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Influence, Part II

Posted on April 12, 2017
Influencing Others

At the 2017 Philly SHRM Symposium last week, professor and best-selling author Jonah Berger delivered the keynote address, "Invisible Influence: The Hidden Forces that Shape Behavior." There are two key components to being influential, he said: Spotting influences around us and understanding how to use that influence.

Spotting influence around us means that we need to be open about what and who influences us. In last week’s blog post, I talked about two types of influence: imitate and differentiate. Think about the times you yielded to the group and the times you separated yourself; this will give you an idea about what influences you and how. Then, think about the people in your life — are there people who you tend to yield to? I’ve spoken about reflection in the past, but the ability to examine your own actions, goals, and fears is essential in today’s workplace, and before you can influence others, you need to fully grasp the influence others have on you. There are times when it is prudent to shift your position, but there also are times when it is important to take a stand. It is much harder to do so if you don’t truly understand what and who influences you.

In terms of using influence, Berger specifically comments on the use of “peers” as a means of influencing team members, though he warns that peers can also be demotivating.

For example: If there is a sales competition, encouraging employees to catch up to a team member who is far ahead of his/her peers will not motivate them, because there is too much ground to make up. Berger likens it to baseball and tennis. If a baseball team is behind by one or two runs, the game is considered close, and the losing team has a chance to pull off a win. It is motivated to turn the tables.

However, with tennis, if one player is ahead by an entire set, it is much more difficult to muster up enough motivation to pull off a win. Berger recommends using what he calls Proximal Peers — those closer in proximity — to motivate one another.

I can’t possibly share all of Berger’s wisdom in two blog posts, but I can recommend you get his book and read it. You can also register for our upcoming webinar, "The Art & Science of Influencing Others." While some people may appear to be natural influencers ("born that way"), I assure you that they developed those skills over time, perfecting them along the way. You, too, can learn how to better influence people.

Join us for the webinar to begin your journey.


Anne Converse Willkomm
Director of Graduate Studies
Goodwin College
Drexel University

Posted in leadership-management-skills