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Influence: to encourage someone to take action

“Don’t look at them … they’re only showing off!”

Don’t look at them.  That’s a phrase I seem to hear from the passenger seat quite often when a really nice car drives past catching my attention. 

It is usually accompanied by “They’re only showing off and want to be seen”.  Well, I guess we can all choose how we spend our income, and so long as we spend it within our means, then I suppose that’s all okay.

Advertising has a lot to do with influence, and marketing is all about influence; often influencing people in how to part with their hard-earned cash.  Although influence in itself is relatively benign, it’s how the influence is used that makes the difference.

“She’s nice; she’s a good influence on her friends”

It seems to be something parents are concerned about when worrying about who their children associate with, and it’s something that social workers have to deal with when working with ex-offenders, helping them to stay out of the way of their former associates so that they can start to form new habits.  In itself it is neither good nor bad, it’s all about how it’s used.  John Maxwell talks about this in his book “Becoming a person of Influence” which he co-authored with Jim Dornan.  They talk about four steps, or levels, to gaining influence with people, and I have drawn on the contents of that book for this post.

Step one is all about Modelling and has to do with being an example, acting with integrity.  It’s interesting how children will more easily model what their parents do than what they say, that is except for those particular words we don’t want our children to say. 

After the last world war, the Ministry of Agriculture partnered with the BBC in a venture that was intended to influence farmers to try new, more efficient, production methods.  They needed to find ways to improve farming productivity to replenish the food stocks that were severely depleted by the time all of the hostilities had ceased.  In the light of continued rationing, it was necessary to increase production, and the result was the start of a Radio 4 soap opera in 1951 which modelled these new ideas and methods.  This soap was called “The Archers”,  and it is apparently the longest running soap opera in the world. 

“What was challenging was getting the message across without people feeling they are being harangued or preached at.

Andrew Crisell

It seems that the old saying that “it’s better caught than taught” or as a Scottish friend of mine said, “better felt than tell’t” was used to good effect in the Archers.  Today’s soap operas are still a significant force in moulding society, although it’s a debate for another place to determine if that’s considered to be having a good effect or otherwise.  My point here is simply that it has a significant influence on society. 

Step one is all about being an example, about providing a model to follow, and that model can be a good model or a bad model; either way, it’s having an influence.  We, of course, want to become a good model for people to follow. 

Step two of becoming a person of influence is called Motivation and has to do with energy.  It was said of someone I know well “you are always such a positive energy in the room”.  To be able to motivate others we need to get to know them and to understand them, we need to have faith in their motives and nurture the relationship with them, and to help raise their energy levels. 

It’s interesting that we naturally seem to judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their actions.  To nurture someone is to get to know their intentions so that we can understand their actions correctly, and if there is something that may cause an intention to be misunderstood by an action, to bring that to their attention in a caring, considerate, and loving manner. 

“The gap between intention and action is interpreted by how much you care.”

Last year I was driving along a Florida highway with my daughter when I performed an overtaking maneuver that drew the unwanted attention of the Highway Patrol.  That’s when the nice officer helped me to understand that speeding in the state of Florida is an arrest-able offense!  Oops!

Fortunately we “came to an understanding” and I was allowed to go on my way without the benefit of handcuffs.  When I was contemplating my narrow escape I came across a cartoon which had a guy in similar circumstances being cuffed by an officer, who said to him something like:

“I can see that you’re married, so I know you’ll understand what I mean by ‘Everything you say will be taken down and used in evidence’.”

Now, I thought that was somewhat humorous, and so did Sue, my wife, so I posted a copy onto my social media feed.  It seems that many of my friends had a good chuckle too, especially when I explained the background.  However, not everyone was quite so amused.  After hearing a view that I was perpetrating an unnecessary stereotype, I decided the wisest course of action was simply to delete the post.  It seems that for some there was quite a large gap between my intentions and their interpretation of my actions that day. 

“When we understand the other fellow’s viewpoint – understand what he is trying to do – nine times out of ten he is trying to do right.”

Harry Trueman

Step three of becoming a person of influence is called Mentoring and has to do with Empowerment and Excitement.  To be empowering we need to be able to connect with the person we’re mentoring in such a way that we can help them believe in themselves, and be excited about pursuing their goals. 

To be exciting, something has to be both inspiring and rewarding; to be inspiring to appeal to the creative part of the brain which can change the “have to” into “want to”, and to be rewarding to appeal to the logical part of the brain and make it “worth your while”.  The rewarding part pushes us towards the goal, and the inspiring part pulls us towards the goal, so with the combination of a push and a pull we have our best chance of achieving it. 

Finally, step four has to do with Multiplying, with Extending our reach to the next level and beyond.  For me this is one of the most rewarding aspects of influence, seeing our influence reach beyond those with whom we are in direct contact and communication.  One of the most rewarding experiences I have encountered has been when I have been mentoring someone, and something I have helped them to get excited about they then share with the people with whom they have a connection. 

We are all influenced by others, and we all influence others, perhaps many others; sometimes we can choose what that influence will be.  If we can be intentional in understanding how we influence and are influenced, then we can learn to be intentional in having a positive influence and making a difference.

About Roger Fairhead

Roger is a leadership specialist delivering Leadership for Business Achievement through Speaking, Training and Coaching to business leaders and entrepreneurs.

“He is articulate, tracks complex issues with ease and has an incredible gift for raising pearls of wisdom out of the murky depths of people and process.” His passion is to help people to learn effective leadership skills to lead their teams to capitalize on their strengths and passions to realize their dreams.

Leadership for Business also invests into the dreams of families in the world’s underserved communities to offer them small loans that empower them to invest in their future, to provide for their families and give back to their communities.