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Influence Without Authority. Seamus Gahan. Agenda. Introduction Six principles of influence Define Illustrate Techniques Discussion. Introduction. The project manager dilemma 50 years of psychological research Robert Cialdini - influence professionals Six principles

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Influence Without Authority

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Influence Without Authority

Seamus Gahan


  • Introduction

  • Six principles of influence

    • Define

    • Illustrate

    • Techniques

  • Discussion


  • The project manager dilemma

  • 50 years of psychological research

  • Robert Cialdini - influence professionals

  • Six principles

  • Offense and defense

  • Ethics of use (savvy to use right)

Why did Ethiopia give Mexico money during the famine?

Principle 1 - Reciprocation

Rule: We feel a strong obligation to repay when we are given something. We fear owing somebody.

  • Uninvited gifts

  • Unequal exchange

  • Concessions

  • Contrast principle

How Can I Use Reciprocation?

  • Say Yes, Yes, Yes- and bank the influence capital

  • Respond to “Thanks” with “Sure, I know you would do the same for me”

  • Pitch the larger request

  • Always have a plan B

What led some people to agree to have a billboard put up in their front yard?

Principle 2 - Commitment and Consistency

Rule: We want to be logical and consistent once we have committed to something. Nobody wants to be known as inconsistent.

  • Strengthen Commitment

    • Write it down

    • Make it public

    • Bigger is better

    • Internalize

How Can I Use Commitment?

  • Spend time securing small commitments

  • Re-iterate commitments at team or department meetings

  • Ask clients, sponsors, and stakeholders to complete important documents

  • Ask stakeholder to sign-off

Why do we participate in the silly stadium wave?

Principle 3 - Social Proof

Rule: We always look around to understand what is correct behavior in a given situation. The majority of the time it is safe to go with the crowd.

  • Ambiguous Situations

  • Similarity

How Can I Use Social Proof?

  • Emphasize others’ actions

    • Mary, the expert on accounting systems, gave me an hour of her time

    • The vice president of finance has committed resources to this project

  • Focus on sign-offs from heavy hitters first

  • Prepare and set the tone for an important meeting

Why would someone continue shocking a person saying “stop”?

Why would someone continue shockinga person saying “stop”?

Principle 4 - Authority

Rule: People feel compelled to follow an authority. You can place the blame on an authority.

  • Trustworthy and expert

  • Appearance sufficient

How Can I Use Authority?

  • Appearance of expert

    • Title and dress

    • Weave accomplishments into the conversation

  • Appearance of trustworthy

    • Present weaknesses first

Why do people buy so much stuff at Tupperware parties?

Principle 5 - Liking

Rule: We say “Yes” to people we know and like. We have to say yes to someone.

  • Similarities

  • Compliments

  • Familiarity

  • Same goals

  • Association

How Can I Use Liking?

  • Spend time getting to know people

  • Invite someone for lunch

  • Connect people to good news and distance them from bad news

Why would someone pay $2.5 million for a stamp?

Principle 6 - Scarcity

Rule: The more scarce an item is the more we desire it. We place a lot of value on having choice.

  • Abundance to scarcity

  • Competition

  • Loss more motivating

  • Exclusive information

How Can I Use Scarcity?

  • Present message in terms of LOSS

  • Highlight unique mission of project

  • Describe project team as scarce resource

Six Principles

  • Reciprocation

  • Commitment and Consistency

  • Social Proof

  • Authority

  • Liking

  • Scarcity

    * Ethics of use (savvy to use right)

Take Away Strategies

  • Say Yes, Yes, Yes -- bank influence capital

  • Always ask for the larger amount

  • Small commitments lead to larger ones

  • Emphasis other people’s cooperation

  • Present your weaknesses first

  • Get to know and like people

  • Pitch in terms of loss

Other ideas or thoughts?


  • Cialdini, R. (1998). Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. HarperCollins.

  • Cialdini, R. (2000). Influence: Science and Practice. Allyn & Bacon.

  • Cialdini, R. (2001). The Power of Persuasion. Kantola Productions.

  • Milgram, S. (1974). Obedience to Authority. Harper and Row.

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