In Part I of this series, Got Influence? we described the subtle, yet vital role played by a person or organization’s level of influence. Aided by the benefit of influence, a person or entity can quickly achieve the momentum they need to effectively accomplish their goals. Without it, though, you will be forced to do things the old fashioned way, the hard way. This will cost you valuable resources, forestall the accomplishment of your goals and limit the breadth of your success.
Truth be told, work without influence is only “old fashioned” to those who have recently come to understand the tremendous role played by this often-unseen force. It’s impact is both ancient and omnipresent, but until you incorporate it into some aspect of your strategic mindset, you may as well be laboring in the stone age. The most successful and productive people have learned to use their personal connections to amplify, multiply and emulsify their efforts. In so doing, every step forward becomes a leap. Every door opened, unlocks three more. Each successive project becomes less cumbersome than the prior.
“People without influence expend too much energy jumping through hoops, wrestling with bureaucracy, negotiating with lower management and commiserating with others in the same position.” – Author’s Note
One way to look at influence is as an ever-expanding, interwoven network of reciprocal favors; a barter system. The goal of the game is to take whatever resources you have control over, and market them to people who may someday be in a position to return the favor. Though not all enter this game on equal footing, the fact is that we all have resources to leverage.
If you’ve got millions of dollars, you’ll invest in the right campaign contributions, you’ll donate to charities run by the right people, you’ll lubricate business deals with the right companies and you’ll socialize in circles which are well-traveled by people pursuing the exact same strategy. With each step, your influence will grow exponentially.
Granted, not everyone has tons of money (and we’re going to overlook some of the means frequently used by those who don’t), but there are plenty of legitimate ways for the common man or woman to build influence. Start by outlining what sphere you hope to gain influence in. Identify the people who occupy the executive positions in that sphere, and begin working your way towards them. Make yourself relevant to them. Invest your efforts in their efforts. Insert yourself into the peripheral of their social circle. Find out what interests them, and determine how to become a resource, or develop a reputation, in that area.
Find a way to become a social, professional, legal, or philanthropic asset to them, and make sure they know it. If you can’t reach them, start with their friends, family or colleagues. Better yet, start with someone above them. View your development of influence as a ladder. The higher you go up the executive ladder, and the closer you get to the shot-caller themselves, the more power and scope your influence will have.
The goal of influence isn’t to control everything, but to gain preferred access to it. People with influence solve most of their problems with a phone call. People without influence expend much of their energy jumping through hoops, wrestling with bureaucracy, negotiating with lower management and commiserating with others in the same position. They become frustrated and tired.
Those last two sentences should stick in your head. For as natural as these observations will seem to some, I know that others amongst us find this subject uncomfortable; maybe even unethical. To be honest, I still find myself in this category. But no successful person has ever benefited from naivete. Adhere to your values. Stay true to your principals. Conduct yourself with honor, but don’t forfeit another ounce of your effort to ignorance. Somewhere, right now, another person or organization is out there investing in their influence. Don’t let them pass you by.
Read Part I of this Series: Got Influence? by Timothy Shoemaker