5 strategies for building more influence on campus

At some point in every higher education career, you hit a point where you want to gain more influence on campus, Craig Weidemann and Marie Cini write for Inside Higher Ed.

Weidemann is special assistant to the provost for innovation and education technology at Pennsylvania State University and Cini is provost emeritus at the University of Maryland University College.

They draw on research into influence by Robert Cialdini (and their combined 60 years of professional experience) to recommend five ways to build influence on campus.

1: Start by helping others. People tend to repay favors, Weidemann and Cini write. If you help advance the projects, proposals, and strategic plans of other units, then they will be more likely to support yours in the future. As a first step, Weidemann and Cini recommend asking colleagues about their strategic plans, which will make it easier for you to identify opportunities to support them.

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2: Ask for commitment. Research shows that explicit commitments can make people more likely to follow through on an action. One way to apply this lesson is to remind people of their commitments. Take notes during meetings, then follow up with a summary and reminders of who committed to doing what.  You can also start by asking colleagues to commit to a small project—they'll view your next, larger project more favorably.

3: Cultivate relationships. It's a fact of life: people are more likely to support proposals when they come from people they're familiar with. This means that it can be helpful to build an informal network of support across different units. One strategy might be to schedule regular, casual meetings with certain colleagues to identify areas of potential collaboration.

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4: Campaign. If you need to persuade several individuals, start by persuading a few people whose opinions will carry weight with the others.  This approach can also work if there's just one stakeholder you need to persuade—mention that you have the support of someone whose opinion your stakeholder values.

5: Become an expert. Finally, people always appreciate those who can help them understand something or solve a problem. Weidemann and Cini recommend identifying one strategically important area where you can build your skills and become the go-to expert. Use your expertise to show colleagues how your proposals will help them solve a problem or align with the expectations of external stakeholders (Weidemann/Cini, Inside Higher Ed, 12/20).

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