Much of my work as a coach involves helping people be more influential, even--especially--when the thought of their own influence makes them uncomfortable.
Last year some reflections on the dimensions of cultural difference--and specifically the concept of "power distance"--led to further thoughts on interpersonal power, which in turn contributed to a rough model of how we become more influential, which I called the Influence Pyramid.
I recently had the opportunity to collaborate with Prof. Carole Robin on a revised version of this model--call it the Influence Pyramid 2.0--which is shown here and briefly annotated. (Working with Carole and serving as her occasional thought partner is one of the perks of my job at Stanford.)
I) FOUNDATIONS OF INFLUENCE: Our Ability To Influence Is Rooted In Our View of Self
1) VIEW OF SELF
Our ability to influence is rooted in our fundamental view of self. (I know, trust and accept myself enough to be authentic.)
The act of influencing begins with a choice to be powerful. (I want to exert influence, and I recognize and accept this in myself.)
Challenging and revising our mental models creates greater alignment between our internal and external worlds. (I test my beliefs about influence and modify them based upon my experiences.)
Feedback allows us to see ourselves as others see us and to modify our behavior as needed. (The goals and intentions that drive my attempts at influencing are clearly understood by others.)
While recognizing the limits of socal science, we adopt influence strategies rooted in generalized principles. (My efforts to influence take advantage of expected dynamics and outcomes.)
We employ tactics that we test and refine over time. (I understand my strengths and weaknesses, and I adopt techniques appropriate to my skills while also trying new behaviors.)
Finally, we recognize that our results (and all the steps we take along the way) occur in a specific interpersonal and organizational context. (I adapt my goals, actions and expectations to fit the environment.)
II) INFLUENCE LEARNING LOOPS: Practical Experience Leads to Learning at Ever-Deeper Levels
Through a series of Argyris-style learning loops, we can understand at ever-deeper levels not merely how to be more influential but what implicit and unchallenged assumptions we hold about power and influence and our ability (and worthiness) to wield them:
- Refined tactical execution of tools and techniques.
- Improved strategic selection and application of general principles.
- Keener awareness of others’ perceptions through feedback.
- Mental models in greater alignment with the outer world.
- Increased comfort with our desire to be influential.
- And ultimately an enhanced sense of self-knowledge and acceptance.
(Here's a PowerPoint version [78 KB] of this post.)
Continued thanks to Patricia Day Williams, whose "Self-Empowerment, Awareness and Choice" in the Reading Book for Human Relations Training got me thinking about all this at a much deeper level and still serves as a source of inspiration.