We’re always influencing, for better or for worse

Just because we’re not pouting on Instagram and taking selfies of our lifestyle, doesn’t mean we’re not influencing all day every day. Every interaction counts. Each moment of communication is loaded with potential.

Sometimes we’re conscious of our influence, sometimes not. We’re aware of the influence we have on our direct reports and may put thought into being a positive and supportive role model. We’re likely to be aware of our influence on our manager – directly when we go to them with a recommendation and indirectly by how we go about our work. 

We’re perhaps less aware of our influence on our peers during a team meeting where our impact is diluted by the group, particularly if we have little to contribute. But even here, our facial expression and body language – our sense of attention and interest – affects the speaker and group. 

As we walk around the office, visit someone at their desk or get ourselves a cup of tea, our gait, our pace, our posture and mood, affect those around us.

In fact the list of influencing situations in daily life is continuous and endless:

  • In our email correspondence – the words we choose, our expansiveness or bluntness, how long we delay before getting back and indeed if we get back at all, speak volumes to the other party
  • In our phone conversations – how we listen, how we engage, where we pause and how we give feedback and acknowledgement as we go. Are we obviously distracted and looking at Facebook or getting on with other work as we speak?
  • How we answer questions – whether casual, on-the-fly questions around the office or more formally during a meeting or presentation. How willing are we to help? Have we tried to understand the question fully? Do we care about them and their difficulties or concerns? Are we irritable or condescending?
  • Daily small talk – are we genuinely interested in the people around us, their lives, their interests or hobbies or are we straight down to business? Neither is right or wrong, but it’s all influence and impact.

In an 8 hour work day, there are 28,800 seconds. In an open plan office, you are influencing in some way during every one of those seconds. Even if you hide away in a meeting room for an hour, you’re likely working on a report that will be read, and will therefore influence someone in some way.

On that basis, it would be preposterous to not consider influencing to be a primary skill of our job. Not secondary, not peripheral, not nice to have, but absolutely front and centre. Certainly as critical as our technical skills and arguably more so. We will require this skill in every career, industry and role and if it hasn’t crossed your mind already, we equally need it at home with family and friends. 

If this is not on everybody’s list to consciously and deliberately develop as a skill, you are doing yourself a competitive disservice. There are endless resources online these days. Avail yourself of them. Attend a course if only to bring it top of mind again (we’re here to help), but even if you don’t the mere awareness of the power of each interaction as a moment of influence, will help you be more thoughtful and effective in your relationships.

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