Influence—the most difficult, and powerful, PM skill. | by Lenny Rachitsky

Lenny Rachitsky


3 months ago

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Influence—the most difficult, and powerful, PM skill. The best way to learn influence is to study people who are great at it. IMHO, one of the greatest influencers of all time is Frodo Baggins. I present 7 ways to improve your influence skills, as tough to us by Frodo and LoTR:

(Jump straight to the full post on this if you'd prefer)

Strategy 1: Make their goals your goals How did Frodo convince the most badass people in the world to risk their lives and help him get the ring to Mount Doom? By connecting his goals to their goals.

Everyone wanted this ring destroyed. Frodo knew that. He made it clear that he was going to risk his life to achieve this KPI. Everyone immediately had a great reason to help him get there.

Before asking someone to do something for you, take 10 seconds to reflect on what they want. Put yourself in their shoes. What are their motivations? What are their incentives? What’s important to them right now?

Then, frame your ask in a way that highlights this. For example, how it will: 1. Help them hit their goals 2. Help them move faster down the road 3. Help the company move its north-star metric 4. Make customers happier 5. Help them as individuals (e.g. in their perf reviews)

Strategy 2: Charge your trust battery When people trust you, life is easy. When they don’t, not so much.

My favorite way to think about trust is as a battery—as @tobi (CEO of Shopify) popularized. You can charge your battery by doing things that build trust, and tap into your reserves when you need people to trust you.

Some ways to charge your trust battery: 1. Do what you say you will 2. Listen. Make the person feel heard. 3. Help people out—create a foundation of reciprocity 4. Help people reach their personal goals 5. Point out the contributions and achievements of others

Why did Samwise leave everything and risk his life to help Frodo? Because Frodo’s trust battery was off the charts. Frodo helped Sam his whole life. When Frodo needed help, Sam had no doubts that he’d go to the ends of the (Middle) Earth to help him.

Strategy 3: Help them see what you see How did Gandalf influence Frodo to take on this harrowing mission? He didn’t force Frodo to go. Instead, he sat for days, explaining to Frodo the peril they're in, and why he is the only person who can take on this responsibility.

Gandalf explained the why, and brought Frodo on his thought journey. When you last ran into an obstacle trying to influence others, did you bring them on your thought journey and help them see what you see, or did you jump straight to the ask?

Some ways to help others see what you see: 1. Loop your colleagues in early 2. Spend time explaining the why 3. Invite them to kickoffs 4. Ask them to lay out their concrete objections, and address their concerns 5. Communicate regularly as your thinking evolves

Strategy 4: Show success Why did everyone continue to help Frodo through the years and months of their perilous journey? In large part, because he was showing success.

If you’ve often been right before (e.g. have hit your goals, shipped great stuff, made the right calls), people are more likely to trust that you know what you’re doing, and go along with your suggestions. As it should be.

If you’re not able to influence others, focus on showing more success more often. Influence will follow. Ways to show success: 1. Hit goals, consistently 2. Ship products that are seen as successful 3. Make the right decisions, consistently 4. Make commitments, and deliver

Strategy 5: Bring evidence Influencing others is often as simple as showing them hard data. If you’re struggling to convince someone, think about what evidence convinced you of this path.

Often we think someone disagrees with us because of a personal issue, when in reality you just don’t have a convincing case. Most powerful evidence to bring, in priority order: 1. Hard data 2. Synthesized user research findings 3. One-off anecdotes 4. Competitive analysis

Strategy 6: Leverage authority In Lord of the Rings, Frodo becomes an influential person only after Gandalf made it clear that he backs Frodo. There’s no way that people would have trusted Frodo if not for Gandalf’s support.

In the workplace, you gain influence by building relationships and support from: 1. Team leads 2. Senior managers 3. Executives 4. The CEO 5. Specific influential people around the company Ask yourself: Who’s your Gandalf?

A word of warning: The more you rely on authority, the more your authority fades. You start to become just a middle person, without your own voice or decision-making powers. But when you really need to get things done, keep this in your back pocket.

Strategy 7: Be likable A final strategy for increasing your influence is simply to be likable. It may sound trivial, but it turns out it’s one of the most powerful ways to build your influence. As Robert Cialdini (world expert on influence) teaches...

“The more you like someone, the more you’ll be persuaded by them.” And as Dale Carnegie wrote in How to Win Friends and Influence People, “Winning friends begins with friendliness.” Think about it. Who are you more likely to go along with—this guy?

Or this guy? No contest, my precious.

There are certainly successful Gollum-like leaders—command-and-control-type people who get stuff done and hit goals—but in my experience, like will be easier, you’ll go further, and be happier, if people like you.

Some easy ways to be more likable: 1. Smile 2. Say hello when you pass people in the hallway (or appear on Zoom) 3. Ask about the person’s life outside work 4. Give compliments 5. Participate in team events 6. Add fun to people’s day 7. Organize celebrations 8. Be positive

Note, this doesn’t mean that you let people walk all over you, or that you should optimize for being liked. Your job isn’t to be liked—it’s to drive impact and make customers happy. But be conscious that the more people like you, the easier it’ll be.

Ask yourself: What’s one thing you can do to be more likable?

Now, with your newfound influence skills, I’m confident you’ll achieve great things. Good luck!

And don't miss the full post with much more 👇

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