The Greatest Executive Challenge: Changing an Organization’s Culture

One of the greatest challenges faced by Executives today is how to change their organization’s culture. Here’s a helpful hint: Culture is established from the inside out, not from the outside in. It is the natural result of the common habits within a group of people. Great leaders shape their cultures not by controlling their team members, but by influencing and inspiring them!

I recently published two blogs:

Their combined message produces the following powerful principle:

    You will have maximum cultural impact when you can cause people to want to take a certain action, and enable them to cause others to want the same.

There is a big difference between influence and control. Influence is the ability to affect the decisions of others, where ultimately the decision is still theirs. It leverages and even empowers the will of another. Control, on the other hand, determines the actions of others, regardless of what they think or desire. The following four characteristics highlight the power of influence and why it is more effective than control.

1. Influence Grows. Control Creates Resistance.
People don’t like to be controlled, even if what they are forced to do is right. As soon as they don’t have a choice, they automatically want to do the opposite. It’s natural. Therefore, in order to comply, they must resist that natural sense of resistance. And compliance at its best will only meet the minimum requirements to stay out of trouble. Now, if an individual sincerely desires to do something and communicates that desire in a compelling way, then it is likely to influence someone else. You must be that first individual to duplicate your desire in your team members. A sincere desire, communicated effectively is contagious.

2. Influence Learns. Control Remains Blind.
As an executive, it is easy and even tempting to exercise your authority by mandating a certain change. When this approach is taken, team members tend to withhold their true reactions in front of leadership. Instead, they share their opinions behind closed doors, often producing a negative vibe towards leadership. Transparency and trust are diminished between executives and their teams. Instead of forcing a matter, paint a compelling picture of a world that is better with the change than without it. Then listen to their honest responses. If others buy into that vision then they have also validated that the vision is desirable and achievable. If they don’t buy in, then either the vision was not communicated effectively, or it was not considered desirable and achievable by your audience. Now, even if they disagree, you have learned and can adjust if necessary.

3. Influence Continues Beyond You. Control Ends With You.
The moment you influence another person to take action is the moment you stop being a dependency for that action to occur. When it can occur without your involvement, you have succeeded in your goal to produce change and you are free to move on to the next objective. If you are in control, however, then the moment you take your finger off the pulse is the moment it stops beating.

4. Influence Requires Consistency Over Time.
Let’s bring a little balance to this. If you are having difficulty gaining adoption to a change, it doesn’t mean the change is bad or unnecessary. It may simply require greater education and reinforcement. Don’t quit on your idea just because it was not adopted quickly by the majority. Remember that people cannot easily change habits, even if they want to! Change requires consistency over time.

We see that influence grows, learns and continues beyond the instigator. Change, on the other hand, creates resistance, remains blind and ends with the instigator.

Have I influenced your perspective on influence vs. control?

I welcome your ideas, challenges and further insights below…

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Influencing the Influence of Others

Influential sales reps can have a great impact on sales teams, whether good or bad. The wise manager will know how to identify and leverage that influence to his or her advantage.

Turn the Negative into Positive Influence:

When an outspoken sales rep is spreading complaints, the effects can be devastating on the sales culture and over-all morale.  Managers who try to suppress this rep may get the opposite effect from what they had intended.  Have you ever tried to suppress a ball in a swimming pool?  The further down in the water you try to keep it, the greater the resistance you get in return and the bigger a splash it makes.

Instead of trying to stop the complaining rep, engage them, listen to them (whether they are right or wrong) and try to win them over.  Ask their input in advance when certain changes are on the horizon.  Instill in them a sense that you trust them and view them as a leader.  This will give you the right to expect them to use their influence prudently.  You now have a relationship where you can leverage their influence instead of fighting against it.  You will have transformed negative influence into positive.

Maximize the Positive Influence that Already Exists:

If a rep has a positive influence on your team (for example they advocate positive change and prove it quickly in practice) then don’t just leave them alone, maximize their influence on purpose.  Involve them early to help shape important changes (such as new technology and processes that will affect daily life).  This influence can be a powerful force in uniting the team towards a common goal.

As a manager, it is in your best interest to identify and guide existing influence.  Note that not all outspoken people are influential.  Focus on those with real influence.

Effectively channeling existing influence is one of the unquantifiable yet powerful ways to increase sales performance.  This ability often separates the good sales leaders from the great. Your indirect influence through others is greater than your direct influence through yourself alone.