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ATD Blog

Influencing Up

Monday, August 6, 2018

Organizations in today’s business world have experienced dramatic shifts in who provides influence. Traditionally, one “great leader,” or a small group of senior executives at the top, provided all the answers. Most organizations were aligned in a very hierarchical structure; the flow of information and influence was almost always top-down.

Most 21st-century organizations are flatter, and leadership models are more diffused. The best ideas and the most creative solutions to problems often come from those on the front line who are doing the day-to-day work. That means that people at all levels of an organization need to possess the skills to influence those above them. They need to effectively present their ideas and solutions and encourage their implementation. In most organizations, the ability to “influence up” has never been more important.

Key to the ability to influence up is the building of trust behaviors. Building trust with the executives you need to influence is critical to their openness to your ideas and opinions. Without trust, your arguments will fall on deaf ears.

Six behavioral factors also impact your ability to influence:


· reliability
· credibility
· resourcefulness
· supportiveness
· communication skills
· positive outlook.


These factors are displayed in your day-to-day work and interactions with others. Building these behaviors has a huge impact on your ability to influence those above you.

Finally, you should plan persuasive conversations in advance. An unplanned, spur-of-the-moment conversation is unlikely to have the impact you want. Consider both the conversation content and the situational factors surrounding the conversation. If you think such a conversation might be difficult or challenging, practicing with a friend or colleague will help you smooth out the rough spots and give you more confidence that you will achieve your objective.

Register for Alan's webcast on August 16.

About the Author

Alan De Back is an independent career counselor and learning consultant located in the metropolitan Washington, D.C., area. His experience includes more than 20 years in career counseling and learning- and training-related functions. In addition to his current independent role, Alan has served as director of global learning for an Internet consulting firm and manager of leadership development for a major aerospace corporation. His experience also includes roles as a career counselor, trainer, and program manager for a local Northern Virginia government, and assistant director of career services for a major Upstate New York university. Alan holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology and history from the State University of New York at Geneseo, a master’s degree in human resource development from Rochester Institute of Technology, and a graduate-level certificate in Industrial Labor Relations from Cornell University.

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