- October 5, 2016
- Posted by: Joan Underwood
- Category: Leadership, People
“Influence grows from little things.”
I was recently approached by a millennial desirous of increasing his ability to persuade and influence others over whom he has no legitimate authority. This young man had become increasingly frustrated by inefficiencies and perceived inequitable practices in his workplace. He wanted to make a difference but was not clear how he could do so based on where he sits in the organizational chart.
The plight of this young leader is not dissimilar from that of many public servants and technicians who experience great cognitive dissonance in their respective workplaces. We devote this week’s blog to providing some practical advice on how to treat with matters which concern you but over which you do not necessarily have control.
Three Spheres of Control
There are many things in life that concern us – from climate change and the price of gas at the pump to things happening at the workplace to what we will have for dinner tonight. Some of the items on this list may be completely within our control while others may be subject to our influence but not exactly under our control.
When we spend most of our time and energy focusing on items which are in our circle of concern but outside of our circles of influence and control, the end result is that we are likely to become frustrated and even stressed out. So what’s the alternative?
Proactive vs Reactive
When we see ourselves as being powerless and reliant on others to make the change/difference we want to see, this is known as having an external locus of control or being in purely reactive mode.
In contrast, if we decide to devote our time and energy to matters over which we have a measure of influence or even full control, we are more likely to see an impact and to gain a sense of efficacy – i.e. the ability to produce a desired or intended result. The truth is that the more time we spend in our circle of influence, the bigger it becomes!
So if there’s a situation at work that concerns us, we have a choice of being reactive and complaining about it and allowing it to stress us OR we can make a decision to be proactive. The latter approach would see us applying our minds to identifying how we can have an impact on the situation. So, how exactly could we do that?
Practical Steps for Increasing Influence
Earlier this week, Kevin Eikenberry released a video in which he outlined some simple, practical steps for increasing one’s level of influence. I’ve drawn on that video as well as my own knowledge and experience to prepare the following tips:
- Ask questions and then listen attentively in order to understand: Knowledge really is power. We don’t acquire knowledge by speaking or repeating our positions. Rather, we acquire knowledge when we approach the situation from a position of curiosity; we acquire knowledge and understanding by listening and taking in information through other mechanisms such as reading.
- Invest in someone: We know from social psychology that human beings are more likely/inclined to do things for persons who have done something for them in the past. The phenomenon is referred to as the Law of Reciprocity. Because of the Law of Reciprocity, you can increase your influence simply by being kind to those around you. When the opportunity arises for them to do something for you, they will be more likely to respond positively.
Bringing this principle closer to home, UTDS provides this blog as a complimentary service to help our readers with your personal, professional and organizational growth and development. If you find the articles useful and then one day, I ask to complete a survey or like our FB page chances are that you would be more inclined to respond positively… Right?
- Seek to understand the other person’s perspective: Very often we assume that everyone else experiences the world exactly as we do. Truth is, they hardly ever do. We are all the product of our past experiences. My experiences have led me to respond to things in a certain way. However, since you have had different experiences, your response is likely to be quite different. If I want to be able to influence you, it’s important that I understand how you see things and why you see them that way – not from a position of judgment as in my way is right and your’s is obviously wrong, but rather from a genuine desire to understand and appreciate where you’re coming from and where you’d like to go…
- Share your vision in a way that engages others: Unless someone loves you more than life itself and wants nothing more out of life than to make you happy, you stand a better chance of getting them to act if you can show that the desired course of action in some way serves their own needs and interests. To elaborate on this point, I invite you to look at my preferred working definition of motivation.
Motivation = the desire to satisfy unmet need.
If I can express my desire/intent in a way that aligns with some unmet need that you have, I am more likely to be able to influence you. For this particular tip to work, I must know and understand you well enough to understand your motivation and be able to frame my approach/request to show that by helping me, you would actually be helping yourself.
So there you go – four practical tips for increasing your influence…
So what’s stopping you from starting today to expand your circle of influence today? We invite you to try out the tips and let us know it goes.