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DSM Fellows Learn to Influence

Influencing Others with DSM Fellows

January 25, 2022

If you’re like me, you likely have asked yourself, “How do I positively influence others in order to achieve a winning outcome for both myself and others in my company?” The skills involved with negotiating and influencing others are as vital now as ever — especially in a rapidly evolving business climate where innovation drives success — and one of the most difficult things to do is to secure buy-in from others when any changes are occurring. The DSM Fellowship Program had the opportunity to learn about and develop tools to secure winning outcomes via a recent session with Tero International. Here are a couple of the tools we developed:

Identifying the Interests of Others

Too often, we only focus on our own interests in a conversation and try to overwhelm the person we are attempting to influence with reasons why we think something should happen. When in reality, we should appeal to the other person’s interests. As a part of the Tero session, Fellows practiced identifying both short- and long-term tangible and intangible interests for many different real-world scenarios. A fun example that keeps with the holiday theme of this time of year was identifying other family members’ interests in deciding where and when to host holiday celebrations. Items we identified as interests were upholding traditions, transportation of gifts (especially toys for children with small parts) and other things of the sort. It wasn’t always an easy thing to do, but once we identified others’ long-term intangible interests and appealed to them, we found influencing others became a much easier task.

Finding Common Ground

Another often overlooked item in negotiations and influence is finding common ground. This goes hand in hand with identifying the other party’s interests. After determining the others’ interests, we then compare it with our own and emphasize those points where we share common ground. This separates the people from the problem and allows all parties to work towards a shared goal or value. Phrases such as, “We both share the concern of …,” and, “This is something that is really important to both of us,” are both phrases that can be used to build that commonality. Once that is established, a person is more likely to be influenced to do something or to see a different side of things than they would have been otherwise. It can be difficult to find common ground at times, but more often than not, we share more in common than we think. While practicing this, we really found that this step is vital in separating people from the problem.

Ask Open-Ended Questions + Listen

When we try to influence people, it’s very common for us to do all of the talking. This leaves the other party feeling as if they were spoken down to and unheard. A good way to influence is to ask many open-ended questions and listen to the feedback that you are receiving. Altering your responses based on the answers that other party has given you is a way to generate ideas and steer the other person towards your end goal instead of trying to outright convince the other person that you are correct. And it is a much more effective way of influencing others as well. To highlight how effective this was, we were tasked with pitching something abstract to another person at the beginning of the class prior to any teaching and then again at the end after we had learned the tools and techniques. We were recorded both times and watched them back-to-back. In the first pitch, the person influencing did all of the talking and explaining whereas on the second one, the person being influenced did most of the talking. It showed us that it is a simple, yet effective way to influence others and that way the others felt like they were heard and had a say in the outcome.

Overall, the Tero Influence session opened my eyes to how ineffective and inefficient I was as an influencer in the past. Previously, I would attempt to flood the other person with information and data to support my side of an argument and was rarely getting buy-in on the changes I was trying to make to our processes. Even though I felt as though I was the expert and had a plethora of data, I wasn’t influencing anyone due to my approach. Implementing these tips and techniques — and many others learned from the class — into my daily conversations has really helped me gain more of an understanding of my peers and their interests. The tips and techniques have paved a more effective route to achieve outcomes that are a win for both myself and those around me.

Get to know DSM Fellow Brandon Rollefson below:


The DSM Fellowship program is the preeminent professional development initiative attracting, developing and retaining a diverse community of top-tier graduates to Greater Des Moines (DSM).

Brandon Rollefson

Brandon Rollefson is a life product support analyst II at Farm Bureau Financial Services. Brandon received his bachelor's degree at the University of Iowa. In his free time, he enjoys watching sports, trying to perfect the art of BBQ and spending time with his wife, dog, family and friends.