The Tools For Building Cross-Functional Influence


There are six ingredients included in the Cross-Functional Influence Model. Three ingredients are developed over time, proactively. The other three are situational, opportunity-based and applied in the moment.

You reap what you sow when influencing in your organization. The “sowing” is what I call the “Proactive” ingredients. These include forging partnerships in your organization, building trust by demonstrating willingness to be influenced and building knowledge of the organization. This sowing takes place all the time. Each day is an opportunity to build trust, credibility and equity in the organization, which can all be applied when it comes to the moment of truth—actually influencing something.

The In the Momentingredients are those you apply to a specific influence opportunity. They include prepare—identifying and assessing the people you will be influencing and framing your message dialogue—how you conduct a conversation that lends itself to influence and follow-up—making sure that what you have influenced actually gets implemented.

There are 6 Influence “Ingredients” outlined in The Cross-Functional Playbook:

Build “Proactively”

When you are influencing cross-functionally, relationships are key. In cross-functional work, you are either influencing a current partner (and through this influence opportunity have a chance to develop the partnership or leverage the current state of the partnership) or you are influencing someone who may well become a partner in the future.

Influence in organizations rarely happens in isolation—it usually won’t be your first or last interaction with the person you are trying to influence. What that means is that your level of influence starts well before you jot a few persuasive ideas down on paper or put together a couple of compelling PowerPoint slides—it’s built over months and years and is all about your credibility and reputation in the organization. It also means that how you handle the opportunity to influence impacts not only the issue at hand but also your partnership and future influence prospects.

Build “Proactively”

It’s a common trap if you rely on an expertise to provide the basis for your influence, and especially if that expertise is grounded in regulation, legislation, SOP or policy of any type. You become the “no” person—focusing less on collaboration and problem-solving and more on evaluation and veto. After a few rounds of “no,” your partners start avoiding you, bringing you in only when absolutely necessary (and usually at the last minute). What they bring you in on is very narrow, and without their broader perspective (more on that in the next chapter), your influence is limited to small tactical “yes/no” requests. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The other trap we fall into is believing that influence builds with every victory. Every time you get your way, it sets the stage for the next “win.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Successive wins, while they feel great at the time, don’t always set you up for long-term success.

Often, stepping back or making concessions on smaller issues or less impactful decisions sets you up to influence on more substantive ideas in the future.

Build “Proactively”

Perspective is a fact of life. Without it we wouldn’t have opinions, ideas or recommendations. But when it comes to influence in an organization, it can either work in our favor or against us. When it is broad and includes an understanding beyond your position, team, function or location, it can be very, very powerful. When it is narrow, your ideas can be quickly dismissed as folly.

So why is perspective so important? Because in our cross-functional up/down/across working world, the target of your influence is most likely in a different function, division or location in the organization than you. That means you cannot assume that you know the impact of what you are influencing on them, their operations and processes, or their team. The chances of creating unintended consequences are high. You have to look beyond your own area to understand the impact and reaction of those on the receiving end of your influence.

Build “In the Moment”

Before we try to influence something, it is absolutely critical that we slow things down just a bit to consider if we should influence it at all, decide who we should be influencing and think through the conversation. Without these steps, we are almost guaranteed to run after things that aren’t worth our time, waste time talking to people who aren’t the real decision-makers and approach the problem in a way that is restricted to our own narrow perspective. In this phase your identify stakeholders, strategize on how/when you will pull them in and prepare your message to best reflect an understanding of their needs/wants.

Build “In the Moment”

In the influence dialogue, you introduce or frame the issue and work to have a constructive talk about what you want to accomplish and why. You will have to consider both the issue at hand and the relationship when you enter the conversation—you are aiming for wins on both sides. You may not always get wins, but going in with anything less in mind will undercut your approach. There are three basic components to managing an influence dialogue and working through the resistance you will encounter: (1) include and engage the person you are trying to influence, (2) work to keep them in the conversation, and (3) be clear, succinct, summarize and synthesize.

Build “In the Moment”

Truly effective influencers have the discipline to follow an idea through to completion and persevere. They know that in order to influence, you can’t stop with “nodding heads” or stop because you didn’t get “nodding heads.” There’s a phase afterwards that differentiates between someone who gets lucky once in a while and someone who influences in a lasting, sustainable way.

This “after they commit” phase of the model means you don’t see exits, you see other doors that need to be pried and propped open to push an idea through. When you get commitment, you follow up with people, you takes steps to ensure that the commitment doesn’t fade. When you don’t get commitment, you take a different path with different stakeholders, adjust your idea or wait for the timing to be right.



The Influence Simulation Game

Experience the effectiveness of The Cross-Functional Influence Playbook with “Game Changer: The Influence Simulation Game” from Finerty Consulting. Contact us to set up a Game Changer simulation for you organization, and see first-hand how effective influence can be!



Download the Influence App!

Download the “Game Day” app for daily influence tips, or to accompany the book The Cross-Functional Influence Playbook! “Game Day” provides a new tip each day, and gives you mobile access to the Influence Model to help you build influence in your organization.



“As with all Susan’s books, this one is bound to get dog-eared and highlighted. She offers a clear model for how to influence in a matrix environment. One of the things I love about her books is she provide helpful worksheets to apply the concepts in the book to your own situation. I use this book with my clients and they have found it extremely insightful.”

Julie Y., Amazon Reviewer

“It provides practical tips and tools to effectively influence others in complex organizations. I love the use of stories, anecdotes and analogies to drive important points home. Highly recommended for anyone who is seeking solid advice for navigating the ever-changing environment in which we work.”

Cindy G., Amazon Reviewer