Have you ever been in a meeting where you went in with a perfectly formed opinion, and after one person spoke, you left with the exact opposite? When you think back on how in the world it happened, you can’t quite put your finger on it. The person who spoke was eloquent, well-researched, and charismatic and other members of upper management really seem to respect this person. So, yes, it does make sense that you valued their opinion and changed your mind. That’s what their intention was all along. You, my friend, were manipulated! (Cue dramatic revelation music here).
I’m really not a big fan of the word “manipulation” because of the all the negative connotations it has in the business world. Now, if we were all carpenters and I said that Jones had done an excellent job manipulating that table leg in the lathe, we would all applaud Jones’ skill. However, if I say Jones did an excellent job manipulating the board members, suddenly, things turn nefarious. But, to put your minds all at ease, here’s the dictionary definition of “manipulation:” “Handle or control, typically in a skillful manner.” When you hear it like that, it’s not so bad, right?
But, for all intents and purposes, I’m going to substitute “influence” for “manipulation” so we can all feel better about this conversation.
So when is influence the ticket? The answer to that, is just about all the time. If you want to find success in your career, you have got to be using all of the influence you have in order to impress and stand out among your peers.
With your employees. Influence with your employees means getting them to do their work in an excellent manner, without them doing it “for you.” Use your influence to make your employees feel special and that when they do well, they know that you’ll be there to back them up and help them get the respect and recognition they deserve.
With your peers. When it comes to your colleagues, you are all, on some level, competing with each other. You may form very deep personal friendships with some of these people (you spend more time with them than with your family most weeks) where you feel comfortable enough to talk about the competition among you. Influencing your peers to realize what a great fit you’ll be for upper management over anyone else is a tricky task but, one that you should always be working on.