I’d put money on it. One of the key reasons why I think this is, is that we seem to be programmed to influence in the way we like to be influenced ― about half of this comes down to what we think makes us powerful. Time for a quick recap on power…
Power is the capacity to influence. Influence is an outcome ― people doing, thinking or feeling differently. This capacity can comprise of:
- Assets (money, position, knowledge, etc.).
- Skills (communication, persuasion, problem solving, etc.).
- Tactics (rational argument, inspirational appeals, force, etc.).
For a more detailed explanation, take a look at The Components of Power.
Now, just take a moment to consider what assets, skills and tactics make you powerful. If you have previously done our Personal Power Diagnostic, perhaps this is a good time to dig it out and take another look,
There are many different sources of power. To illustrate the time waste, let’s just look at two of them ― Network and Technical.
- Network is the power you gain from your connections, the links you have around your organisation (as well as outside of it). In many ways, this is the capacity to get help, find answers and connect other people.
- Technical power on the other hand, is the knowledge and competence you have to do your job. As the workplace becomes more complex, the reliance on competence grows because of increasing specialisation. So technical power is the ability to get the job done but, also, to be regarded as an expert at what you do.
So, imagine a techie and a networker coming together to influence each other. Without awareness, training and skills, the techie is naturally going to be inclined to pitch the logical, factual reasons why the networker should agree. That’s because this is what the techie respects and what he is influenced by. On the other side, the networker is more likely to talk about all the people they have socialised their idea with, who they’ve got on side and, perhaps, who they had lunch with yesterday. Nothing wrong with either approach except that they are incompatible.
The networker is likely to get frustrated with the techie’s lack of engagement with stakeholders (and splendid isolation), while the techie will struggle to take the networker seriously because they don’t seem interested in the facts (let alone ever doing any work).
If you want to save time when it comes to influence, you will need to adjust your dialogue to match the other party’s concept of power. Until you do, distraction and waste will creep in. The adjustment is often easier than you might think. For the savvy networker, removing the distraction can be as simple as pitching the technical merits of their proposal (first). The wise techie, on the other hand, is more likely to gain the influence they want if they tell the networker about all the people they have already got onside with the solution.
If you know the Personal Power Diagnostic, you will probably already be starting to see other possible distractions. The person who gains their power through image is likely to be fretting about “how they could wear such a thing”; or the status conscious person will be wondering what level the other person is, or perhaps, what level the other side has supporting them.
Of course, we are only skimming the surface of the topic here, but it holds a fascinating potential in helping people to save time and increase their influence.
So, here are a couple of questions for you to ponder…
- What sources of power do you tend to focus on?
- What sources of power does the target of your influence tend to focus on?
- How can you adapt your dialogue to talk the language of their power?
I’ve discussed this topic with several recent workshops, however, I am keen to explore this in greater detail to understand more about the practical implications. So, if you’d like to talk to me about it, please let me know what you think of this idea by email.