Our Source of Influence – Our Thinking

Ask yourself; is the ability to influence others important to you?  You bet it is if you want to be an effective leader.  In the past 50 years influence has emerged as one of the most important leadership skills.  Bossing people around is no longer an effective technique for effective leaders.    Our greatest source of influence is how we think about people and problems.  We need a new way of thinking if we want to improve our influencing skills.  Our source of influence is how we think about people and problems.

What is the difference between influence and control?

Influence is the ability to affect change without exerting effort.  Control is to cause an effect with force or power.  With influence people want to cooperate.  With control people MUST cooperate.  Influence means commitment.  Control means compliance.  People are attracted to environments which encourage their commitment.  They are repelled by environments which demand their compliance.

Is influence important to you?

The current “knowledge” economy is very complex.  The industrial age economy was much less complex.  In the late 1800’s most people had no formal education and the immigrants rarely spoke and/or read English.  The factory workers needed to be told what to do.  Their work tasks were simple, routine, and memorable.  Our 21st century “knowledge” economy is extremely complex.  The tasks people must complete require a different set of skills.

Bossing people around is no longer an effective technique for effective leaders in the “knowledge” economy

Our work is more “projects based.” It’s no longer routine and no longer simple.  We need critical thinking and problem solving skills to be effective and we need to work with people who we can’t just “boss” around.  We need to influence people to help us.  We need to find ways to ask people to do tasks they may not want to do.  We need to explain why they must cooperate.  We need to persuade them.  We can no longer just tell them and expect it to happen.

Microsoft just changed its performance management system by eliminating the control technique of “rank and yank.”  Rank and yank refers to the ranking of people in an organization for the purpose of rewarding the top performers and motivating the worst.   It is a control technique.

Jack Welch wrote an Op-ed in the Wall Street Journal denouncing Microsoft’s decision.  He claimed they did not do it right.  He claims ranking of people can be done properly with coaching and discussions of values.  It is still is a control technique.  This is why it was overwhelmingly rejected by the employees.

Our greatest source of influence is how we think about people and problems

What are you willing to do when you have a serious and complex conflict with a colleague that is damaging your personal motivation, the performance and motivation of your staff, and hurting your ability to service the customers?  Do you avoid the person?  Do you speak poorly behind their back?  Do you call Human Resources, call your boss, and/or call the other person’s boss?  If you embrace the typical management theory where someone must be a fault, you are always ready to search for a culprit, talk with them and/or possibly punish them.

If you embrace systems thinking you recognize all the issues (symptoms of dysfunction) are related to flaws in the interactions between either the departments and/or the people in the system.  You realize the hand offs between the departments are not working properly and it causes wasted time, frustration, and embarrassment for staff.  You realize these dysfunctional hand-offs lead to customer dissatisfaction.

How much easier is it to enroll and lead people toward solutions in the system vs. enrolling them to search for a culprit?  Assuming people want to have pride in their work vs. avoid work makes it much easier to influence change.  Asking people to focus on the quality of the interactions vs. focusing on the flaws in the people makes it much easier to influence change.

Employee Attitude and Performance is significantly influenced by how Managers and Senior Managers think and act.  Managers often unknowingly, with the best intentions, make decisions and take actions that “sabotage” employee performance and then they give a poor rating to those employees in a performance review.  These are control techniques not influencing techniques.

Embracing Deming’s theory of Profound Knowledge is the best way to begin to increase your own personal influence.  The Values and System Leadership Model offers an opportunity to change the way we think about people and problems.  A change in thinking will lead to a change in decisions, actions and results.

Our source of influence is how we think about people and problems.


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