Got Good Influence or Bad?

The news, TV and blogosphere are awash with stories of hubris-filled executives, politicians, financiers, celebrities, etc. who have misused their power and influence.

Yet, at the other end of the spectrum are the overly humble who believe they have zero power and influence and opt out of even trying.

Both camps need to move to the middle.

Power and influence are available to everyone. Being proficient at influencing isn’t linked to having a big job title. In this day of social networking and relationships, one’s ability to feel personally empowered to make an appeal (to influence) based on logic, emotion or a sense of cooperation is essential for personal and professional success.  

Influencing others is critical for securing support, persuading other people to champion your idea, or to stimulate someone's imagination. As retired AlliedSignal CEO Lawrence Bossidy says, “The day when you could yell and scream and beat people into good performance is over. Today you have to appeal to them by helping them see how they can get from here to there, by establishing some credibility, and by giving them some reason and help to get there. Do all those things, and they’ll knock down doors.”

People with first-rate influence skills combine interpersonal, communication and assertiveness abilities with self-awareness. The purpose of influence is building win-win interactions and relationships with and between people.  It isn’t about controlling or manipulating them, both of which are common misperceptions about power and influence.

To assess the effectiveness your ability to influence is, ask yourself:

  • Do I impact outcomes even when I’m not the boss?
  • Do people seek out my opinion or ask me to be a sounding board for their  ideas?
  • Do people invite me to support and share their cause?
  • Do I have a reputation for helping people understand their role in a project, work assignment, community event, etc.?
  • Do I take/make the time to understand the needs and motivations of others?

Jay Jamrog, senior vice president of research for Institute for Corporate Productivity believes leaders must know the influence skills they have, be able to identify skill gaps and get the right development tools to close those gaps. So if you answered “no” to any of these questions, polishing up your skills in the following areas will help you increase your sphere of influence and positive personal power.

Get clued in. Watch what’s going on in your company, community, around you at home or with friends. Individuals with strong influencing skills examine, ask and validate.

Make it happen. Be clear about what you want to achieve and have a plan for making it so. Under-promise and over-deliver on timelines for getting things accomplished.

Involve others. People who have highly developed influence skills first pull people to their ideas, and then push those ideas to the rest of the organization through other people.

Watch your intentions. Understand your motivation. Are you in it to win it for yourself, or for the greater good?

Be a broker of ideas and information. Share what you know. Connect people with ideas and each other. Create alliances and identify stakeholders who share a win-win orientation and common goals.

Don’t be a conversation or credit hog. Don’t force your ideas on people or perpetually keep yourself in the spotlight. Don’t let your ego stand in the way of positive win-win outcomes.

Don’t abdicate your power.  Forget about job titles – you are a leader if you choose to be one. Don’t sell yourself short or believe the worst. Confidence is the best accessory a character-based leader can wear.

Ready to get some positive power and influence?

Photo credit:  Search Engine Journal


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