How to Influence Others Without Using Authority: The Cohen-Bradford Influence Model

Persuasion Theory
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Chloe Xu
Director, Australia

How to Influence Others Without Using Authority: The Cohen-Bradford Influence Model

The Cohen-Bradford Influence Model was created to address the issue of influencing others while having no authority over them.
Sometimes, it could be quite difficult to get advice, support, or some key information from people who don’t want to help you. Following the Cohen-Bradford Influence Model might help you to find a breakthrough for such difficult situation.

The model is based on the law of reciprocity – the belief that all of the positive and negative things people do for (or to) others will be paid back over time.

To make a deal, the influencer should go through the following steps of the model:
1. ASSUME THAT EVERYONE CAN HELP. Influencing others, especially those who seems to be ‘tough’, can make you feel upset, nervous, or unsure. However in this model, it is important to view the other person as a potential ally.
2. PRIORITIZE OBJECTIVES. Identify the reason why you need to influence this person. What is it that you need from them? What are your primary and secondary goals? Here, you should keep personal motivators or drivers out of the consideration and just focus on your work goals.
3. UNDERSTAND THE OTHER PERSON'S SITUATION. In this step, you need to understand your potential ally’s world, and understand how he or she is “measured” at work. For example, what performance metrics do they work by? And how are they rewarded? These factors play an important role in what your potential ally can give, and what he or she might want from you in return.
4. IDENTIFY WHAT MATTERS TO YOU AND TO THEM. Based on the understanding acquired from the last step, identify what truly matters to your potential ally. Cohen and Bradford identified five types of factors that are often valued in organizations: Inspiration, Task, Position, Relationship, and Personal.
  1. Inspiration-related factors - People who value these factors 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.
  2. Task-related factors - These factors relate to your ally’s task at hand and to getting the job done, such as money, personnel or supplies. They are often highly valued in new organizations, where supplies and resources may be scarce, as well as by organizations or teams that are struggling to get the finances, supplies or information that they need.
  3. Position-relation Factors - People who value this type of factor focus on recognition and reputation. So for example, you can appeal to this sense of recognition by publicly acknowledging their efforts.
  4. Relationship-related factors - People who value relationships want strong relationships with their team and colleagues. So, make these people feel they're connected to you, your team, or your organization on a personal level.
  5. Personal-related factors - You can appeal to this person by showing them sincere gratitude for their help. Allow them the freedom to make their decisions if they're helping you. Keep things simple for them, so they don't feel hassled.
5. ANALYSE THE RELATIONSHIP. Analyse what kind of relationship you have with this person. If you’re not on good terms, you need to focus on building trust and building relationship before you move on to the next step.
6. MAKE THE "EXCHANGE". Now you can make "the exchange" and put your findings from the above steps into action. Make sure that when you make the offer or exchange, it's done in a way that builds trust. Show respect, empathy, understanding, and gratitude to the other person.

This model can also be used when there is authority, but authority is not the best fit for the situation. Cohen and Bradford believe that authority can be problematic. It doesn't always guarantee that you'll get support and commitment from those around you. And it can create fear and motivate people to act for the wrong reasons. This is why it's so useful to learn how to influence others without using authority.

⇒ Do you have any good idea on influencing others, especially when you don’t have authority over them? If so, I would be very pleased to hear your ideas.

Source: Cohen, A.R and Bradford, D.L (2005) Influence Without Authority. Wiley: Hoboken.


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