Influence - Do you have it?

Whether you intend to or not, you are influencing people all the time – in some way. The question is are you influencing others in a way that you intend, and could you do it better?

Let’s look at the two leading politicians in the country, David Cameron and Jeremy Corbyn. They both have power. Power is something you have. Influencing is something you do. There are two kinds of power, positional power and personal power. Positional power comes with the role and includes authority to act, allocate resources and impose sanctions. Personal power is different. It is independent of your role or status, and instead relies on your skills and ability. It is this ability that you are able to develop and which I teach on my Influencing Skills at Work training course.

David Cameron has a great deal of positional power. After all, he is Prime Minister and can therefore do things and make decisions which Jeremy Corbyn cannot. Of course Jeremy Corbyn has positional power within his party, given the mandate he received from the members who elected him. However there is some discontent within his party’s MPs which can undermine his authority, something he has tried to address with a recent cabinet reshuffle.

Let’s now look at personal power and the ability to influence irrespective of position. What enables us want to take on board a suggestion or proposal from someone, irrespective of their status?

It turns out that we judge people not in one way but two. We size people up for strength and warmth. Not just politicians, everyone. And what’s more important, it’s how you get sized up yourself, though you may only have a dim understanding of the signals you are sending.

If we see someone as strong, we respect them (even if we don’t like them). If we perceive someone as warm, we like them. A leader who can project both has the magic formula. However it’s not as easy as it sounds. One quality tends to diminish the other. Those rare individuals who are able to project both have what the ancient Greeks called “the divine gift”, and they had a word for it – charisma.

Returning to the two politicians, how would you rate each in terms of strength out of 10? Strength is the ability to get things done and includes willpower, assertiveness and competence.

Next how would you rate each in terms of warmth? Warmth is about having the interests of others at heart and includes empathy, listening and sharing concerns. Of course our perception will be coloured by our own beliefs and values.

Lastly, how do you think you are perceived in terms of strength and warmth? What can you be doing top improve each or both? For more details on the Influencing at Work course go here. Or leave a comment on my facebook page.