Friday, March 30, 2012

Know The Arena

You have to know the rules of the game. And then you have to play it better than anyone else. Albert Einstein

While Albert Einstein’s rules were probably physics-related, in the Influence Game it’s all about knowing the rules of the arena in which you’re operating. In Washington, D.C., that’s Congress, Federal Agencies or the White House. In the business world, that may be the inner-machinations of the company you work for or that you’re trying to land as a client. In the personal world, that may be your family which, as we all know, is the hardest venue to understand. This is especially true when, like me, you say things to your significant other like “you should know why I’m upset.” Poor man. I feel sorry for him. Tactics 12 through 15 in The Influence Game cover “knowing the arena,” specifically:
    • Find your decision maker: Effective influencers figure out what they want and then figure out who can get it for them. In D.C. it may be a member of Congress, the whole institution, a federal agency head or the President. The actual decision maker isn’t always who you think it is. It may, for example, be a staff person. The key is to identify who specifically needs to hear your message, and then focus on them. Asking the wrong person for what you want isn’t a good use of your time or theirs.

    • Find your Plan B (and C and D) decision maker: As horribly misguided as it seems, sometimes your primary decision maker won’t agree with you. So you may need to figure out if there are other ways to achieve your goal and, if so, who makes those decisions. For example, you may not be able to get what you want through Congress, but an agency might be able to get you something pretty darn close. Always have those options in mind when starting your influence effort.

    • Ask the “and next” question: I failed miserably at this once on Capitol Hill when I helped draft what should have been a very narrowly focused bill. It wound up being referred to FOUR Committees. This is the kiss of death for anything you’re trying to move through Congress. I failed because I had not asked the “and next” question – what happens to this bill after it’s drafted? And after referral? And in the Committee? And next? And next?

    • Know the rules: Finally, as Albert Einstein aptly pointed out, it is essential to know the rule of the game. Whether it’s legislative procedure, the federal agency rulemaking process, how budgets are decided in a company or, in the personal setting, who is supposed to do the dishes after dinner, your understanding of the rules can make or break your influence effort.

    And with that – go forth and influence!

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