Influence Without Authority

In organizational life, you can’t always get what you want, especially from people over whom you have no authority. The Cohen-Bradford Influence model offers a practical process of reciprocity and exchange—trading what you have that the other person desires in exchange for what you need to accomplish workplace and personal goals. The authors also discuss some common currencies of exchange in organizational life and how to use them effectively. © 2005 Allan R. Cohen & David L. Bradford

How can you influence those over whom you have no authority? The short answer is that to have influence, you need resources that other people want so that you can trade for what you want. This key to influence is based on a principle that underlies all human interaction, the Law of Reciprocity.

This model bases itself on the law of reciprocity, or the belief that all positive and negative things done pay back over time, or that one good or bad thing deserves another. For instance, doing a favor obliges the recipient of the favor to return in kind at a later date.

The Model

The Cohen-Bradford Model is a six-step approach to control behavior at work.

      1. Assume everyone as potential allies: Never write anyone off, and never lose heart, no matter how hostile or uncooperative the person.
      2. Clarify goals and priorities: Determine the need to influence the person, what benefits the person can provide, and why to influence the person.
      3. Diagnose the other’s world: To determine what drives behavior. Apply empathy to understand the other person’s roles and responsibilities, peer pressure, cultural background, value orientation, rewards, and what seems important to him or her. Such diagnosis helps to overcome the tendency to blame bad personality, character or motives for undesirable behavior.
      4. Identify relevant “currencies,”: Or, what matters most to the other person by analyzing the diagnosis made in step three above. Cohen and Bradford identify inspiration, task, position, relationship and personal related currencies as the five that most people value highly. Most people care for more than one currency, and identifying all or most of such motivators allows flexibility in framing the proposal.
      5. Deal with relationships: This depends largely on the extent of rapport or acquaintance already existing with the other person. For instance, one can directly ask what one wants from a familiar person on good terms, whereas asking the same to a stranger or someone with hostility requires some work building trust and good relationship first.
      6. Influence through give and take: The principles of give and take are similar to win-win negotiations and puts a price on the proposed information exchange. Having established trust and identified the relevant currency, the person makes the request in a way that by complying, the other person gets something they value in exchange.

This article is based on the book Influence with out Authority By Allan R. Cohen and David L. Bradford