Recently, I found myself absorbed with the notion of influence. I wondered aloud who the great influencers of our time are, then wondered further how each had reached their influential positions. A voice in the room, that of a top trusted advisor, shot back, “The number-one salesman in the world is a kid who wants ice cream!” We laughed.. Yet buried in that answer was delicious truth.
I closed my eyes and began to imagine kidson a hot summer day. I heard the gaggle of lots of kids playing in a front yard and then the sound of music–ice cream music. As the sound of the ice cream truck reverberated through the neighborhood, all of the kids began screaming and shouting in high-pitched voices to anyone who would listen that ice cream was on the way. Little hands immediately plunged into pockets. Some came up empty and some were prepared. Many little feet scampered to their respective homes to beg Mom for a few coins. It was here that I could imagine the influencing taking place.
I imagined different strategies being employed. From Chatty Cathy down the street, I imagined a full onslaught of promises, “If only..this one time..” Cathy would have to work but eventually her chatter and clatter would wear Mom and Dad down. “This is the last time!” shouted Dad, to deaf ears already out the door.
Silent Steve took another approach. He needn’t say a thing; his mother knew what he wanted and also knew he wouldn’t ask. “I’ll surprise him,” thought Mom, “he’s such a good boy.” Steve was an early winner.
Ernie used pain as his strategy. “It’s murder out there!” he exclaimed. “This must be the hottest day of the year!”
Elaine, always getting what she wanted, checked her What Would Eddie Haskell Do? manual and arrived at a winner: “Mom, the ice cream truck is in the neighborhood, is there something I can get for you and Father?”
Still, others used urgency. “Hurry, Mom, he’s getting away. We’re going to miss him. Fasaaasssstttterrrr! Puh-lease!” Keeping parents off-balance is never a bad idea.
At an early age, we learn how to get what we want.
Influence is an art form. Influence has different levels of skills. There are those who simply possess wisdom and are invited in. There are those who work to use it purposely and there are those who utilize it–yet have no idea they’re doing it.
Influence is a powerful tool. When it’s paired with trust and curiosity, influence becomes your best tool. The irony behind influence is that it should only be used for the purpose of the one you wish to influence. Influencing for personal purpose will backfire. Every time. Eventually.
Each of us is equipped with the tools of influence. My experience is that most go unused. We acquiesce to the fear of conflict. But to play in today’s market, you’ll need influence. What will your strategy be?