Methods of Influence

In this post I would like discuss the various forms of power that can be present in an organization. As you may recall, power and influence were closely related and influence is the result of power being exerted.

Types of Influence

When it comes to influence there are two main classes that we divide them into, namely overt and covert.

Covert Influence

In this form, both you and the person being influenced are aware that there are some forces at play between the two of you. Essentially, everyone's cards are on the table, as so to speak, and everyone knows what everyone else is "holding".

Examples of this would be when there is some sort of exchange going on, be it business or otherwise. If we take a more personal approach something like flirting would be a form of covert influence as you both know what is going on.

Overt Influence

For me, this form of influence is quite interesting as you are aware of what is going on and your behaviours, but the people being influenced are not. Typically, this form of influence revolves around changing the ecology, which is the relationship between organisms, or in this case, people and their environment. However, this method of influence is either often ignored or abused by leaders but can also have a large impact.

Influencing the Ecology

It has long been know that the behaviours and attitudes occurs within an environment, which in turn affects the people within it. The following three environments are the most common that can be influenced in an organization.

Physical

Often, the easiest thing that you can do to influence the ecology is to shape the environment. It is important to remember that any physical changes that you do can affect the culture of the organization.

  • Noise
    This can affect the performance of the individuals in the environment in either a good or a bad way. For example, you will often see in shops that they tend to play more upbeat music in an attempt to make you shop and purchase more, as you are energized by it.

  • Variety
    We all know that variety breaks through the monotony that can sometimes creep into our lives. It also leads to improved performance so it is a good idea to try change things up for you team as they will not only learn and grow from it, but feel uplifted as well.

  • Seating patterns
    The way seating is set up in an organization has a direct influence on the interaction of the people within it. If you want to stimulate conversation then an open-plan office is more appropriate. However, if the choice is to limit this communication, as you want people to focus on their tasks, placing people in "silos" will achieve this. By "silos", I don't only mean partitions between desks and the like, but also placing teams on different floors or even buildings.

  • Facilities
    Sometimes people can become demotivated or even stressed when the work environment has poor facilities, such as lighting, ventilation or temperature control. I myself have been in buildings where it was a constant fight to get the air con/heater working or even to have some windows put in. From my personal experience, it really does bring down the morale of the team as you start to become despondent when coming to work.

Psychological

The next thing that can be done focuses more on the people side of things.

  • Small groups
    You will often find that when you have smaller groups it is easier to manage and work with them and to focus them towards a particular goal.

  • Realistic targets
    When you have targets that are attainable, but at the same time are slightly challenging for the person, you will find that it influences them in the goals that they set for themselves as well as a morale booster when they do achieve them.

  • Increased interaction
    By increasing the interactions with the people, it can lead to an increase in either good or bad feelings towards each other, depending on the people present. The most common example of this is trying to get people to go for lunch together on certain days. At the end of the day, what you are really trying to do is to build relationships within the team.

  • Participation
    Usually, if you increase the participation of a person they typically tend to feel more valued and in turn try to be more productive in their work. The beauty in this is that it can be applied to all the employees, which in turn increases the general creativity and level of work and makes the sum of the parts greater than the whole.

Magnetism

Magnetism is an invisible force that causes a pulling affect as a result of a stronger force. In terms of organizations, this force would be personal power. You may often wonder why some people listen to a particular person even though their position doesn't warrant it. These are the people who you need to keep a look out for in the organization as they are the ones who are able to influence people. These people are very good a proliferating ideas so you can use them to do that. There is nothing wrong with this, if it is used for legitimate purposes, as you are acknowledging that they are the catalysts or "change agents" in an organization.

I know that sometimes this topic can sound somewhat sinister as you are manipulating people and environments, but as with everything in life it can be used for good or evil and I would never encourage to use it for personal gain.

As a parting word, I would like to challenge you to see what type of influence is currently being used in your organization or how you could use the above techniques to make it better. If you have any comments or suggestions, just let me know below.

Until next time...keep learning!

Mauro Da Silva

Learning everyday about software development, leadership & self improvement

South Africa