Using Influence to Create Positive Change

Using Influence to Create Positive Change

“Leadership is influence – nothing more, nothing less.” – John Maxwell

Leadership is not about title or authority, it is about influence. Effective leaders positively influence people. What is influence? Influence is impacting positive change in the form of an attitude, behavior or perception. Influence important because change cannot be forced (no one likes to be or feel controlled). Abraham Lincoln said, “No man is good enough to govern another without the other’s consent.” Thus, manipulation is fulfilling your needs. Influence is fulfilling the other person’s needs. It is detecting an authentic desire within them and bringing it to the surface.

Over the long-term, effective leadership cannot be appointed, assigned or awarded. In fact, a new position or title only buys you time. Effective leadership requires followers and followers require influence. How do you get influence? You must earn it. If you cannot influence people to follow you, you are not a leader. “He who thinks he leads, but has no followers, is only taking a walk.” The test, did someone or something change for the positive because of what you did or said? Below are ten tactics that will help you develop influence with people.

  • Coaching – People want to live up to their highest potential. Use coaching to mentor and teach people new knowledge and skills. Telling someone how to do something is not the same as showing them how to do it.  Coaching makes communication personal. Is someone performing at a higher level because of your coaching?
  • Consensus – People follow what others like them are doing or have been doing in particular situations. Use consensus when people are inclined to follow others like them; they are unsure; or the situation is ambiguous.  You will not be seen as enforcing change, but giving evidence that is compelling.
  • Consistency – People want to be consistent with what they have already done or said, especially if it was done or said in public. People do not like to look bad by not following through. If you can get someone to publically announce that they will do something, you increase the probability that they will do it.
  • Expertise – People follow legitimate experts. Experts are credible based on knowledge and trustworthiness. Knowledge and trustworthiness includes disclosing weaknesses, but countering them with strengths. If you are in a situation where people should listen to you, mention your position or skill upfront.
  • Likability – People say yes to people they know and like. In general, we like people that are like us; we like people that like us; and we like people with similar approaches and goals. Associate with positive people. Build rapport through common interests. Compliment others.
  • Persuasion – People believe in someone or something when appealed to with reason and understanding. While persuasion technically ends when someone says, “I agree,” it does not mean action will be taken. Ensure consistent follow through until positive change occurs.
  • Punishment – People start doing something or stop doing something because there is a specific consequence associated with it. Punishment is either used to change or reduce undesired behavior. Use punishment only when all other forms of influence have not been effective.
  • Reciprocity – People say yes to someone who has done something for them. Unexpectedly giving something to someone will cause them to want to give back more to you. To increase your influence, do not ask, who can help me? Ask, who can I help? By virtue of the rule of reciprocity, the person will want to help you too.
  • Reinforcement – People engage in specific behavior when they receive positive reinforcement for doing it. Positive reinforcement is also necessary to maintain specific behavior until it becomes habitual. Use awards, praise, recognition, etc. to encourage specific behavior from people.
  • Scarcity – People want to seize opportunities where availability is rare or time is limited. For example, offer a limited quantity of a product or service for sale to customers or the market. Or, offer a product or service for sale for a limited period of time. Things that are or will be difficult to obtain are more valuable.

Leadership requires followers and followers require influence. Influence must be earned. What is the most effective tactic to influence people? It depends. You must be able to size up specific situations and use them to your advantage. The diversity of situations that you can see (e.g., age, race, etc.) is manageable. It is the diversity of situations that you cannot see (e.g., experience, perspective, etc.) that makes influencing people complex. In the end, did someone or something change for the positive because of what you did or said? If so, you influenced them.

All contents copyright © 2012, Josh Lowry. All rights reserved.

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