What Is Influence?

Influence is not something that comes natural in leadership, it’s something that you do. As a leader, if you don’t have influence with people, then you’re a dictator.

Ok, maybe that’s harsh, but it’s pretty much spot on. You see, influence is defined as:

The capacity or power of persons or things to be a compelling force on or produce effects on the actions,behavior, opinions, etc., of others.

The key word in that definition is compelling. Which means to have irresistible qualities. Therefore, in order to influence someone you have to do it in a way that is not resisted. Thus, no influence = dictating.

How do you do that? Very simple. The only way for you to effectively influence someone is in your communication. In other words, your first step as a leader is to understand how communication motivates a person to specific actions.

For me, the most important part of communication is personality styles. It’s not enough for me as a leader, parent, or just a person to think instructing another person on a task, chore, or whatever, is enough to actually cause the person to execute on it with greatness.

How they receive that information is way more important than how you deliver it. So merely telling them isn’t enough. You have to understand that if they are a high detail person, then delivering a portion of the information isn’t enough. Your “influence” will now cause that person to fail.

Instead, focus your leadership on your communication skills by understanding each of your team members personality styles.

  • Dominant – Gives and receives information in sounds bites. Has a tendency to miss out on details and is highly likely to hurt feelings in the process. Has a short window of focus until they move on to the next exciting and shiny object. Excellent at getting things done. Always has a desire to be in leadership.
  • Interactive – Is really focused on people, so they tend to be more focused on conversation and what is going on with you…or them. Needs to have a moment of personal conversation before discussing tasks. Has a tendency to miss details and rarely takes notes. Great at motivating others.
  • Stable – Very concerned about all people around them. Very diplomatic in their process and hard to motivate with change. Confrontation is scarier than snakes and tofu. Usually needs to completely understand the need for the project, as well as if will affect anyone negatively. Extremely loyal and great at looking out for others.
  • Compliant – Favorite things are Excel spread sheets and Google. Mainly because you can learn how to build a rocket in Google, and literally build it in Excel. Must, must, MUST have all the details. Also needs to be allowed to ask questions and share that they don’t completely understand the project. Incredibly precise and accurate when executing.

These are just the absolute tip of understanding communication with others. The next step is to focus your leadership on active listening. You have two ears and one mouth. Use the percentages accordingly.

If you still haven’t had your team take their personality profiles, get it done now! Click here to change your communication.

Question: How have you discovered your communication, or lack there of, affecting your leadership?

Posted in

78 thoughts on “What Is Influence?”

  1. For most of my life I preferred to assume that everyone communicated in the same way I did. I also assumed they were motivated by the same things and in the same way I was and, best of all, they all instinctively understood me. That was awesome…unicorns and lollipops for everyone!

    When I first became a leader tt was a magical time of peace, understanding, and campfires with s’mores and ghost stories.

    Except that it wasn’t. Dang. Apparently not everyone was motivated by money and not everyone reacted to a crisis (like a server crashing) with full panic mode. What I took as apathy was in reality a little known trait called calmness. Creepy, I know.

    Personality styles are a big help. I like to think of them as narrowing down a person’s individuality and quirks to a 25%-ish range. High “DS” types have some general similarities so I have a starting point on communicating with them. Same goes for any personality types, except for the oddball who is even on all four. They should be avoided at all costs, perhaps even shunned and ridiculed.

    But ultimately it comes down to getting to know the person. I’ve found that directly asking them things like “how are you best motivated,” “do you prefer public or private praise,” or “how did you think through that situation just now?” help a ton. The rest just comes from time…and a lot of observation and thinking.

    So my formula:

    Personality styles: 50%
    Direct questions: 25%
    Time: 25%

    The good news I do believe you can get 75% of the way there in less than a month with a person. The bad…wait I mean good for the people who take advantage of it…news is that the 25% (time) is what separates the average leaders from the great leaders.

    1. Matt, the 4 words I took from your comment: unicorns, lollipops, shunned, ridiculed.
      Haha. Not sure if that says something about me… If I’d done a “top 5” s’mores would’ve made it.
      Seriously awesome comment though, seriously! Love that you point out that the profile can narrow it down, but personal interaction is ultimately what is necessary! Thanks as always!

    2. Like the formula a lot!! In our group we’re going to do Strengths Finder to identify work styles and such. I’m trying to pitch DISC also. And I really like your questions on “how do you prefer to…?” Not common in many work environments!

  2. I know that my wife and I communicate in different ways. I think I may get her to take the DISC test to see how we differ, and how I can learn to present information or feelings differently to her, and understand her better too. 10 years of marriage, and we’ve still got lots to learn: more me than her :).

    I think it’s harder in a workplace when you don’t always know the style of another team member, at least not in the organizations I’ve worked in. Any tips on how to try to decipher which style someone fits in when you don’t know them that well?

    1. When I took the DISC I had my wife take it too. It was pretty eye opening for both of us! We realized that the “weird” little things we both did (lists, organization, details, etc) were just our personality styles. Recognizing that changed our communication!

    2. Depending on how big your church is, some of them offer the course as part of the membership enlistment. We had the opportunity to take it together there. It was very enlightening, and very entertaining to see how well we work together amidst different DISC scores.

    3. Erik – I actually have had my team take the DISC assessment. It was an eye-opener for me – you mean, they are different from me?!?

      Also – about spouses…..one of the books I read – and then re-read – was the “Five Love Languages” – I realized I was speaking Spanish and my husband was speaking German -LOL! It was amazing to understand how communication breakdown is the leading cause of divorce. You say one thing – spouse hears something else!

  3. I will start by saying I am an I type with a very high D. I work in an industry dominated by C types some with high S some with high D. For the most part I drive these people crazy.

    For years, I would provide people with the material, the deadline and a general idea of what I wanted the finished product to look like (then I chatted for 10 minutes about the client, the meeting and other things). I knew they were smart and capable and that they could figure out the rest. But I found that my work always went to the bottom of of their list of things of to do. I finally realized that although they were capable of figuring it out, the lack of detail terrified them to the point they avoided the work as long as possible.

    Since slogging through the details was torture to me, I had to find a middle ground. I found that for most of the people I worked with there was a key phase, “What are you going to do first?” If they knew the answer to that question, the project was no longer overwhelming and they could get started.

    I like the DISC testing system but I think that many people take the test over and over and can tell you what their personality type is but can’t tell you what their co-workers are or how the information they have will help them work with others. I think it is often the flaw with how the test is given.

  4. Love the post Chris. “how they receive the info is way more important that how you give it” That really hit me! Reminds me of a post I wrote where I talk about how “perception is reality”. It doesn’t matter what we say if it isn’t perceive the way we intend! It’s so important to think of the other person when communicating if we want any hope of conveying our thoughts effectively and having true influence! Thanks.

    1. Exactly! Your post was great, too, Mark. A former pastor of mine used to always make that statement: “perception is reality.” What people perceive become their reality, and it takes a lot to change that perception.

  5. Chris, my team and I took the DISC profile. We then had a very open conversation about how each of us process information, communicate, and feel. It was great! It has helped our team to be really intentional about how we communicate and delegate projects.

        1. I have taken the DISC, just about two months ago. It was very insightful. I actually took two different versions over at 48 Days.net.

          I definitely realized that I don’t have patience when people don’t understand my point. I also skip details at times when I don’t view those details as important to the overall result. This can drive some people nuts.

          The biggest challenge I have is that I’m surrounded by engineers. They are detail oriented and dislike change. Where I have shiny object syndrome and get frustrated by routine.

          It’s funny though, because I’m aware of all this, it almost makes it worse; only because nobody I’ve spoken to about it has any interest in changing their behaviors.

          This is why I applaud the fact that you, as a leader is willing to approach this subject and not be fearful of the potential criticism.

          1. Bob,

            You have some great insights on this. Good for you for taking the time to really think it though. I think you are heading in the right direction.

            I also struggle with people who don’t like change. Sometimes, it’s me! J I also struggle with people who don’t share my point of view. I say struggle, because I feel like I overcome the challenge most of the time.

            Chris has some great content on here about working with people who have different beliefs and personality types. I’ve also written on my approach at my blog.

            I think it is something that everyone wants to be better at doing. I know you will get there!

  6. Okay, first this: Am I the only one that read the photo a little TOO quickly this morning over coffee and thought the text bubbles were saying “BAH”? Seriously, for a second I was thinking, “How did Chris manage to find a picture like that?”

    Of all the leadership topics out there, none is more fascinating to me than the DISC profile system. I love this stuff. I had taken a leadership Quality Assurance Program for work, and came out a high C, low S.

    When we became members at our church, one of the segments we covered was the DISC (to see where our gifts would be suited within the church) as well. Using COMPLETELY different adjectives in that setting, I still came out a high C, low S, with my skill set pointing to teaching and leading. (Not surprisingly, we led the following FPU class!)

    Funny, no matter what setting it is geared for, if the DISC format remains strictly followed, it is overwhelmingly accurate. I have a 26 page report to prove it (which is so right-on that I wonder if someone had be following me around for years a-la Truman Show)!

    No one should be allowed to begin employment ANYWHERE until taking that test! It is one of the greatest tools for a well-oiled business.

  7. Great post!!! News flash, not everybody thinks like me. Wow! DISC has been a great tool for me to understand how to shift my communication patterns to accommodate other people’s personality styles. (Great marriage tool also, as others have mentioned!). You can set up spreadsheets until you get carpal tunnel syndrome, but if you’re dealing with high Ds, they’ll go nuts!!
    In my own style, I find that I am a high C, followed closely by a high I and a high S. D is my lowest trait, at 11. What I have learned is that it makes me pretty flexible in terms of communicating with multiple personality styles. My husband is perplexed by how the check-out clerk at the store will talk to me and tell me her life story and current issues within 5 minutes.
    I believe that many “relationship” issues at work are really differences in personality styles. One persons’s message is perceived in a very different way by another.
    I remember working with “difficult” people that others avoided and having excellent interaction, great results and smooth work relationships. All I did was take the time to talk to them in a way that was meaningful. This is where my experience as a teacher and a mom has paid off. Not two people are the same, treat them as individuals, get to know them and you will find the secret to leading with influence.

    1. Until Dave/Chris talked about the DISC profile, I’d never heard of it. However, in ’95 a close friend pointed me to the Dr. Keirsey’s book Please Understand Me which is a spin on the Meyers-Briggs formula. Once I read that book, I took on a new hobby of studying temperaments. I’m an INTP which means I’m part of a very small percentage of temperaments that exist in “the wild.” So, growing up, I felt that I was an alien living in a strange world. 😉 I always felt I thought different and something was wrong with me. ( I didn’t know that everyone else was wrong….. ha! )
      With that being said, once I understood how the different temperaments worked, I got a clearer sense of the world around me. I immediately could see how this could be applied in my career. When you know a person’s tendencies, you can then build a relationship with them much easier, because you know their reward system, their weaknesses, strengths, what they value, etc.

      I used to believe this was pandering or manipulation (which I absolutely hate), but I’ve grown to see it as the Golden Rule. I’m treating someone the way I would want to be treated which is using the same value system that I’d want to use.

      I’ve since taken the DISC as well and I have a Creative Pattern which is an extreme D, high C, middle S and have almost a non-existent I. So as you can see, I have to work extremely hard to care about people. The beauty of knowing this about myself means I know what my own weaknesses are and can be very conscious of it.

      This also means that for me to have influence, I have to make sure to know who I’m talking to and make sure that I define the “Why” clearly to those around me so that everyone is on board.

  8. I (still) have not taken the DISC (*ducks to avoid #CLoBlogTribe throwing things*), my assessment from what I’ve read about it and comments through the months leads me to believe that I am probably a high-S, followed by I and C. I could be wrong, but I hope to take it soon to find out!

    My wife historically has been terrible at math (Algebra), and others were not able to help her get it. After we were married, she went back to school for nursing and she was faced with Algebra again. I struggled with helping her for a while, but finally figured out “how she thought”, and then I was able to teach her. She rose to the top of the class, with needing little help during the second half! Figuring out communication styles (and learning styles) goes a long way in helping people excel and to also do it efficiently. If you can communicate well the first time, it takes less time and effort than to repeat yourself and to repeat yourself. (yes, that repetition was intended:)

    1. No worries Josh! I’ve been following for a while now and just recently took my DISC. It was quite revealing, even though I was already aware of several of my personality quirks.

      It doesn’t take very long and it is pretty painless. I still have lots of work to do to take full advantage of everything it laid out. That’s not to mention the almost immediate push back I got from it here at work.

      I think the biggest lesson here, aside from the DISC profile, is having two ears and one mouth. Still working on that one! 😉

      1. I agree – hard to remember the 2 ears 1 mouth part. There is so much information in the DISC profile packet that it is difficult to process it all – but it has helped even on a superficial level with our team. I was surprised at at well it nailed my tendencies. Pretty amazing stuff.

    2. The best part about the DISC profile results is the 26 page report you get about yourself. It suggests that you ask a close friend or colleague if they concur with the report.

      It is really spot on in all cases, and a great tool to look back on periodically. It’s never too late to take the test, Josh.

      1. And I think if you’re willing to sign up for Tony Robbins’ newsletter, he’ll let you take it for free over at his web site. Since Dave offers it at a very reasonable cost, I’ll leave it to you to find the right links to Tony’s version if you wish. I don’t know how the test results compare….

  9. This is something that I am still learning to deal with. I am a dominant type so often I have seen myself get frustrated with people with another style of thinking. I have come a long way, and learning the different communication styles have made a huge difference for me in all of my businesses.

  10. i have long believed that personality styles have a greater impact on our communication, our organizations’ engagement, morale, etc than most leaders want to give it credit for. i remember fighting with this at my last job – all i wanted was for everyone to take an online profile and discuss it at a leadership team meeting so we would all better understand each other, how we communicate, how best to communicate, etc and it was met with so much pushback. i honestly think a personality assessment is something that should be done as part of onboarding once hired. no better way to help a new hire get started on the right foot than for them to know their coworkers want to understand them and help them succeed.

    we just have to watch putting people in a box, b/c i’m a D-I or I-D depending on the day, but have a lot of C in me at times, too.

    when it comes to influence, a former pastor used to say, “Influence is like change in your pocket: the more you use it the less you have.” I have remembered this for years and years and have taught it to people i’m developing. knowing how to communicate only goes so far if you don’t know when to shut up and when to speak. i’ve learned to save my “change” for things that truly matter.

  11. Awesome! So I’ve got a sneaky suspicion if business leaders and coworkers can benefit from taking the DISC, and couples (dating and married) could benefit from taking the DISC, I’m thinking that a Teacher could start knocking things outta the park if they had their students do DISC tests….just thinking out loud here.

    I mean what would happen if your teacher found out how to really reach you – and then did it?

  12. To answer the question “Have I discovered my communication or lack thereof affecting my leadership….” and the answer is YES, YES, YES, I have! It has taken me years to understand that not everyone communicates like me – sending out e-mails in short sentences with not all the information – (you can fill in the blanks) and expecting people to “get it”. Having conversations where I felt I told the whole story in 2 minutes when someone needed me to give them 15 minutes….and I could go on and on! It has helped me to read books on personality differences – and actually STUDY other personality types – so I know how to be a better leader. But it has had to be an intentional move on my part to develop and improve my communication style with my team. And I’m still working on it….!

  13. I’m learning – albeit probably the hard way – that not everyone LOVES excel and that some people are indeed afraid of snakes, both the assimilation to confrontation and the actual reptile. (I know, right?!?!? What the heck?!?!?)
    But practice makes perfect. And, when in doubt, ending sentences in question marks rather than periods is always preferable… right? 😉

  14. Based on those descriptions, I think I tend to be more Dominant. I don’t know if that’s a good thing. Just this morning I was accused of not being a great communicator. This feedback came from a team member who was Compliant oriented. I’ve realized the truth of the statement – Leadership is Influence. It seems a lot like sales, but where your team is your customer. You can use a hammer, but it doesn’t feel good. It’s better when they want to do what you’re asking, because they know you, like you, and trust you. Communication is everything.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.