To influence means to move others to a particular way of thinking, feeling or acting.
Regardless of your knowledge, skills, creativity or other wonderful attributes, there is little that you can do alone: you must move others to support and help you if you are to change the world, change your company’s strategy, or even change the brand of coffee in the cafeteria.
Formal authority usually increases influence, but cannot replace it. (After all, some people in high positions have little influence, while major changes are sometimes driven by people low in an organisation.)
An effective leader knows how to leverage both the formal authority and the informal influence within an organisation.
What value is influence?
By influencing others you can lead them to help you to achieve what you want faster and more easily.
Ability to influence will also get you promoted. The most competitive companies allocate formal authority to people who demonstrate ability to influence others, formally or informally—because they can get things done.
Isn’t influence bad?
No. Influence is a morally neutral tool—used by people, who may be good or bad, to achieve their ends.
Some people see influence as a negative force used only by slick salesmen, political spin doctors, or sleazy opportunists, and they resist seeing themselves as such people. They are naive, and by refusing to understand further they may sentence themselves to be victims of a lot of bad influence (you will often hear them complaining about the people who get promoted only because they know how to speak well or look good). To compete with or protect yourself from such ‘bad’ people, you must understand how influence works and develop good influencing habits.
Is an axe a good thing? Yes, if you are cutting firewood; no, if it’s being used against you as a weapon. But it is the tool user who is good or bad, not the tool itself. The same can be said for influence.
To learn more about influence or persuasion—to understand how better to understand and use these tools, and not be used by them—contact me.