Project managers need to motivate, persuade and influence people at all levels. Some of them work may work directly for the project manager, others will be part of a matrix team and may need more convincing to spend time on their project tasks. But what's the difference between motivation, persuasion, and influencing? A new book by Melanie Franklin sets out the differences for those engaged in project and change management.


Influencing is "the power to affect a person or course of events without undertaking any direct action and to be a compelling force on the behaviour of others," writes Franklin in Managing Business Transformation: A Practical Guide

Influencing requires leadership, confidence, enthusiasm and the ability to set an example. It's used to move people's opinions about a topic, so it is a particularly useful tool for stakeholder management on projects or when planning for change.

However, it "is unrealistic to suggest that you can influence someone from a strongly held negative view to a strongly held positive view," Franklin writes. Influencing is too 'hands off' as an approach to move someone that far.

Anyone can influence. On projects you would want to check that people are being influenced in the right direction. Stakeholders with negative views can have just as much influence over people's attitudes towards the project or change programme as someone trying to shift attitudes in a positive direction. Your influencing campaign could be undone if you are not alert to what those people are saying!


Franklin defines motivation as "the general desire or willingness to do something." She links it to control of tasks. Typically, you are motivating someone to do something, not just take a particular view. In this respect, the person being motivated has direct involvement with the task at hand, and the technique is more direct than influencing.

Motivation techniques depend on whom you are motivating. As you would expect, different people are motivated by different things. Some project team members will be motivated by reward, so you may want to explain how participation links to a bonus scheme. Others could be motivated by responsibility, so you could focus on how this increases their remit or helps them develop professionally. Still others may be motivated by enjoying their work, so you could discuss how this new change or project removes some of the not-so-fun activities in their role.

Unfortunately, you rarely know what people will find motivating, so one strategy is to take a broad brush approach and make your communications appealing to all groups. If you can tap into what motivates individuals through your discussions with them and being alert to clues, you can better understand how to motivate the people in the project team and the wider stakeholder group.


Persuasion is a process designed to change the attitude or behaviour of a person or group from their current view to a view that the persuader wants them to hold," writes Franklin.

Who is doing the persuading is an important factor. Persuasion is impacted by a number of things and in my view, the 'who' is critical. If the person being persuaded holds the persuader in high regard and likes them on a personal and professional level, it is usually easier to have persuading conversations. Equally, if the persuader has authority over the person being persuaded, it is likely that the resistance to change will be lower. Mapping these relationships in a tool like iMindQ is one way to work out who to involve on your communications planning.

On projects, the project sponsor is often a good person to do the persuading, but this also does depend on who the persuasion is aimed at. Someone who has lived through the change and seen the benefits would be a better choice to persuade someone else to adopt a new IT system. In this situation, the project sponsor could be perceived as too high level and not in touch with the realities of the day job. Who would listen to him or her when they explain how great the new IT system will be? A user of the new system would be considered closer to it and more in touch with how the day job would change.

Persuasion techniques could also involve site visits, participating in user groups, testimonials, and videos.

What techniques do you use to influence, motivate and persuade your project stakeholders?