Forget Titles, Focus on Influence

You can lead with or without a title. If you wait until you get a title, you could wait forever. – Mark Miller

The following situation has happened to me several times.

A couple years ago, our director, Bilbo, scheduled a meeting with a group of actuaries to discuss topics related to forecasting. In the process of brainstorming ideas we got passionate about different solutions to a problem. Ten minutes into it, I proposed a simple solution that was a not part of the regular play book. The idea got shut down. The conversation continued for another 10 minutes until Crystal suggested the same idea I said before. To my surprise, our director takes on the idea and moves ahead with implementation planning…What just happened? Isn’t that the same thing I said 15 minutes ago?

Influence happened.

Leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less. – John C. Maxwell

Be it reputation, lack of connection, or delivery style, the fact is two people proposed the same idea, one got rejected, the other got approved.

In hindsight, I can now see that the other person simply had more influence.

Whatever the reasons, people in the room, especially the director, listened to what Crystal had to say. Both with similar experience, knowledge, and title, but different level of influence.

A couple thoughts on influence:

  • Influence is about relationships
    • How often do we end up doing what our closest friends do?
    • How likely are we to help someone we have a close relationship with?
    • How intently do you listen to the message of someone you feel connected to?
    • These are all results of influence through relationships.
  • Influence takes energy
    • When I reflect on who exerts influence on me, who do I follow, it comes down to some level of trust. And we all know that trust must be earn.
    • To use Ken Blanchard’s ABCD Trust Model, trust is earned by being Able, Believable, Connected, and Dependable.
    • These 4 activities require significant energy investment from us.

Check out how I’ve gained influence lately.

Have you experience something similar? How did you handle it? What did you learn?

 

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2 thoughts on “Forget Titles, Focus on Influence

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  1. Deja vu! The exact scenario just happened to me, with a twist. A floor plan issue emerged and an irate leader brought it to my attention. I offered a solution – and it was rejected. Not just rejected, but resoundingly so. The leader demanded a conference call with the architect, the project manager and 3 other leaders (imagine the cost of this meeting – just in participants). So, I set-up the conference call. Leaders let off steam, architect couldn’t change the plans, they see-sawed back and forth getting nowhere… just digging their heals in their frustration. I meekly piped up and presented the SAME solution I offered originally. Suddenly, it was a perfect solution. All parties were happy. I walked away thinking… it took hundreds of $$$ (time of exectuves and architects) to get to the solution I had offered in advance.

    I am always the lowest man on the totem pole as I am administrative support. And yet, the position is often one of influencer. In this instance, influence did not trump the need for people to be heard. So, perhaps in your scenario, people just needed to air more of their point of view, or needed more discussion before they could actually “hear” the opportunity. Just another point of view on this topic to think about.

    1. That’s a very good point, many times some people are just looking for validation rather than a solution. This also plays a lot into timing. Some people aren’t just ready to hear it.

      I also challenge you, what would happen if you influence is so big that the next time this happens he/she comes you to to ask “what would you do? you have any ideas?”

      The challenge here is, what questions can you ask next time that allow you to suggest a solution without the person even noticing?

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