Influencing without Power

Never has there been a greater need for influence than right now. With a rise in political movements on the far left and right, with democratic leadership style in the West appearing like an outgoing tide and the drums of war beating faster and faster– we need more people to stand up and influence when they may not have the power to bring sweeping change themselves.

No matter your role in business, society or politics – you have a role to play.

Let me ask you this question, how well do you and your team sow seeds of thought in the mind of your stakeholders, which have them clamouring to engage with you? Too often the answer is that no one is excited or fighting to engage.

To get an uninterrupted flow of your services and projects, and to gain the opportunities to float new ideas, you must learn to plant your thoughts and solutions into the minds of others so well that they lose all emotional and opinionated resistance to it.

The Foundations for Success

There are three underpinning factors that must be believed and practised if greater influence and organisational management is to follow.

1.     The seniority or your audience doesn’t matter. You must believe this in your heart and be undaunted by their position. After all, they are just people wearing a different ‘hat’ to you.

2.     You are the domain expert in what you do – not your stakeholder. Your audience needs your knowledge to help them make better, more informed decisions. Without your contribution, their decisions are made on incomplete information.

3.     Courage in abundance. Boldness and courage are ingredients that need to be liberally used when providing steerage since most will shy away from the difficult conversation.

The Two Kinds of Power

With the foundational principles firmly in place, it’s important to consider the two kinds of leadership types that people exert – power by influence and power by force.

There’s no denying it, influence is slower. Force however only has the illusion of speed, until you realise you need to back track.

There are all too many public instances of the damaging effects of power by force that can be seen internationally. Whether it’s the tragedy taking place in real time with the invasion of Ukraine, the string of revelations and accusations that the ‘Me Too’ movement has brought to light, or the alleged toxic workplace culture within companies like Sony Music Australia. Power by force is destined to fail.

Power by influence is the road less travelled. So what is required?

Power by Influence

Our world has an overabundance of data, commentary and thought leaders competing for our attention. So what’s to say that our voice is not just adding to the din? How are we to practically influence if we don’t have power?

First and foremost, let’s satisfy some assumptions. You’ve built trust with your audience, you have the necessary credibility and respect, the right leadership style,  and what you’re advocating is the right thing to do.

With those assumptions squared away, there is the need to create and maintain safety in the discussion. This involves an intentional laying of the ground rules on how the interaction will flow. For instance, each external and internal party must be included in the conversation and be able to speak from the heart without judgement. All points of view need to be open to discussion, even if not popular. And whilst mistakes and setbacks can be worked through in a collegial manner, everything discussed stays in the room.

What follows safety is the ability to get into ‘flow’ or alignment with your stakeholder. There needs to be a clear demonstration that you are both aligned in some capacity, and that enablement is possible through this alignment.

With flow established, the skill to gently nudge the stakeholder onto a new path or trajectory is needed. Where force blocks momentum and purposefully alters direction, influence creates the almost imperceptible shift in opinions, practices and beliefs that allows an audience to think that perhaps they were the architect of the idea all along.

Influence can be slow. It can have the appearance of deference. But let me assure you, none of that equates to weakness. There is immense strength in being the unseen advisor. 

Synthesis Group is Australia’s leading cultural reform experts, with a specialisation in empowering corporate service teams… since we believe all teams should be able to demonstrate their true worth and value.

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