Build and Use Your Influence!

September 27th, 2010  |  Published in General Thoughts

When was the last time you thought you had little influence?  Most of us feel that way from time to time when we struggle to persuade others to take a course of action, agree with a decision or follow our path.

We often equate persuasion (the ability to prevail on a person to do something, as by advising or urging) with influence (the capacity or power of persons or things to be a compelling force on or produce effects on the actions, behavior, opinions, etc. of others.)  A person with influence is able to persuade others with greater ease.

Each of us exerts influence on our environment, our co-workers, staff, family, community, etc.  We may not be aware of just how much of and how powerful an impact we can have. To illustrate, I love to tell a story of someone who knew how much influence she had and used it subtly but effectively to positively impact the role of women:

When Madeline Albright was US Ambassador to the United Nations, she hosted a monthly luncheon for women heads of national delegations.  At the original luncheon there were only seven others.  As the NY Times wrote in March 1993: “Perhaps attendance will grow as news of the sessions reaches foreign offices eager to catch the ear of the Clinton Administration.” By the end of the Clinton administration more than a dozen women had become UN ambassadors.

We have many ways of influencing and they can have more impact than simply persuading.  Among the particularly effective ways of influencing are modeling behaviors, asking empowering questions, challenging narrow perspectives and, especially, listening and ensuring all participants and views are heard. Importantly, they build our reputation as influential members of our organizations.  Once we are seen as influential, more people will seek our opinion and be persuaded by our logic. Personal relationships and networks are particularly important to multiply your influence.

Think broadly about your ability to influence.   What would you like to influence?  What opportunities do you see in your work environment? What means are at your disposal?

The bottom line: never underestimate your influence, and work to develop yours!

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