What is Influence in an Organization?

influenceA colleague asked me a few days ago about influence in an organization, and how to explain it because he did not have an answer.

Here is my best short explanation, and it revolves around adding value to others and encouraging them to contribute as well.

Influence has a definition that includes producing effects in others such as on their behavior or opinions. That is a look-up from the dictionary. ‘Power’ is sometimes part of that definition, perhaps because some use their ‘position’ in order to persuade people to do something.

I believe rather than a forced influence that distances us from others, the key is to be relational (not negating that decisions have to be made of course). This is true whether you are in a leadership position or not. Connect with people, understand them and listen and learn about them and over time trust is established. Not a trust used to manipulate, but simply a trust with your co-workers or team. Look for people’s value and relay appreciation for them. Value cooperation. Of course some have a natural inclination to move ahead, build their image, and stand apart and others have natural tendencies to build consensus and be relationship minded. Yet they both can get value from practicing opposing skills. In many ways, then, influence is more of a process unique to you and the situation, but the basics are built on trust and connection.

This is my starting point for influence. What are your thoughts?