Thursday, July 21, 2011

Using Your Power for Good


In the Star Wars films, young hero Luke Skywalker learns about The Force from his mentors Obi Wan Kenobi and Yoda. The Force is an invisible but real super-natural energy source that can be harnessed and focused by those adept enough to use it. Luke learns that the Force can be used for good (like Obi Wan) or for evil (like Darth Vader).

In the real world, there is a potent force too. One that we wield all the time, though most of that time we are unaware of it and of its impact on others. I'm referring to the power of influence.

In Success magazine, writer Jennifer Reed does a nice job of addressing the question, Are you using your power of influence for good or for evil? She writes:

"Scientific studies prove the power of influence. A 2007 Harvard University report found a person’s chance of being obese increases 57 percent if a friend becomes obese, 40 percent if a sibling becomes obese, and 37 percent if a spouse becomes obese. A 2009 Stanford University study found that people who have worked with entrepreneurs are far more likely to give up the security of a steady paycheck and strike out on their own, too. That’s some pretty intense behavioral influence.

Our leadership styles, our moods, our means of dealing with situations, the examples we set (for good or for ill) can have a profound impact on those around us. Often, we have no idea of the power we wield
."

Indeed. We are influencing (and being influenced by others) all the time. It's part of the dynamic of human relationship.

In the workplace, we are influencing one another all the time. Look at the classic Hawthorne Works studies from long ago. Workers at a Western Electric plant near Chicago were studied by a team of social psychologists from the Harvard Business School. The aim of the study was to find out what factors would improve worker productivity. Would new lighting cause a positive change in output? Would cleaner work areas do it?

No, the historic finding of the Hawthorne Studies was something else. It was the power of influence. No matter what the researchers did, worker productivity went up. The conclusion? The workers were pleased to be the object of so much attention and interest.

This is more than a footnote in the study of organizational dynamics. Anyone in a leadership role should take heed. If you are a supervisor or manager, your influence counts. Do you know how to use it?

Here are five ideas for wielding this powerful force:

F = Focus: What are you paying attention to? Where are your priorities? Do you focus on your team and what they need to be successful?

O = Openness: Are you available to your team? Do your team members feel comfortable approaching you with questions and concerns? With ideas and suggestions? Are you listening to them?

R = Recognition: Are you noticing your team members and the effort they are giving? Are your acknowledging them and their contributions toward goals?

C = Connection: Are you connecting with your team members in a genuine way? Do you know them? Do they know you?

E = Expectations: What do you expect of your team? Do they know what your expectations are of them? What do they expect from You?

The bottom line is, Are you using your power of influence for good? The starting point is to become more aware of the fact that you are influencing others right now. Greater self-awareness is key.

The next step is more effective Use of Self (see the five points above).

In Star Wars, mentor Obi Wan Kenobi said to his protégé, "May the Force be with you." In real life, the power of influence is already with you. May you use your influence mindfully to have a positive effect on others.

Posted by Terrence Seamon on Thursday July 21, 2011

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