Influence: you can give it, but can you take it?

Effective leaders not only influence others, but are also open to being influenced. ~Ann Van Eron

Photo by Elijah Macleod on Unsplash

Recently, while teaching about creating team protocols for better collaboration, I was reminded of a question that felt personal. Am I willing to listen and to be influenced?

One of the collaborative protocols that I was describing was that everyone would agree to “pay attention to their own intentions.” That would include asking yourself questions. What am I/we trying to achieve by this conversation? What is on my mind? Am I willing to listen and to be influenced?

That last question is the one that really gets me, personally. Yes, I’m willing to listen, but, willing to be influenced? Honestly, not always. If we’re talking about processes, systems, etc., yes, most of the time I am willing to be influenced. If we’re talking about something more personal, like my worldview, I have to dig deep to find the willingness to be influenced.

I suppose in some regards that’s not all bad. After all, anyone’s worldview should be something that guides their decisions and their priorities. However, last time I checked, no one has all of the answers. There is room for growth in every single individual. So how do we simultaneously hold a worldview tight enough to guide our decisions and loose enough to be open to influence?

Watch for confirmation bias.

Confirmation bias is the tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of our existing beliefs or theories. We’re human, we like to think we are open to being influenced when we are really attempting to confirm what we believe. Unfortunately, as Carl Haefling stated in his blog post, “confirmation bias can be our worst enemy because it allows us to demonize those who are different.”

Identify your assumptions as assumptions.

We tend to err on the side of believing many of our assumptions are really facts. But, if we pause, take step back and really examine our “facts” we might be surprised how much we are really assuming. So, call a spade a spade and identify your assumptions as assumptions.

Balance advocacy and inquiry.

We need to approach conversations with the intention to balance advocating for our position with inquiring through questions. If we are only stating our view, and not asking questions, we are not only limiting our understanding, we are also reflecting our unwillingness to be influenced.

Lead with bold grace and strive to simultaneously hold a worldview tight enough to guide our decisions and loose enough to be open to influence.

As Ralph Marston said, “Let go of your attachment to being right, and suddenly your mind is more open. You’re able to benefit from the unique viewpoints of others, without being crippled by your own judgment.”

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