I was thinking the other day about this really powerful word: Influence.
We can be educated, smart, super-professional and still be influenced by things that make us act in a way that is divisive, destructive and damaging. I’m sure there are many people out there who have identified the influences of people suffering from psychosis that causes them to harm and kill others.
And then anti-vaxxers, the State of Texas abortion rulings, Brexiteers and climate change deniers. Such people have been influenced in a particular way and there’s unlikely to be much alignment between them and me, ever, on anything.
But before I go too dark, let’s stay in the light.
I was invited to be a guest on a podcast coming out soon, which I thoroughly enjoyed, as one of the things I was asked was who influenced, or is influencing, me.
SO many people have helped me and influenced me. Shaped my views. Helped educate me and helped me educate myself.
And then on Thursday, I was invited to Joanna Suvarna and Scott Leiper’s session as part of Dave Linn’s Gratitude 24 hours event. Whilst I mention these 3 people — seriously, be influenced by them. What kind, smart, soulful human beings they are.
In it, we talked about gratitude (obviously) and I mentioned people who have created moments that matter. Because they looked after me, my interests but they also influenced me. With how they were. It made me want to emulate their acts, words and deeds.
And I thought about my parents, friends, teachers, teammates, managers and then went onto authors, speakers, practitioners, politicians and public figures.
I realised I have an aversion to utter a$$holes. Narcissists. Bigots, racists, outspoken cocksure arrogant figures. The list is long. I’m not influenced by them at all: But I am assured in my views, opinions and ways to be that seems to be the opposite to them. So they influence me in being steadfast in my views.
As an individual, you really do have influence.
You may not feel it, realise it, believe it and certainly don’t leverage it. But you do.
Whatever image you feel you have, project and that “is”, you’re influencing people. Who may be:
- For you and what you stand for;
- Ambivalent so maybe somewhere in the middle, or
- Against what you do, say and believe in.
I’ve acted and said things that I’m sure have people in that latter category where I’m concerned. That bothers me. It used to bother me A LOT.
But when people “cancel” you — move on, don’t want to connect with you anymore, separate from you, it can be baffling. If you’re not sure why you’re no longer “in” with those people or think you know why; you have to deal with it based on what you ponder and deduce has influenced them to be that way.
It could be something you’re not at all proud of and would understand totally why people drop you like the proverbial ton of bricks.
It could be you’ve done nothing that’s actually harmful and the influence on this is of the other people’s own doing. Envy, dislike of what they realise you now stand for, or just never really liked you in the first place and did the usual niceties of exchange.
When I had my last corporate roles, I was thrown together with teams of people not through choice, but circumstance. You get on, you collaborate, but also you’re influenced by different things and so it’s sometimes really difficult to reconcile things. You may not at all dislike them, but when your influences are polarised or incompatible, it creates distance, uncertainty and a surface-level of operation and co-existence with those people.
I mean, how many people from your school are you still in touch with? They’ve been influenced by different things even in where they live, so why would you continue to share life’s events with those people? So it is with work. Same. I’ve worked with hundreds (probably thousands) of people. It’d be difficult to keep in touch with them all but those you are with are not just “like you” they’re probably influenced by things in the way you are.
I guess the rationale behind this post is that we are how we are; but we’re influenced to be, do and say things by a combination of spirit, lived experiences and others.
And that influence you have may cause attraction and commitment, or it may cause distance and disconnection. It’s not necessarily how you behave or what you’ve said, it’s the difference in your influences that have potentially caused that.
It’s been years since I’ve spoken to some people. All chummy, and collaborating — it looked like we were influenced by the same things.
And then not so much.
And then you realise they haven’t just cooled, they’re anti-you. Yet they seem to be influenced by the same things that you are. Except perhaps something else.
They are likely to be influenced by resentment.
Resenting something you’ve done AND something they’ve done.
Good or bad things too. Bad things are understandable. If you’ve treated someone they care about harshly, they’ll resent you for that. If you’ve committed something sinful to a value of theirs, they’ll resent you.
99.9% of other influences are still there but that resenting influence (0.01%) is BIG in impact even if small in a numerical state.
We’ve had 3 people no longer work on our team. We separated ways. What had caused this? Outwardly, the influences on what was believed to be at the heart of our initial collaboration appeared to still be present.
But a 0.01% resentment had occurred.
We have a self-managed way of operating. We don’t manage people and don’t allocate work in the “traditional” way. What that means is, we’re influenced by self-determination, self-direction and self-cast agency.
In all 3 cases, there was a lack of application in those 3 things. Somehow, those 3 people weren’t influenced by this. We could have adopted a management approach to this but that’s not our way. We’re influenced by things we believe to be more evolutionary about human endeavour and therefore are influenced to not be retrograde and orthodox when it comes to management. We manage systems and processes; not people. So in all 3 of those instances, we closed things and people have moved on. Respectfully, compassionately and kindly.
And we don’t really hear from those people. So maybe the 99.9% of what we were influenced by wasn’t as strong as the 0.01% resentment influence. Resentment that it didn’t work out? Resentment that people weren’t as self-directed as they thought? Resentment that we refused to adapt our system to accommodate them?
I know of one instance where someone resented me for not speaking up or out about certain things. Now, I choose my own counsel on how I show up in the world; not by their judgement of me, so whilst I didn’t resent them per se, I resented their tone and accusation.
Now that leads me to a slightly different angle to this.
Thought leaders. You know, those big figures who may or may not be academics but occupy our airwaves through their books, talks and writing posts.
We might be influenced by them. I know I am. I could list them but in the main, they’ve influenced a lot of how I am in the world through either research, stories, concepts and theories and just how they are.
I’ve met some of them. Mostly they’re as they appear to be. Super smart, responsive, interesting. Some are absolutely not that and are full of ego, diva-like ways and arrogance. I have resentment for that. 0.01% maybe because all they’ve said before they burst the bubble still rings true and some since may still capture my attention. But I can’t think of them as an influencer anymore and I have to be even MORE impressed with their subsequent words and theories because the 0.01% resentment influence is urging me to dislike it.
Some people are really on their hobby-horses about certain things. They’re seeking influence. Sometimes being anti-trendy. Sometimes being deliberately contrary.
That’s how powerful 0.01% resentment influence can be.
Fellow practitioners of mine are the same.
I find myself influenced a lot by people near to me (probably more than the stage-crawling huge names).
They have a lot of influence on me, and I respect, admire, learn from, use and repeat a lot of their influential words, models, deeds and much more. There are lots of people out there who have shaped me for the better.
And then some not so. A lot of the resentment influence comes in their opposing views and derision of others views (call that arrogance or a fixed mindset or whatever). In their harsh and sometimes cruel ways of being. In their bandwagon-jumping (like the number of people now remote working experts when prior to COVID I’d only ever known them to be office-bound).
So I have resentment of their ways, words and deeds even if they don’t impact my ways, words or deeds at all.
People can be miles apart from me on principles, but their ways are respectful, honourable and compassionate. Considered, kind and inclusive. I am not influenced by their views, but I am their ways. So there’s no 0.01% resentment influence. Which shows just how powerful — again — resentment influence is.
So again, how you are is influencing people all the time.
And we often say: we need to influence people — shift their mindsets.
This is where another influence comes in: Systems
I’m fascinated by the systems of life, work and even nature. Because they are perenially fascinating. Natural, adaptive systems like ecological interconnected systems in the rainforests, deserts and mountain ranges of the world amaze and confound us and however we explain their inter-dependencies, they’re still amazing forces of nature.
Systems like that of towns, cities and human clusters are also fascinating for both deliberate and incidental things that come from these collections of disparate and diverse people.
Systems like those of political, religious, educational ideologies and theories.
And the systems of work.
The systems of work are what gave me the energy and reach to practice in Organisation Design and Development (plus Organisation Effectiveness, of course, let’s not forget the E in amongst the 2 Ds).
If I’d have known about the practice fields of OD I might have studied my into it sooner. I fell into it though, as some do. In my work as an administrator in civil justice to projects that were looking to create centralised efficiencies of practice in that field, I came into technology-driven change. And ALL of a sudden the systems became clearer from the processing routines and regimented practices that were aligned to the legal flow and procedural protocols.
I was in OD then but didn’t know it.
Until I arrived into the HR world, and through the lens of Learning and Development discovered OD. At first, I found it a challenge to look at things from the semblance of not just people learning skills but that AND the system they operated in as having a huge impact on how those skills turned into (what I know now as) value creation and problem-solving.
OD fascinated me from the moment I discovered the teachings and models, theories and applied practices. So it was then I knew this was my field. Not because I’d be an expert in it, but because I knew I’d never become that, but that was fine. I’d found my eternally shifting, deep, wide and complex place to exercise the curiosity I had harboured without knowing precisely how to define it.
So let me geek out a bit in this post and also challenge a few things in the world of work.
My challenge regarding influence though is this:
Mindset changes are fantastic but they don’t create the lasting change some people believe they do and if people have their 0.01% resentment influence in full effect, it just won’t happen.
System changes though, can still happen and create the desired impacts.
I do think the start may come from a mindset shift but this will struggle to be sustainable without system change to channel that energy and activation towards.
Take for example the need to be liberating and help people move from a place of being told what to do all the time, to a place of self-determination, where they have agency and feel they have all they need to influence things around them so they have a more fulfilling and enriching experience of work.
Some people’s mindsets are stuck in “People need to be controlled. They cannot be trusted to work without supervision, fear of punitive measures and with incentives that keep their focus on performing to our indoctrination.”
You can show them evidence of how much people out-perform, are able to look after themselves better and are more likely to demonstrate loyalty, creativity and collective spirit if you don’t control their every move. But their mindset is stuck.
However, you don’t take on the task of shifting their mindset through any other measure than introduce a system that allows for that agency and that application and they see the results.
“How did we achieve this turnaround?” they might ask. You show them the system. It has no bearing on whether they believe in liberating systems but they see the results. So they go with that flow. Eventually, they may change their minds based on the sustainable levels of high-performance but that will take time and the system holds the space so they don’t impair or interfere with it and therefore, it’s allowed to exist, thrive and create a better experience for those in that system of work. Maybe because they’ve overcome their 0.01% resentment influence?
Sure, if that leader was enlightened enough to want this to happen, but even then, if the system is not aligned and works well, they may have doubts about their mindset and exert some control.
So the systems are more important than the mindset in the long run.
Mindsets may shift but even if they don’t and the system is strong enough, their will (from that mindset) will not be strong enough to overturn that system.
This is where Carol Dweck’s work comes to mind (!) on Growth Mindset.
Who — in their right mind — is going to admit to the traits of a fixed mindset? They’re undesirable even to the most stoic of fixed minds. So we fake our concordance with this but our mindset isn’t moved.
UNLESS the system is so strong, our fixed mindset is clearly unable to lead to high-performance or some cultural or behavioural norm that is in line with success.
We might then shift because the growth-mindset resultant system is too strong for us to resist and therefore we exit it or we shift. Initially reluctantly but perhaps after time, more willingly. The system prevails. And it overcomes our 0.01% resentment influence. We start to concur that things are better and don’t resent them anymore.
At People and Transformational HR Ltd., we teach systems more than we teach mindsets. We’re not psychologists so we’re not only are we not qualified, we’re systems thinkers so lean into that more because of our beliefs and commitment to helping people create great systems. We’re not super-engaged coaches individually moving minds and souls, we’re systems facilitators and designers that help minds and souls find their place in a better system. We look at the misfiring and misaligned systems and help correct them and introduce new systems.
We’re not oblivious to systems being influenced by determined minds and stoic souls who may not like that system. Our task is to create a system that is unarguably better and therefore it’s more self-destruct than stubbornness that will enter people’s minds and not many of us are that self-destructive we’d obviously stand in the way of that kind of progress.
We’re respectful of mindsets. But we don’t obsess about those before we get going. Call us impatient, but the time to turn around mindsets without significantly enhanced systems of operating is too long and fraught with challenges. That any attempt to move mindsets (that are less obvious and are definitely more amorphous) can vaporise before any system has come into help steward thoughts, energies and eventual shifts towards something more palatable, successful and sustainable.
So we believe there is a huge influence in systems. Even with the 0.01% resentment influence at play.
With systems and your own influencing, you might just get where you need to be with a bigger impact.
So use your influence wisely, for good and with all the sincerity you can muster.
Not everyone will like, support or be with your influence in the world. They’re just influenced by either different things but most likely the powerful 0.01% resentment influence is at play (or indeed it may be more than 0.01% in their case of judging you, not liking you or your ways, opinions or words).
Influence is powerful and it could tie you up in knots. Be mindful of what you’re influencing about, to what end and be respectful of the power of it. Don’t overuse it, and if you’re underusing it, you’ll know why.
Humility is influence. Modesty is influence. Arrogance is influence. It’s never switched off. You may not think it but we’re emitting influence all the time. Present or not. Vocal or quiet. Researched or opinionated.
Influence lies in you, your words, your acts and your deeds and in the systems you operate in and shape, and yes, influence.
I’ll leave you with the flawed influencer Henry Ward Beecher. Flawed because of his supposed adultery and a famous trial in the late 1800s. Influencer because of his support of the Darwinian theory, women’s suffrage and the abolition of slavery in the USA.
Everyone has influence, for good or bad, upon others.