A Story of Influence

October 28, 2010 by
Filed under: Leadership, Networking 

When it comes to influ­ence one thing is cer­tain. One’s abil­ity to cre­ate and main­tain a pos­i­tive rela­tion­ship is a must have skill. With­out the abil­ity to have a rela­tion­ship with some­one, there is absolutely no way to have influ­ence. Influence2 A Story of InfluenceOne can argue that power (through the manip­u­la­tion of money and/or vio­lence) can allow a per­son to have influence. I say that is sim­ply not true influ­ence but more so an invest­ment and use of fear. If given the choice, a large num­ber of lead­ers would pre­fer to use the power of influ­ence over the power of fear in order to get things done.

It All Started with a Visit

A few years back I was vis­it­ing the head­quar­ters of a very well-known inter­na­tional com­puter con­sult­ing firm. This par­tic­u­lar firm ser­viced my com­pany on many occa­sions and I was always happy with how their con­sul­tants han­dled my company’s requests. An acquain­tance of mine, Larry, was one of the company’s man­age­ment. While I was there, I noticed that many of the mem­bers of his team talked with him as though he was one of their bud­dies. The atmos­phere in his area of the com­plex felt very pos­i­tive and ener­getic to say the least. The team mem­bers that I met that morn­ing and that reported to Larry men­tioned that he was a very good man­ager. Words such as “respect” as well as phrases like “he rolls up his sleeves to help out when needed” were used to describe Larry. Over­all, I could tell that many of his team mem­bers really enjoyed work­ing with him and for him. They trusted and respected Larry.

Do you know any­one at work like Larry? Some­one trusted and respected by his peers and sub­or­di­nates?  How do you think they got that way?

This same day, there was another gen­tle­man at the head­quar­ters by the name of Mr. Chirac­son that (I later found out) was one of the Senior Vice Pres­i­dents of the com­pany. Accord­ing to Larry and some of his other col­leagues, he enjoyed using fear and intim­i­da­tion in order to get things done and to main­tain order. To him, if an employee was quiet and always on edge and con­cerned about his posi­tion, he would be a very atten­tive and pro­duc­tive employee. Have you ever known of a boss or a man­ager such as this per­son?  One thing that made Mr. Chirac­son a lit­tle more inter­est­ing was that he would always have a smile on his face when he was talk­ing to an employee. The smile was always more of an arro­gant or pompous type of smile where he enjoyed being the boss and being intim­i­dat­ing to an employee by way of him not let­ting on what he was think­ing. It turned out that one of the more com­mon thoughts on his mind when he was talk­ing with a sub­or­di­nate in the com­pany was, “how could I make this sub­or­di­nate be a lit­tle more on edge about his job so that the com­pany can get the most pro­duc­tion out of him?” This was some­thing I dis­cov­ered later on from one the company’s board of direc­tors who knew Mr. Chirac­son and me.

Mr. Chirac­son and I had the oppor­tu­nity to meet in one of the cof­fee kiosks that were located near the front entrance to the build­ing I was in that day while we were both on line wait­ing to pay. When I saw him, he was behind me and wear­ing a com­pany badge with his name and pic­ture on him. Dur­ing this time, this par­tic­u­lar com­pany was not high on secu­rity within the front por­tion of the build­ing and so I was not given a badge to where while at the com­pany. Mr. Chirac­son said good morn­ing to me in a some­what haughty and loud tone. He asked me how I was doing that day. Me being myself and always choos­ing to be in a good mood and enjoy the day said, “Well actu­ally I’m hav­ing a very good and enjoy­able day. Thank you for ask­ing.” As soon as I said that, his face changed to more one of sur­prise and then more of inquis­i­tive­ness.  I intro­duced myself by my first and last name gave out my hand to shake his. He hes­i­tantly took my hand to shake it but it was so limp, it would have been bet­ter to not have both­ered to shake. One thing that always gives me a neg­a­tive impres­sion is a weak (dead-fish) type of hand­shake. It does noth­ing more than com­mu­ni­cate lack of respect, insin­cer­ity and/or a low self-image. After I intro­duced myself, he said noth­ing but was just look­ing at me first with an open jaw and then with a look of slight dis­com­fort and I could almost say irritation.

Do you know any­one at work or some orga­ni­za­tion like Mr Chirac­son?  How do you think they got that way?

I will not for­get this par­tic­u­lar encounter because I later found out from Larry that Mr. Chirac­son (believe it or not) never enjoys hear­ing any of his sub­or­di­nates or any­one in the com­pany below him for that mat­ter, to be in such a good and relaxed mood. Espe­cially when speak­ing with him. Now granted I never men­tioned that I did not work for the com­pany to Mr. Chirac­son, but he never asked me if I did.

By Influ­ence or by Fear…Which is Better?

Influence6 287x300 A Story of InfluenceThe rea­son this sticks out in my mem­ory is that Mr. Chirac­son was a Senior Vice Pres­i­dent for the com­pany and that such a posi­tion requires a great deal of influ­ence abil­ity. It was clear how­ever that Mr. Chirac­son, did not use true influ­ence as much as he used fear. A few years later, Mr. Chirac­son was dis­missed from his posi­tion. My friend Larry was later on forced to move on in his career when the com­pany merged with another firm caus­ing this par­tic­u­lar loca­tion to close its doors.  The irony that I saw hap­pen was that Larry soon found another posi­tion from an acquain­tance of one of his team mem­bers. The new posi­tion was a higher level posi­tion and Larry was rec­om­mended for it by a col­league who saw the posi­tion influ­ence he had in the last com­pany he worked in. Mr. Chirac­son, I found out was out of work for almost a year from what I was told. There “appar­ently” weren’t many offers being given to him and from what one per­son (actu­ally the same per­son who I men­tioned was a board mem­ber ear­lier in this post) told me, it was because his rep­u­ta­tion was one of a per­son who didn’t have influ­ence and really caused a hos­tile work envi­ron­ment to exist. If a per­son is per­ceived as being the cause of a hos­tile work envi­ron­ment, that is what I call, the “kiss of death” in cor­po­rate Amer­ica today. But that is another topic of discussion…

Would you rather have the power of influ­ence or the power of fear? Why?

Check out some of the great reads below!

Comments

4 Intelligent Opinions, Leave Yours on A Story of Influence

  1. Natalie Sisson on Sat, 30th Oct 2010 12:55 pm
  2. Hi Gil

    Great sto­ries here that reflect the type of leader that will never bring the best out of oth­ers, and one that leads by exam­ple with trust and respect.

    That’s why I left the world of cor­po­rate roles to become an entre­pre­neur. I was tired of upper man­age­ment hold­ing peo­ple and the com­pany back through fear, manip­u­la­tion and pompous actioins.

    I’m actu­ally just read­ing Influ­ence now by Robert Cial­dini and really enjoy­ing it. I imag­ine you already have. Key take­aways from it?

    Natalie
    Natalie Sis­son recently posted..The Unstop­pable Ali Brown Is Empow­er­ing Women WorldwideMy Profile

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  3. Gil Pizano on Sat, 30th Oct 2010 9:27 pm
  4. Hi Natalie,

    Thanks for the bril­liant com­ments! The lead­ers that bring out the best in oth­ers is often the ones who lead by exam­ple with trust and respect.

    I’m glad you’re read­ing Robert Cialdini’s book. He has a very well choice of words when he called the top­ics he dis­cusses in his book “weapons of influ­ence” because they are very pow­er­ful indeed. The quick sto­ries that he lays out through­out the book made it a very inter­est­ing and relax­ing read for me so I hope you, and every­one who has a chance to read it, finds the same enjoy­ment with it. Even though it is an older book, the lessons within it are time­less and straightforward.

    As for a key take­away from the book, prob­a­bly for me is that one should always remem­ber that there is usu­ally more than meets the eye. What I mean by that is that we as peo­ple will nat­u­rally want to jump to a con­clu­sion about some­one based upon a small bit of infor­ma­tion that we may know about the other per­son (e.g. the per­son is a veg­e­tar­ian, the per­son is a demo­c­rat or a repub­li­can, or the per­son is a woman or a blond, etc.). Jump­ing to a con­clu­sion pre­ma­turely has led many peo­ple to embar­rass­ing sit­u­a­tions that are often dif­fi­cult to rem­edy. So in fore­sight, it would be bet­ter to at the very least to be aware that we can all jump to con­clu­sions incor­rectly as well as cor­rectly. If we jump to con­clu­sions incor­rectly, we miss many oppor­tu­ni­ties to be as influ­en­tial as we may need to be and to meet and get to know oth­ers as best we can. That is one of the big take­aways I had (among many oth­ers of course ).

    I’d love for you (and oth­ers read­ing this com­ment) to share some of your take­aways from such books after hav­ing read them.

    Cheers Natalie!

    Gil

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  5. Jens P. Berget on Fri, 5th Nov 2010 2:24 pm
  6. I really under­stand what you’re say­ing, and I can relate. Very inter­est­ing post.

    I work in a fairly large orga­ni­za­tion (at least when it comes to Nor­we­gian stan­dards, about 500 employ­ees). We have all sorts of lead­ers, and there are only one type of leader I enjoy work­ing for (and enjoy shak­ing hands with), and that’s a leader with the power of influ­ence. I never respond to fear, I never have.

    I believe that the prob­lem when it comes to lead­ers, is that they should have two essen­tial char­ac­ter­is­tics and that’s charisma, com­pelling attrac­tive­ness or charm, and knowl­ege, the par­tic­u­lar skills in the par­tic­u­lar field she’s working.

    To me, it seems that many lead­ers don’t have the charisma, or they lack the knowl­edge (if they have the charisma) :)
    Jens P. Berget recently posted..Dis­count on the Problog­ger eBooksMy Profile

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  7. Gil Pizano on Fri, 5th Nov 2010 8:23 pm
  8. Good point Jens. One addi­tional point, in addi­tion to charisma and knowl­edge, is a cer­tain level of integrity. With­out that, sooner or later they will stop being the leader. At least that’s in my hum­ble opinion.

    Thanks for the comment!!

    Gil

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