Influence: machiavellian or competitive advantage?

Technological disruption is driving a wave of change so great that the World Economic Forum has termed it the fourth industrial revolution.

shutterstock_143406370It is predicted that this change will blur the lines between the physical, digital and biological spheres, and fundamentally change the way we live and work.

It’s not surprising that companies, both big and small, are on a drive to respond to this – across all sectors of their business.

But these advances in technology are creating a working environment that is more, not less complex.

At work you are expected to deliver more results, in a faster timeframe and with less resources. The end result is a working environment that is more complex and bureaucratic. There are endless meetings, countless stakeholders to consult and shifting goal posts. This creates the inevitable sense of busy-ness, often with little progress to show.

Why? Because it’s hard to get things done. It’s hard to make change happen. It’s hard to navigate the complexity

The antidote to this dilemma – attaining the competitive advantage of being able to influence.

This is not self-serving, Machiavellian inspired influence. Rather it’s focused on ensuring balanced outcomes, considering the needs of all stakeholders.

To do that, you need the optimal mix of technical and behavioural skills. Being technically brilliant is one thing, but it’s not the foundation on which to build a platform for influence.

Successful professionals know how to influence. They know how to get things done through other people and are aware of the environment in which they are operating. They know how to use their personal power to secure outcomes enabling them to cut through the noise, get traction and make change happen. This creates a competitive advantage in the workplace.

In contrast, those who can’t influence find themselves exiled from the organisation’s decision makers. They become ‘out of the loop’ on issues that matter. Uninvolved in critical decisions.  Their voice goes unheard.

All of which makes it harder for them to get things done.  And professionals who can’t deliver results, don’t progress.

Take the time to consider where you lie on the spectrum of influence.  Ask yourself:

  • Do I have high or low influence?
  • How does this differ depending on the context or environment in which I am operating?
  • How does this impact my ability to make progress?
  • What am I willing to do about this?

Being influential isn’t a trait acquired from birth.  It’s a skill that can be learned. When it is applied to achieve good outcomes, it plays an important part in creating healthy, sustained progress.


Michelle Gibbings is the author of Step Up: How to build your influence at work.  She is known for making the complex, simple.  She helps people to think more deliberately, act with greater purpose and accelerate progress by understanding the art and science of human behaviour.  


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