional support and understanding. Use active listening, so that they can talk about their problems. And say “thank you” to show gratitude for the good work they’re doing for you, or have done for you in the past.

4.5 Personal-Related Currencies

This is probably the simplest currency of the five. These currencies relate to the other person on a personal level.

You can appeal to this person by showing them sincere gratitude for their help. Allow them the freedom to make their own decisions if they’re helping you on a team. Keep things simple for them, so they don’t feel hassled helping you.

A common mistake in indentifying someone’s currency is underestimating its importance to them. Just because you don’t need to feel important, be recognised, or feel loved by your team doesn’t mean that no one else does. Make sure you keep a very open mind when identifying other people’s currencies.


5 Deal with Relationships

In this step you need to analyse what kind of relationship you have with this person. If you know him or her well and you’re on good terms, you can directly ask him or her for what you need.

If you’re not on good terms, or you’re a complete stranger, then you need to focus on building trust and a good relationship before you move on to the final step.

To do this, take time to get to know the person you’re interacting with. Make sure you use active listening techniques when you’re speaking with him or her. Also, develop your emotional intelligence skills, which will help you recognise not only your own feelings, but the feelings of those around you.

6 Influence through Give and Take

Once you feel you know what your ally wants or needs, and you’ve determined what you have to offer, you can make “the exchange” and put your findings into action to achieve a win-win outcome .Make sure that when you make the offer or exchange, it’s done in a way that builds trust. Show respect, empathy and understanding to the other person. Show your gratitude to them for helping you, and keep looking for ways to help others.


Confidence and Self Esteem

Thinking Skills

Listening Skills


lone tree july 2013

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