Influence and power

Influence and power

Influencing, it is said, is one of the most important skills essential for a leader today. In organizations where peer to peer interdependencies are...

Influencing, it is said, is one of the most important skills essential for a leader today. In organizations where peer to peer interdependencies are high for work to get accomplished successfully, one's ability to influence his or her peers, subordinates and superiors becomes immensely important. "Why is the ability to influence subordinates needed," one may ask, "as they are supposed to listen to us, anyway". However, any manager or leader who has led teams and worked towards collaborative success will agree that even with subordinates who have to probably listen to what the manager is asking them to do, even there it is better and advisable to build a sphere of influence over them and will them to work rather than use authority to boss over and get work done. In the case of working with superiors, almost every employee today has this question: I know my idea is valid but I am not confident of speaking about it to my boss. How can I ensure that she/he listens to me with an open mind and I can convince him/her of the validity of my idea? For scenarios such as the above, for questions such as these, the solution is to simply cultivate the skill of being able to get people to do what you want them to do; in short, to influence them. How can this be done? There are innumerable books and training workshops, programs, and mentoring programs on how to influence others at workplace and many of them show merit through a number of common techniques, such as building rapport, channelizing the other person, asking the right questions, using appropriate pauses, listening and sharing information, having clarity, etc. Though very useful, sometimes, these many techniques can get very confusing and chaotic in terms of which one to use when and how. Of late, from the books of Harvard Business School Publishing and other renowned material, a framework has emerged; a framework that talks about influencing using the power one has! This framework says that there are three sources of power for an individual in any organization. The individual who can assert influence usually can or needs to come from one of these sources of power so that she/he can get the other person to listen to them. These are:
  • Positional Power
  • Relational Power
  • Personal Power
Positional Power A person's title, designation and even job status confer some level of formal power on that person. An individual is normally authorized to act within a certain scope and it is this scope that gives the individual positional power. Either given by the organization or another positional power-in-charge, an individual can use the positional power to tell others what needs to be done and ensure it is done, most often than not because there could be a reward (carrot) or punishment (stick) attached to it. Though useful to assert authority when one has to, especially in crisis situations or scenarios where a conflict seems to be looming large, positional power can be very effective in generating quick and non-controversial results. However, it is often said that for a manager or a leader who always uses only positional power, she / he may gain benefits of influencing others in the short term but it's seldom sufficient to get things done seamlessly in the long run.
Relational Power
This is more of an informal power that one holds over another person. Usually such informal power stems from basic friendship or rapport between two persons and grows depending on the relationship and the alliances that are forged between people. Relational power is also strong between two persons when the two individuals have known each other for a long time and their conversations have a seamless sense of flow in them. Relational power is all built over time by helping each other as in the Law of Reciprocity stated by Robert Cialdini. For example, if you do a favour to someone, the law of reciprocity impacts your relationship and the other person will feel the need to do you a favour when the right time comes. In fact, influencing using relational power makes the other person do things more for a friend than for a colleague and this bond makes it easier to influence people. The major challenge with using more of relational power alone for influencing sometimes can be the expectations that the other person may automatically build over time for reciprocity.
Personal Power This has got more to do with the individual himself/ herself rather than based on relationships or the designation one holds. Personal power gets generated sometimes based on the knowledge or expertise or technical and other competencies of the person or also on the ability to articulate ideas or a thought or a vision that others can follow. Personal power is more relevant to ones' flair of communication, ease of inspiring people, having a radiant charisma and being known as trustworthy and reliable amongst others. When one uses personal power to influence others, it tends to also create a sense of personal power in the other person. Balancing this personal power with the positional power and relational power helps one to consistently influence others towards one's goals and objectives. The right power source can often be expressed in the form of influence. It can wield itself in one's ability to change or impact others' behavior by influencing them in the appropriate manner. Influence from your power source.... You have the power! Revathi Turaga is an International Trainer and Inspirational Speaker.
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