INFLUENCE. Sometimes a simple introduction and handshake is all you need. Influence is all around us, present in almost every aspect of our lives. We live through it in school, through our teachers, mentors and friends. We see it in our family lives, as our children are influenced by our own behavior and morals. We especially see it in the broader society where people are often influenced by their favorite stars, idols or athletes – perhaps even going so far as to emulate their behavior in the misguided belief that if their idols are cool and liked, they can be cool and liked if they adopt the same behaviors or lifestyles (and no, it doesn’t work that way in real life). INFLUENCE AS WE TYPICALLY SEE IT In all of the situations mentioned above, we are dealing with influence from the perspective of a direct cause-effect relationship that involves an influencer and an influencee. Most commonly, we see personal influence where a person, or group of people, has direct influence over another person, or group of people (classic examples involve politics and peer-pressure). We also often see influence in business and marketing, with companies striving to sway entire markets to purchase their products, often through educational campaigns (providing the consumer with the advantages of their product, its features and why it is a better option than rival products). In other cases, they may lean towards more subtle neuromarketing strategies, while others simply resort to blatant “value by association” techniques (if my favorite movie star uses that product, it’s probably a good product…). We can even take a more observational view with regard to events and actions, tracking the influence that a particular event (or group of events) today, or in the past, may have on future events (witness the history of political upheaval in one nation helping to influence, or even drive, similar upheavals in other nations suffering from similar internal or regional issues).
“Influence is much more than just changing or causing a behavior”But there is another type of influence that is more subtle, less direct, yet often more effective at achieving a long lasting impact – and all it takes is an introduction. THE VALUE OF INFLUENCE BY INTRODUCTION When we talk about introduction-based influence, we are referring to the bringing together of two or more people (or groups) that have the ability to complement each other for mutual benefit. In this case, there is no typical influencer – influencee relationship. Rather, the influencer is acting as more of a facilitator – an enabler of sorts – using the introduction as a way of creating an environment where ideas and collaboration can be fostered between the groups being introduced.
“Influence by introduction can produce some great, and unexpected, results”Influence by introduction does not work well when there is a fixed outcome that the influencer is hoping to achieve (i.e., a specific course of action). Where it does work, however, is where the outcome that the influencer is hoping to achieve is less for their benefit and more for the benefit of the parties being introduced, or in situations where the desired outcome isn’t a particular action but rather a type, or level, of action. Perhaps the parties being introduced are an analyst and a vendor – each looking for information and insight from the other. Or perhaps the parties being introduced each bring a particular strength or talent that, when combined, can create a powerful, collaborative working group, perhaps even identifying and developing solutions to problems that none of us, myself included, may have thought about on our own. It’s all about opening up new opportunities.
“Any business can benefit from influencial introductions”From my perspective, successful introductions are definitely a form of influence. Positive influence, like leadership, is based on trust, and introductions only work well if all parties trust, and respect, the person making the introduction. Who doesn’t like to hear from a friend or advisor: “I think you two both have some great ideas and skills – you should definitely get to know each other“? It’s more than just a pat on the back, it conveys a sense of value, potential and belonging to the people being introduced. They may not even recognize that there is a subtle form of influence at play. So how do you or your company view influence? Most view influence as a means to drive an outcome with a specific goal in mind, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But have you taken the next step? Are you willing to use your influence, with your name on the line, to make that introduction, acting as the catalyst to allow others to create value on their own, where the outcome is far less certain, but perhaps with the potential to benefit us all? I value your opinion, and all comments are greatly appreciated. You can also subscribe to my posts via Email or RSS. Thanks for being part of the discussion – Fred.