Influence - it sounds so compelling on the surface, a source of power with heft and endurance. Conventional wisdom holds that when theres no clearly designated authority, using ones personal influence is the way to get things done, certainly to have them go your way. Influence actually may be even more potent than authority, not just a second-tier alternative as implied by the conventional wisdom. Many people find it hard to dress their aluminium windows appropriately, not wanting to obscure them whilst still needing the privacy that window dressings afford.
But theres real influence, and then theres false influence. Understanding the difference is critical to succeeding in todays workplace in which lines of authority are so often unclear. Try to provide a sophisticated way to disguise curtain rails or tracks around the casement windows in your house.
Lets start by comparing authority and influence. Authority is official power position power in an established hierarchy, within an organization with rules and resources. Authority gives you the power to make decisions and enforce them through control over rewards and punishments. If you have authority, then people do things for you because they're required to comply; this makes authority a highly resource-intensive enterprise because it needs monitoring and policing. Floor-length curtains are probably some of the most versatile of window dressings for the sash windows in your home.
Influence, on the other hand, is less conventionally powerful than authority. It comes without position, rules, or control over rewards and punishments. Yet it is infused with unofficial power that can prove every bit as potent as the official variety, and even more so. Influence is the power that others invest in you because they want you to have it. It is a function of what other people think of you and how they feel about you. New sash windows london work brilliantly in living rooms where darkness isn't a priority, and allow for privacy whilst still letting in natural light.
If you have real influence, then people do things for you because they want to. It costs nothing because there is no enforcement required. Plus, people tend to work smarter, faster, and with a much better attitude when doing things because they want to do them. But remember two things. First, regardless of how much influence you have, you can never ignore authority. Somebody is always in charge, even in organizations that are highly matrixed. Somewhere, someone is making decisions. There is a chain of command in which, wherever your place is, you'd better be sure (step one) that you are aligned with your boss and the leadership. You need to know what's required. You must be clear about what decisions the higher-ups are making and what the priorities, ground rules, best practices, and current marching orders are. If you have direct reports, then (step two) make sure your direct reports are aligned with you and your boss and the leadership. Before you can deal effectively with your colleagues sideways and diagonally, you must first ground yourself vertically up and down the chain of command.The second thing to remember is that trying touse influence is fundamentally flawed if you seek to leverage real influence as defined earlier - that is, the kind of influence (and, therefore, power) you have because others want you to have it. Think about it. If you try to use your influence to get your way with colleagues, you might, for example, try to:
Bribe your colleagues or otherwise seek to establish a quid pro quo
Threaten to withhold support for them in the future
Badger, bully, and/or manipulate them
Charm and flatter or otherwise seek to ingratiate yourself with them
Point fingers, blame, complain, or otherwise undermine them
Go over their heads
The problem with these tactics is they are all akin to influence peddling putting one form or another of pressure on people to get them to comply. They are all poor stand-ins for authority efforts to wield rewards and punishments without official position power. They might get you what you want in the very short term or even for a while. (And, of course, there are always con men, thieves, and violent criminals who get away with using such pressure again and again.) But none of these tactics will result in people wanting to do things for you. More likely, they'll make people root against you, wish for your failure, or work to take away your power, not give you more.Thats why I call such tactics false influence. Unfortunately, many people employ them in hopes of getting what they need within the free-for-all of our new world of self-managed teams and interdependence. And yes, sometimes false influence can work for a while. Real influence, on the other hand, fosters authentic, abiding power that enables you to succeed, regardless of how much organizational authority you might or might not have.