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Creating a Communication Plan for Influence Management

Just got off the phone with a coaching client who has goals that rely completely on her ability to influence others to do the work. We looked at how she could create a focused, intentional communication strategy to guide what she says to whom and how best to do it.

Influence Management Communication Strategy

Identify your difference audience segments. Individuals or organizations who:

  • Share the same perspective, needs or connection to your goals (e.g., all chiefs of staff or dept heads, all practitioners or staff in a particular area)
  • You would meet or communicate with at the same time (e.g., everyone on a particular committee or in the same dept). For an individual essential for you to influence. plan for at least some 1:1 meetings.

My client is a senior leader responsible for influencing the actions of several other senior leaders and key members of their organizations. It’s not possible to meet with everyone at the same time, nor would the message be the same for everyone. I’m helping her figure out how to “bucket” or categorize the different segments of her audience so that we can tailor the communication message and mode appropriately.

Identify how and why each person or group is important to you.

  • How important is their work to your goals?
  • What specifically do you need from them to support achieving your goals?

Not every stakeholder is equal. For my client, influencing one particular Chief of Staff was more important to achieving her goal than anyone else. She needs him to be a strong, visibly supportive champion of her goals in order for her to get the physicians, nurses and other staff in his organization to take action. She’ll dedicate far more focused time and energy meeting with this Chief of Staff than anyone else, and know it’s time well spent.

How often and by what means should you communicate?

Although keeping everyone’s focus on her initiatives is crucial to her success, she has many other job responsibilities and only so much time in the week to dedicate to communication and influence. We confirmed that she has the right level of communication for each segment of her audience, based on how important it was to influence them. For the two Chiefs most important to influence, she has weekly 1:1 meetings. She meets with the remaining Chiefs in weekly team meetings. For nursing and other support staff supervisors, monthly team meetings and/or email communication is sufficient for successful influence. For all other medical center employees, general communication modes like newsletters and posters are enough additional communication to support pass-downs they receive from informed Chiefs and supervisors.

How can you best support this audience of stakeholders?

Often what you want from a stakeholder requires them to make a change, commit time or supply other resources. Find out how you can make it easy for them. One client I work with had been at an impasse in a key project for months because he couldn’t get a critical stakeholder on board with his initiative. He finally got a breakthrough commitment from them by taking the time to sit down and help them solve the problem his proposal was creating for them.

Identify what to communicate. For each segment of your audience, ask:

  • What messages do you need them to hear?
  • What actions do you need them to take?
  • How can you deliver your requests and message in a way that motivates and influences them to take action?

Part of being influential is you being a clear, passionate communicator. The other part of influence is knowing how to get your audience inspired and motivated to take clear and specific action. My client has different, specific things she needs from Chiefs, nurses and general medical center staff. We are listing out the specific requests she has for each audience and tailoring her message to include the kinds of information that inspire each audience. For example, for Chiefs she is now going to include regular updates on two key metrics they are already highly motivated to manage. For nurses, who are motivated by participation of doctors in key initiatives, she is emphasizing stories and data that show how doctors are participating in the initiative.

About Jane: Jane Cavanaugh is an internationally acclaimed business leadership and career coach who has helped more than 6,000 professionals develop their career and leadership skills. Jane is creator of The Passionate Professional: How to Make Your Ordinary Career Extraordinary, a guided career transition program, and a co-author of Breakthrough! Inspirational Strategies for an Audaciously Authentic Life. Contact or visit Jane at www.janecavanaugh.com

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