There is a problem. If I show you how to become influential, what does that mean for the people you influence? What will you do with that power? Will you use it to influence good things, or will you use it to fulfil your selfish ambitions? If you become so much more powerful, does that mean all those around you will be dominated?
For me, this is a tough one to answer, because I don’t know you very well. I can equip you with all the ideas, frameworks and practical action, but I still don’t know what you will do with it. The ethical question is a reasonable challenge to anyone working in my field ― showing people how to influence others.
In many ways, the term ‘influence’ implies win/lose. If I influence you, you will have failed to influence me. To gain the ethical tick, what needs to be added is ‘informed and willing’. To be blunt, if you influence people to do something that they are not fully informed about, or are unwilling to do, you are abusing your power and influence.
Notice that I am not saying ‘wanting’ to do it, just ‘willing’ to do it. We all have to do things we don’t want to do. That is real life. Ethical influence is about gaining their acceptance and choosing to do it rather than forcing people to do things. And, of course, the most effective influence is getting people to really ‘want’ to do it ― that is the ultimate goal of the ethical influencer.
If you want to test out how good you are, test yourself with these 21 Questions and I think you’ll soon see how difficult it can be to get this right.
A couple of days ago, I was horrified to see someone offering to show people ‘sleight of mouth’, to persuade people ‘without them even knowing’. I’m no expert on NLP, and I am sure that they have convinced themselves that it is ethical, but to me it stinks. Generally, the reason for hiding is so people don’t know. As an influencing tactic, it means that if it was known, the answer would be no. Sadly, this example is just one of many I have seen.
To my way of thinking, as you become more influential, the following ethical rules should shape your influencing work.
- Always help people to make balanced and informed decisions.
- Ensure pitches include the drawbacks as well as the benefits.
- Be clear and open with people about your own interests.
- Aim for people wanting to do what you want them to do.
- Never mislead people into doing something that you know will harm them.
Being truthful with you, as I write this I can already see a few areas I could improve upon ― how about you? Be honest, with yourself at least, how clean is your act?
And yes, I am fully aware that if you live by these rules, at times there will be a personal cost. But I have to believe that, in the long term, this is the only way to have a healthy life being influential.
Colin Gautrey is becoming the most sought-after expert in power and influence by ambitious and talented professionals who are serious about accelerating their careers and their results. But, Colin is certainly not for the faint-hearted.
If you want to move forward with greater impact and influence, take a look at Colin's Becoming Recognised by Powerful People.
Other articles by Colin:
I’m Right, You’re Wrong: Influence Undercurrents
There is a particularly unhelpful undercurrent flowing beneath the surface of many influencing attempts.
Over the last few weeks I have spoken to many people. It is part of my research into the challenges that are holding people back from success. In many of them, I am getting the feeling that they hold the opinion that the person they wish to influence is wrong.
For example, Jane. She wanted to know how to influence her boss, Lukas. She wanted him to support a particular project she was desperate to get off the ground. Jane took me through the rational argument. It was a no-brainer, “Why doesn’t he get it? It’s obvious we should do it!”
As we talked I could feel…
This goes beyond building trust into the realm of intimate, mutually beneficial working relationships. Connecting deeply with people and finding the space and confidence to share openly. With this level of quality in your relationships, with the right people, you will create a solid foundation for your influence and your results.
Are You Worth Trusting? You Sure?
Obvious answer – of course you are! You know that. But, do they?
It is far easier that you may realise for others to distrust you. You don’t need to do anything wrong to see their level of trust in you dip. Indeed, it may be nothing whatsoever to do with you. However, the negative impact on your work will be big.
Below I am going to share thirteen reasons why trust may be declining around you – then you can take steps to arrest any decline, or make sure it doesn’t start to drop in the first place.
Before I do that…