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Do you have more influence than control?

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You don’t have to be a ‘person of influence’ to be influential.”  Scott Adams


We hear a lot about control. We have control systems; quality control is a vital part of many organizations; span of control is about how many people we have reporting to us. But what about influence?

Control and influence are related, but very different.

Most people reading this column may spend way too much time worrying about control we do not have, and not enough time leveraging the influence we do have.

Did you know that a janitor has more control than the president of the company?

A janitor may be told that today he needs to clean and wax the floors of rooms one and two. That is where the janitor takes control. The janitor has control over whether they do room one first or room two; whether they start in the southeast corner or northeast corner; whether they clean both floors then wax both floors, or clean and wax one and then clean and wax the second.

But does the president of that company have the same degree of control? The president can set policy about cleanliness, but the control they have to enforce it is indirect at best. More practically speaking, they are really using their influence as president to get others to use the control they have to clean the floors.

If the president of that company and the janitor were in a car, the janitor would be driving and the president would be giving directions. The president aims to influence the direction of the car. The janitor controls the direction of the car.

As business leaders, it is best to recognize that we have significant influence but very little control. Our focus is best directed on how we can influence our organization, not control it. Some tips:

In our communications, emphasize why we need to do something more than how or what we need to do. This allows people to make good decisions about how to use their control.

A key ingredient of influence is persuasion. It is not enough to just tell someone to do something; we must also convince them it is a job worth doing. This is a reality that is becoming more real with time.

Help people to want to do what you need them to do.

Be sincere. The degree to which we are sincere — or not — is obvious to those around us.

Show appreciation. If you want to be able to influence a person a second time, show them that you appreciate what they did for you the first time.

 Dave Bartholomew is the founder of Ascent Advising LLC, working with “corner office” people around the globe to define and achieve their unique definition of success. He and is wife, Nancy, co-founded Simply Living Farm, a shop in Leavenworth providing goods for a sustainable life. He can be reached at Dave@AscentAdvising.com.