How to Influence When You’re Not Calling the Shots

Cool Under Fire© series, 3 of 5 by Marianne Fleischer This third of five articles in the Cool Under Fire©Series will help you think on your feet. Speechwriter & Executive Speech Coach Marianne Fleischer, Fleischer Communications, will also be the keynote speaker at Women in Consulting’s August 10th, South Bay General Meeting.

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What if you have a great idea, but you aren’t calling the shots? If you are a consultant, maybe a client won’t greenlight your idea. If you are staff, maybe a bone-headed boss is in the way. Perhaps you are the unproven new kid. So, how do you Influence without authority—to use the popular business term? How do you steadily build influence? How do you gain trust as the Go-to Guy?
Here are seven ways to gain influence:

1. Stay calm and ON TOP OF IT in a crisis. Clients remember it. Management rewards it.

2. Gain a reputation for bravely bringing news to the team–even if they kill the messenger (you).

3. You don’t get what you deserve. You get what you negotiate. Business, unlike Girl Scouts, is not a meritocracy. Life isn’t fair. Let it go. People respect confidence.

4. People publicly say one thing but think another. Help your team see beyond what just sounds smart. Help your team understand their real motives (to look good to the boss, to save face in front of Fred, etc.). Only then can they solve the real friggin’ problem.

5. Learn the art of Seizing the Floor and Reframing the Conversation:

a. Don’t just pander by seeming to agree, quickly changing the subject to your agenda.
b. Instead GENUINELY acknowledge the other person’s ideas in two authentic, distinct ways. (I like that you brought up XYZ this quarter because…(AND)…Good, this builds on the CEO’s idea to…)
c. Only then transition with: “Hmmm, you know what would really gain us traction… (pregnant pause) is if we…” Then introduce your solution.

6. Find the overlapping interests of the organization’s leaders and become a super-connector. Generously share intell and contacts. Always return favors. People hold grudges if they help and you never do. How? Research leader’s pet projects, work passions and outside causes. Quietly hook people up. For example, if you know that Leader “A” and Leader “B” both want to bring more girls into tech and science careers, suggest a S.T.E.M. (science, tech, engineering and math) panel and attach the decision-maker’s contact. Super-connector people add heart.

7. Align with resistant stakeholders before your big presentation, especially if you have to pitch something controversial. Ask for their input and factor it in to your speech. If you suspect that someone might grandstand in your meeting, act counter-intuitively. Before the event, offer this potential troublemaker a one- to two-minute role in your presentation. Respect will diffuse pushback.

We can’t always wait until authority is bestowed, until we’re calling the shots. Stretch your influencing skills. In your career, what else helps people build influence without authority?

Fleischer Communications, San Francisco offers private Speechwriting-Speech Coaching and popular COOL UNDER FIRE workshops, customized for your company. This is third in a five-part WIC series called COOL UNDER FIRE. Want more info? Visit' About Marianne Fleischer

San Francisco Speechwriter & Executive Speech Coach Marianne Fleischer, Fleischer Communications gives private speech coaching & workshops. Learn more at


  1. Great tips to gain influence. Aligning with resistant stakeholders is critical, and I would take it a step farther. Preview and solicit input and feedback from all stakeholders on your proposals before any formal presentation. A CEO client shared the approach he had learned from a mentor in his career: the official presentation should be a confirmation, never a revelation.

  2. It is important to know that we can still make an influence even if we aren’t in a leadership role in our company. Great tips! Thanks for sharing!

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