Influencing? Find Power

You’re out.

The role of the referee is to make a call on plays and to throw those out of the game who aren’t playing fair. That’s power. Imagine for a moment if we had business referees.

Strike one. You just repeated an idea that was said 5 minutes ago by someone else and are now claiming it as your own.

Strike two. You are bringing up a subject we finalized 10 minutes ago while you were smiling at your crotch or trying to secretly text on your phone.

Strike three.  The submission date outlined in the email and on the application. Either you are the type of person that skips that test instructions or don’t think deadlines apply to you, but these actions have earned you a time out so you can think about what you did.

Oh, to have that the power for a day. I can hear my theme song: I got the power.

OK, let me return from my reverie. There is power, and then there is influence. A distinction should be made between these two concepts. In contrast to a referee (sports or business), I have power over my attitude and actions. Whereas in terms of the attitude and actions of others, that is where influence comes in to play. I know I have varying degrees of influence depending on my role in a given situation. I also must consider the sphere of influence that informs my attitude and actions.

First, there are people who control things. Regardless of what I think, they are in positions of power in that they can enable or disable me. I think of them as TSA agents. I can have all the thoughts and opinions I want about these people, but ultimately they can stop me from boarding the plane. Game over. They are not the people to debate the technicalities of gels, creams and liquids, yet rendering coconut oil in its solid form perfectly acceptable. There are people like this is business. Just get over it. In my case, I do not have the fiduciary responsibility to stakeholders; a fact I must acknowledge when some policies and practices seem to run contrary to what I know in my limited view.

Next up are the five-year olds. They are still young enough that parents cannot conceive of these little crumb crushers1 as master manipulators. Oh those big eyes that tear up, the pleading request, followed by the tantrums. And while this is infuriating, you do not have to follow the precarious whims and wishes. You know there are adults who exhibit this kind of behavior — like a toddler in need of a nap. For the person who wants to cover topics already discussed, open issues already closed, the response is similar to that for the toddler. “Yes, I heard you, but that issue is closed. We are finished with that discussion.” Just as the kid thinks repeated asking will change a response, just keep repeating the SAME answer.

That brings us to the third type. Typically with the sphere of influence, there are those who have it and those who don’t. I have a great friend who is always late. We used to give her an alternate time to be places, typically 45 minutes sooner than we planned to meet and she’d still arrive about 30 minutes after the rest of us. A wedding, her wedding, didn’t deter her from showing up late. As one hour turned into two, my fellow bridesmaids wondered:

 “How did you know to bring food and water?” they asked.

“She’s always late.” I replied.

“But, it’s her wedding.”

“She’s always late.”

“But you’d think it’s her wedding.”

“Have you known her to be on time? Have some trail mix. The cookies are at the other end of the table.” I offered.

Why do people keep expecting some people to do something differently? Give yourself peace of mind, don’t expect anything different. We love them for who they are. In the work place, they will do what they do. The person, who can never find the file on the conference call, will always have trouble finding the file. You may have to do things to help them out. Remind yourself of how they contribute day-to-day, think of their value and act accordingly.

Finally, as I have no power to make you read this. I can only influence your desire to read, follow, share and comment by delivering meaningful content. So, thank you for letting be myself again.



1Crumb Crushers is a term used by Daniel Thorne to describe his two children. This post is dedicated to my dad. Rest in peace. We miss you, your laugh and your smile.

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