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Building power and influence – but for who, what, when, why and HOW?

Usually when you want to get something done, what you need to get it done is power. That’s where strategic thinking and planning come in.

Our role is to help you find your way through the thicket of human relations and develop the power you need to achieve your goals and objectives. To begin, an organization has to know what it wants, with the goals and objectives clearly defined and simply stated, so everyone starts on the same page.

That kind of clarity can only be reached when the organization has articulated its mission and a vision for what things will be like when that mission is achieved. Once you have a realistic set of goals and objectives, you can get to work:

  • Conduct a power analysis: Figure out who makes the decisions and who influences the decision makers.
  • Scan the environment: Determine who are your competitors in the marketplace of ideas. Develop your competitive advantage.
  • Identify self interest: Find out what the influencers want and what part of that you can give them. And find out what they don’t want and how you can use that as a pressure point.
  • Assess your resources: What resources, both human and financial, do you have and what do you need that you don’t yet have.
  • Build partnerships and alliances: Look for people and groups who want the same things you do and build alliances.
  • Create Coalitions: Form coalitions when that’s possible. But remember, when you do, you’ll have to share power, so you won’t always get exactly what you want.
  • Slogans are not messaging: Your messaging should be tailored to what moves the decision makers, not what makes you feel good. People often confuse messaging and marketing. Underlying messaging (three key messages) informs your marketing.
  • Getting the right people out front: Who are your spokespeople and how do you hold them accountable? Prepare them: Few people are born leaders or spokespeople; most everyone needs a little assistance. Sometimes your spokesperson attains celebrity. The organization should prepare for that moment.
    You’re ready to take action. Maybe it’s a demonstration or march, maybe it’s a news conference. Maybe you’re doing an inside game and you want to meet with the key decision makers. Maybe the demonstration is aimed at getting that meeting. That’s where strategy comes in.

When decision times come, you may and almost certainly will, have to compromise. Make sure you know what you can give up and what you can’t. Hold onto your values or all your power will disintegrate.

Just remember, building power is never a straight line. Sometimes your spokesperson gets taken by their new-found celebrity and they begin to mistake their higher profile for building institutional power or making systemic change. Sometimes things happen that are out of your control, a pandemic, for example. Maybe there’s an election and the power balance shifts. The world is a complicated place and people are never predictable.

If you have a strategy in place then you can evaluate whether you are in alignment with your vision and mission, goals and objectives and if you have the fire power, access, influence, alliances and partnerships, resources, both human and financial, and the right messages embedded into a plan of action. It is a touchstone throughout your campaign and can help you reflect on what worked and what lessons to build upon for the next action.