At the Culture Catalyst Program©, we define Influence as “Causing an Effect Without Force”.
The manner in which we navigate Social Space causes an effect pretty much like (but not similar to) what happens when you pass direct current into a wire that’s wrapped around a piece of iron – a four-inch nail for example: it gets magnetized. That is influence. Works both ways.
The term “Culture” that we use I think describes the texture, flavor, belief system, thinking, shape, structure and influence of Social Space made by the individuals who contribute to it as a majority. Initially when it forms, it is subtle, then it grows, evolves and becomes almost like a living thing with its own personality. It stays even after the persons who birthed it have left. Some of the current “residents” of that Social Space, promote and nurture the combined “Culture”. This means both “great” and “no-great” aspects of a “Culture” can persist. The knack is to know what to keep and what to navigate through.
Just like that electro-magnet we mentioned earlier, the “magnetic field” can be weak or strong. We influence and are in turn influenced by Social Space. Can attract all the good things or all kinds of unwanted stuff into our lives. It can cause new belief systems to be formed, old ones to be reinforced or to die away. The result of the interaction has effects. Some of those effects are immediate, some take time. Some don’t make a blip; some dent the life out of us and then we say so-and-so or such-and-such a thing has a good influence or a bad influence. Not all influences need an interaction. Sometimes a memory or just thinking about it is enough. Think of someone you love. Think of someone you loathe. Caused a visceral response? Yeah. As simple as that.
Influence has three aspects to it:
How we navigate through the disarray in ourselves and our lives. And also, when we are in Social Space, how we navigate through the disarray in others
How effective we are in creating “safe spaces” and “safe zones’ for ourselves and those around us in Social Space
How clear we are in listening, responding and engaging and thus -communicating at the Listener’s Level. This last one here – Communicating at the Listener’s Level – is the critical trait that feeds upward into everything else in the Social Space. How we perceive, how we interpret, what we say, how we say it and what we do (or don’t).
Communication in Social Space is measured for effectiveness at the level of the listener. It is about how they perceive what we communicate. If it needs to work, it needs to work for them. It is no longer about us alone. This shares the responsibility of communication -between the sender and receiver in Social Space.
I remember the time someone invited folks for dinner, didn’t bother to ask what they liked to eat, made whatever they felt like and then the stuff hit the ceiling. The vegetarians didn’t take well the organic, grass-fed chicken, and spiced pork didn’t sit well with two others for religious reasons. The host tried to say things like “It’s okay, try it – nothing will happen” – that didn’t go well either. The host didn’t pay attention to “who the dinner was for!”.
Communication in the Social Space, especially in Interdependent Social Space comes with risk. The risk that it will be interpreted differently. While it demands, needs and allows for direct, clear communication, it puts the onus and responsibility on all parties to build vocabulary, meaning and purpose so that it works for everyone. With compassion, gentleness and resilience to see it through.
It is a critical element of Influence. As you guessed, communication sometimes doesn’t need words or language proficiency. Actions speak louder than sentences spoken and linger longer. Here’s the thing, at Influence our Responsibility expands to include those whom we are impacting with our choices of words and actions. We are mindful of our impact, how it influences the Social Space, directly or indirectly.
Many organizations that focus on collective culture without paying attention to the basics – in this case, the five specific attitudes – and how they are lived in the organization at all levels, run the risk of failure. Social Space is fluid. Its behavior is shaped and sculpted by the people in it. You influence its behavior, with your Belief System and vice versa.
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