Secrets to successful influence

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Secrets to successful influence

Get staff to act on data utilization requests

At an institution as vast and complex as a university, senior leaders can’t possibly do everything themselves. Nor can they effect a major change initiative with the wave of a magic wand. Being in any type of leadership position requires influencing others to act—to get people to do the things you need them to do, even if they don’t directly report to you or have the incentive to comply.

Our work with Academic Performance Solutions (APS) is all about influencing others to use data to help inform decisions. And we know that simply making the data available is hardly enough of a push to get others to actively use it. In any typical request to increase data utilization, we often get one of three responses:

    1. “Sure!” A great response, but chances are this person was inclined to go along with the plan. Getting them to incorporate data into a budget request was something they were already eager to do. And while it’s a superb outcome, no influence was required, and you haven’t yet widened your sphere of data adopters.
    2. “Scram!” Okay, perhaps it’s phrased a bit more delicately than that. But at the opposite extreme, you’ll find that person who outright refuses or rejects the data. And while this represents a minority of cases and isn’t a desirable outcome, at least you’ll know where you stand with this person and can plan accordingly.
    3. “Sure…” Hear the reluctance there? The third, most problematic response is what I like to call “passive non-cooperation.” It suggests that you have agreement, but you never see the follow-through. Weeks go by—maybe months—and you have not seen the utilization you expected.

How to identify and respond to a data denier

So how do you get more active and willing participation in data utilization? Here are a few lessons our team has learned over the years:

  • Step outside your comfort zone Many campus leaders are understandably uncomfortable with mandates for data use, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be clear about your expectations. Share your vision and be specific about how you believe data can help illuminate blind spots.
  • Tap into motivation Don’t only focus on those things you can control. Leverage your power where you can and focus attention on those you seek to influence. Connect your request to the things that motivate the latter group most, whether it’s their own self-interests, stronger connections with colleagues in other departments, or even a broader benefit to the college or university.

3 insights to increase data utilization at your school

  • Relationships are key Build relationships far in advance of needing to “cash in” on them. Keep investing for the long term so you aren’t only approaching others when you need something from them.

Motivate others to act. Here’s how.

Having access to data is one thing, using that data to influence and drive change is another. View our on-demand webinar to explore five principles of effective influence, including strategies to help leaders to drive behavioral change and strengthen the success of longer-term initiatives.

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