Understanding the Power of Influence Model to Energize Project Management

Understanding the Power of Influence Model to Energize Project Management
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Having authority over people may create fear, but need not necessary gain support or commitment. Enlisting the support and cooperation of people requires influencing them, and for exerting such influence, authority is not required. The Cohen-Bradford Influence Model, developed by Allen R. Cohen and David L. Bradford and first published in their 2005 book Influence without Authority explains how to influence people without applying authority. It recommends understanding what others want or value, builds up such resources, and structures the position based on such values so the other person tends to view the proposal in favorable light.

This model bases itself on the law of reciprocity, or the belief that all positive and negative things done pay back over time, or that one good or bad thing deserves another. For instance, doing a favor obliges the recipient of the favor to return in kind at a later date.

The Model

The Cohen-Bradford Model is a six-step approach to control behavior at work.

  1. Assume everyone as potential allies: Never write anyone off, and never lose heart, no matter how hostile or uncooperative the person.
  2. Clarify goals and priorities: Determine the need to influence the person, what benefits the person can provide, and why to influence the person.
  3. Diagnose the other’s world: To determine what drives behavior. Apply empathy to understand the other person’s roles and responsibilities, peer pressure, cultural background, value orientation, rewards, and what seems important to him or her. Such diagnosis helps to overcome the tendency to blame bad personality, character or motives for undesirable behavior.
  4. Identify relevant “currencies,": Or, what matters most to the other person by analyzing the diagnosis made in step three above. Cohen and Bradford identify inspiration, task, position, relationship and personal related currencies as the five that most people value highly. Most people care for more than one currency, and identifying all or most of such motivators allows flexibility in framing the proposal.
  5. Deal with relationships: This depends largely on the extent of rapport or acquaintance already existing with the other person. For instance, one can directly ask what one wants from a familiar person on good terms, whereas asking the same to a stranger or someone with hostility requires some work building trust and good relationship first.
  6. Influence through give and take: The principles of give and take are similar to win-win negotiations and puts a price on the proposed information exchange. Having established trust and identified the relevant currency, the person makes the request in a way that by complying, the other person gets something they value in exchange.


Cohen-Bradford Influence Window

The ways of influencing others are many: rational persuasion, inspirational appeal, personal appeal, forming a coalition or alliance, relentless pressure, etc. Success, however, depends on ensuring the person targeted values such measures. The core of the influence model is identifying such relevant currencies, or understanding what motivates or works with the other person.

The possible types of currencies are endless. The following are five currencies that most people value:

  1. Inspiration-Related Currencies: People who place importance on values would tend to help if they feel the cause is right. Explaining the significance of the request and appealing to their integrity and virtue to do what is required may elicit cooperation from such people.
  2. Task-Related Currencies: Related to money, supplies, and other material goods. The way to seek cooperation from others who value task related currencies is to offer expertise, or some other material good in exchange for the help. There is, however, only a thin line between offering monetary rewards for performing tasks and bribery.
  3. Position-Related Currencies: Are recognition, reputation and visibility. The best way to elicit the cooperation of people who value such currency is by publicly acknowledging their role and convincing them of the visibility cooperation would bring.
  4. Relationship-Related Currencies: Related to interpersonal relationships among colleagues and the drive for affiliation. Conveying how cooperation would offer possibilities of networking, increase bonding and better interpersonal relationships enlists the cooperation of such people. Membership in healthy and vibrant team acts as a motivator to such people.
  5. Personal-Related Currencies: Related to freedom or doing what one likes. Eliciting cooperation from people who value freedom and independent is as simple as allowing them autonomy, and showing gratitude.


The Cohen-Bradford Model finds use for a variety of purpose, such as seeking help from someone outside one’s span of authority, ensuring that subordinates put their heart and soul into work, overcome any resistance or challenges to authority, establishing a new vendor, supplier or contractor relationship with a stranger and requiring instant support, and more.

In the corporate world, the concept finds application in many ways, mainly in give and takes. It may range from an employee covering up for a colleague who messed up the network by browsing dangerous sites, and in return, the colleague may cover up when the employee walks in late on another day.

One employee may help another in formatting a presentation, and the other may reciprocate by managing a difficult customer through his persuasive skills. The converse may also hold true. If, for instance, the human resource executive sticks to the rule book and refuses to accept the system administrator’s leave application just because he submitted two minutes late, causing him a loss of pay or leave, the human resource executive can expect the system administrator to give priority to fixing his computer above practicing for the choir six months down the lane.

Again, a software project may require the support or cooperation from people outside the project team. Support from the external broadband provider to resolve breakdown of Internet access real-time may require prompt payments. The project manager requiring the team member to work on weekends to meet the deadline, and understanding that he values position-related currencies might shower him with praise, and publish the initiative in the in-house newsletter.

When applied right, the influence model goes a long way to ensure the vitality of the product.