Pretty much everything you do with other people requires influence. Nobody HAS to do what you want them to do. Even if you are the CEO of the whole organization, your ability to persuade others to embrace and follow your vision will make the difference between success and failure. Positional power only gets you so far – right up to about compliance. Reaching commitment and ownership requires influence, even at the top. And most of us aren’t the CEO. Which means that we have even less power and authority to get people to do what we need them to do.
Influence isn’t some Jedi mind control trick. It’s about getting your idea or proposal a fair hearing; it’s about being a trusted advisor; it’s about having credibility. Influence is the ability to positively affect the beliefs, attitudes or behavior of the person with whom you’re working. Some people are able to influence naturally. They seem to have an innate ability to build relationships and gain commitment. Others of us have to work at it. But it is a skill – like playing pool, skiing, or even dancing. You can learn how to improve your influence.
But beyond the actual skill set of influencing, there is a self-generated roadblock that prevents many of us from acquiring the influence that we’d like: Our Mindset about influencing.
Susan had worked hard to become Principal at Walden Elementary School. She had paid her dues as a teacher for 10 years while she completed a Doctorate in Education. She took over as Principal three years earlier and she hit the ground running. She had friends on the staff and she cared passionately about the children. She wanted what was best for each one of them. Now here she was today, in front of all of her students, their parents and their teachers having to say goodbye. She had lost her job. Her last words to them in the goodbye assembly were “My intentions were always to do what was best for the children”.
There were probably a number of contributing factors that led to this moment. It’s very seldom just a single issue. But one of the factors contributing to Susan’s abrupt end may go back to a gap between her intentions and how her team saw those intentions.
If you are a manager, you’ve probably learned that it is one of those things that looks pretty easy from the outside, but can turn out to be difficult to do well when you actually try it. Managers have to perform a number of different functions and play a variety of roles. It’s an active – proactive – process that requires a number of different qualities, skills and abilities.
Take a moment and think about it. Based on your experiences – whether as a manager or having seen managers in action – What does it take to be effective? Write your ideas down on a piece of paper before you read any farther.
If you are like most of my clients you probably wrote qualities like: effective communicator, organized, good delegator. They are all great answers! But let me give you another way of thinking about this – a formula for management effectiveness. I want to give you an equation.
Now before you flashback to ninth grade algebra and start getting anxious, let me acknowledge that this is more of a metaphor for management effectiveness than a strict algebraic equation. It gives us a framework within which we can talk about the key variables and their relationships to one another. Ok, enough disclaimers. Here’s the formula: