A Developmental Moment #4: What Does Influence Mean and Why Does it Matter?

The Differences Between Internal and External Influence and Their Relationship to Service

Photo by Blake Wisz on Unsplash

As I was pondering the next developmental moment, and was considering influence as a topic, I had to stop, and reflect upon the past three years. What to say about influence?

Well, as with most things in my life today, an insight did occur, which will now come out through me and to you. Fun.

Alright, so influence is an important topic when you are leading teams; and, well, I do believe it is an important topic in everyone’s development, regardless of their iteration of self-development, or their interest in leadership. Why?

Because, we all will, at some point, apply for a job, need to grow our network, and, or, seek new areas of self-expression. And, to be fully self-expressed, or, rather, to self-express yourself fully, it is nice to understand the concept of influence. Let’s do just that then. Take a look at how I interpret the concept of influence.

Ready? Good. Here we go.

influence

verb /ˈɪnfluəns/ 

to have an effect on the way that someone behaves or thinks, especially by giving them an example to follow.

influence something, influence how, where, etc. to have an effect on a particular situation and the way that it develops.

Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries

There we go.

Alright, so here’s what we have for influence; to have an effect on a particular situation and the way it develops, or the way that someone behaves or thinks, especially in regard to providing them an example to follow.

Now let’s discuss influence in two different ways. Let’s take a look at internal influence, and external influence. Both are important, and both are needed. Here we go.

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Internal Influence

When I write the phrase internal influence, I am referring to your influence within the business, organization, or institution in which you work.

Understanding influence as an opportunity to build cultural capital inside of the business, organization, or institution in which you work is important for a leader to consider. If your influence wanes, it may be hard, for example, to garner political support on a project your team is working on.

However, if your influence is strong, or even adequate, garnering support will be easier. Pretty simple.

What I’ve found to be most true about internal influence is that being who you really are is of utmost importance. Meaning, to be the authentic leader you know yourself to be.

Yes, we all have to make concessions at times, and, yet, we all have the creative power to effect change. And, this is true, even when our influence is bourgeoning.

A quick aside. Influence, like most things in life, lives along a spectrum. Meaning, that influence is not binary. You gain influence over time; and, it takes time.

Maybe you’re asking yourself, okay, well, how do we create influence, and effect change. Here are a few important considerations for those interested in increasing their internal influence.

  1. Relationships – as I’ve written many times, everything starts with relationships. The one we have with ourselves, yes, and then with everyone else. Being in a relationship means having easy and difficult conversations. Remembering this truth is important in leadership.
  2. Questions – asking questions is always an important step in creating influence. Often, people shy away from asking the tough questions. Ask them. It is important to your own development, and that of your teams.
  3. Creativity – being open, flexible, and innovative, is an important aspect of influencing the future. Without creativity, the past is the future, a stamped reproduction. Thus, being open to new ideas, those from your peers, and your team is essential.
  4. Integrity – doing what we say we are going to do is important to all aspects of our lives, and there is no exception in creating influence. If we are unable to make it to a meeting, or are going to be late, communicate. Open communication ensures that we are always keeping everyone in the conversation, and keeping our integrity intact.
  5. Authenticity – be who you are. You are just as you are supposed to be, so embrace your unique-self, and let that shine. There is only one you, which means there’s not another person on the planet that can create influence, or anything else for that matter, just like you. When we are authentic, people know, and respect our truth. And, if they don’t? Remember, that’s their issue. Not yours. Be who you are.

Alright, there are five examples, and considerations for you, on how to create influence within a business, organization, or institution. Remember, influence takes time to cultivate. It’s kind of like gardening. You must water your relationships, questions, creativity, integrity, and authenticity, and, when you do, you will see your influence grow.

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External Influence

External influence is similar to internal influence, and yet, also different. You can use the five considerations aforementioned with those clients, students, or customers, that are external to your business, organization, or institution. And?

There are a couple more strategies for you to consider. Here we go.

  1. Engagement – being fully engaged at all times with those you serve is important. Meaning, that it is important to create an engagement system that you can rely upon, which will ensure your engagement is, well, like a drum beat. Your clients, students, or customers need to rely upon your engagement pattern. I write about developing my LinkedIn engagement system in the post, A Blogger’s Diary 12/27/20: On Writing, Goal-Setting, Systems, and the Holidays, which can serve as one of many examples to draw upon.
  2. Consistency – a drum beat, or pattern, on which your clients, students, or customers can rely. Important. There are lots of ways to ensure you stay on track with your engagement. You can calendar your engagements, enter them into a project management software system, or keep them in a planner. The tool matters far less, than the output of making sure to engage regularly and consistently.
  3. Reciprocity – relationships are built upon many things, and reciprocity is one. Being in relationships means sharing yourself with your clients, students, or customers. And doing so in a genuine way. Remember, people know when we are inauthentic. They can see, hear, and feel it. Just be who you are, and reciprocate.
  4. Value – our clients, students, or customers want to know they are valued. They would like value, and to know they are valued. Both. Providing value comes in many forms, and it’s not always, actually rarely, monetary. It’s about being there for your clients, students, or customers. Taking care of them, treating them with kindness, and valuing their needs.
  5. Service – in the end, it’s all about service. All of it. The service we give ourselves, and the service we give out to our clients, students, or customers. When we value our service, we are always looking for, and creating, new ways to serve. Whether that is through a new business model, a new product, or a new service. Really. Ultimately, it’s about understanding the need, reflecting on that need, and creating a bridge for that need.

Internal and external influence matter. It’s not about ego. We are leaving ego at the door. It’s about service. About taking care of people. Finding out what they need, and working with them to fill that need.

When we are in relationship with people, we are in a unique position to serve.

And, as we continue to serve, our influence grows. Influence grows as we grow and deepen our relationships. The relationships we have with those we serve. Ultimately, it’s our peers, teams, clients, students, and customers that let us know about our influence.

When we have movement in our relationships, we can see it and feel it; and, when we have traction, we know, because reciprocity flourishes as we enter into new relationships each day. And, as we enter into more relationships, our service grows; and, yes, we also grow. Fun.

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7 Keys to Highly Effective Relationships

Photo by Henri Pham on Unsplash

This week I’ve been thinking more about relationships in general, and also more about the ones in my life. Relationships are so important. I’ve written several posts about relationships, and the importance of all of our relationships. Even the ones we don’t typically consider, or think about often.

Well, let’s consider them all; and, what makes up a highly-effective relationship. Do you know?

I think deep down we all know, yet, we often get confused in our relationships. Swayed by commitment, personal ties, expectations, memories we have, and emotions we feel.

Sometimes, then, we stay in relationships, against our best interest. Yep. Most of you reading this know about that, as do I. Happens to us all.

Let’s then consider some of the keys to highly-effective relationships. A guide of sorts. Now, there are many keys to highly-effective relationships. Dependent on your standpoint, some of these may resonate with you more than others. Yet, I’m sure you will see yourself, or someone you know in some of these.

7 Keys to Highly Effective Relationships

Reciprocity

Being in a relationship that is mutually reciprocal is important. Why? Because too often there are balance-issues in relationships. Meaning that one person is adding more value in the relationship than the other. What happens then?

When this happens, people can become resentful. This is especially true if the people in the relationship believe they must stay in the relationship at all costs. For some of you this might sound odd. Yet, believe me, people stay in relationships all the time that are not healthy, that are even toxic. Not helpful. Rather destructive.

Boundaries

The most effective relationships are those where there are clear distinctions between the two I’s that make up the relationship. In effect, in every relationship, there are three relationships. The one’s each individual has with themselves, and then the one they have together. 3 relationships.

And, all 3 of these relationships are important. When the relationship someone has with themselves is sacrificed for the partnered relationship, there is likely to be resentment, anger, and frustration. Again, not helpful.

Development

When in a relationship we should support our partners growth and development. Too often, however, relationships are founded on a set of principles, ideas, and expectations, that prohibit, or at least mitigate growth and development.

When this happens, it means that the people in the relationship are, in effect, limiting themselves, and each other without knowing it. And, when one of the individuals in the relationship embarks on a developmental trajectory that upsets this previously created foundation, there can be pain and discomfort. Difficult.

Integrity

Integrity is important in any highly-effective relationship. Integrity simply means doing what you say. Being your word. And, if you are out of integrity, to say so. You actively create a context, and conversation to let the people you are in relationship with know that you are out of integrity. That’s it.

It is important because humans are often out of integrity. Happens to us all. Think about a time you committed to be at a meeting, and you were late; or, committed to be at a restaurant at a certain time, yet were late. Two simple examples. And, they happen to us all.

Being out of integrity does not automatically mean that there is a problem or an issue; what it means is that there is a need to communicate about a change to the commitment that was made. Think of the two aforementioned examples, to continue to be “in integrity” a call about being late is all that is needed. Pretty simple, really.

Inspiration

How does it feel when you are inspired? Pretty good, right? Yep. Well, as I’ve written about in other posts, inspiration comes from within. It is our job to create inspiration; and, being in relationship with someone that lives an inspired life can create more inspiration.

If someone you are in relationship with is not living this way, it can lead to confusion, conflict, and possible resentment. Better to be clear about this from the outset.

Further, it doesn’t mean that you will both find the same things inspirational; maybe, yet not necessarily. Being with someone that leads an inspired life, is less about being mutually inspired by the same things, though that is possible. It is more about understanding what living an inspired life is about. Looking for ways to grow individually and together. Fun.

Communication

How important is communication in your life? Yep, pretty important. In fact, it is one of the most important keys to a highly-effective relationship. Why? Because when we are communicating, we are in a relationship; and, when we are not communicating, we are not in a relationship. Simple.

And, when I write communication, I am not talking about saying good morning, and good night. Or, even, how was your day. That’s not it. Communication means you are talking about your hopes and dreams, and having hard and difficult conversations about how to move them forward.

These conversations can be very difficult; yet, being in relationship with someone is not supposed to be easy. If your relationships are easy, chances are you are simply living each day as you did the previous one; and, this is not a judgement. I lived this way for most of my life, which is why I know the difference.

Being in relationship with someone, means being in communication with them. A must.

Authenticity

It is also important to be who you are. When we are in a relationship where we have to be someone other than who we are, think of performance, there will be a tendency for disagreement, unhealthy conflict, and resentment.

We all change over time, even if we are not interested in change. Change is a part of being human. When we are interested in change, we may change even more. Regardless, being in a relationship where you can be who you are, at whatever stage of development you are is important.

Being who you are doesn’t mean that you are always in agreement in your relationship. In fact, there may be disagreement often. It does, however, mean that you are supported, and advocated for. Important.

In Closing

Know that there are many important aspects to highly-effective relationships. Yep, some of the ones you are thinking about did not make the list. Maybe they’ll make a future list. Don’t know.

What is more important is to know that the 7 in this post are important; and, if you’ve never considered one or more of them as important, you can now do so, if you choose. Your choice.

Now, how to put them into action? A few examples.

Putting the 7 Keys into Action in Your Life

  • Reciprocity
    • Notice when your relationship is not reciprocal. When it is out of balance, ask why, first of yourself, and then of your partner. What can be done to create more balance? Again, first of yourself, and then of your partner. Asking these questions will create a context for open communication.
  • Boundaries
    • Create them, and talk about them. We all need our own time, away from all things and everyone. When you’ve created a boundary, you must talk about it, or else your partner will not know about it. And, when it is transgressed, by you, or your partner, get back on track and put the boundry back in place.
  • Development
    • Openly communicate about the support you need. As often as needed. And, if you are not getting the support you need. First question yourself. Are you supporting yourself and your partners development? If you are, ask for that same support. If you are not, start there.
  • Integrity
    • When you are out of integrity, talk about it. Openly communicate when things change, or get in the way. Don’t hide from it. And, if you do, make sure to talk about it at some point. Better to be open and openly communicate than hold something that is causing confusion or a possible misunderstanding.
  • Inspiration
    • Create inspiration for yourself, first, and always. Ask questions of your partner – what inspires them? How do they find their inspiration? And, what do they do with that inspiration? And, share your inspiration. Once known, inspiration can become something that is talked about often.
  • Communication
    • Create contexts for open communication often. Especially when a difficult conversation is needed. Hiding from a difficult conversation will only make it more difficult for everyone. Communicate openly and often.
  • Authenticity
    • Be who you are, in whatever iteration you are in. Remember, being in a relationship is a choice. A choice for you, and your partner. Sometimes, it will be best to leave the relationship than sacrifice your true self.

As you think about your relationships, always remember that we are in many relationships in our personal and professional lives. Some of these keys may resonate more with you from a professional perspective, and some more from a personal one.

Either way, if you feel stagnated in your relationship, try one of these keys. If not these, then try something new. For, it is in the trying and doing of something new that we can create the change we feel we need, yet are often unsure of how to achieve.

Try, do, be, and live well.

#authenticity, #boundaries, #communication, #development, #highly-effective-relationships, #inspiration, #integrity, #reciprocity, #relationships, #taking-action