Management and the art of influence

Management definition is dealing with or controlling things or people. The definition of Controlling is the power to influence or direct people’s behavior or the course of events. Therefore, “dealing with things and influence people’s behavior or the course of events” can be a good definition of management. Following this definition, management is extremely hard because people and events are unexpected and disordered, two of the main characteristics of chaos and complex systems.

If you tried to understand how water change to gas and from gas to fluid again, you know about the complexity and chaotic nature of those transformations. It’s fascinating how on top of chaos and complexity people believe that they can influence other people and event, or maybe influencing people and events are not applicable in practice?

There are two main approaches to influencing people’s behavior and course of events (management):
1 – Use fear for people and believe and effort to influence the course of events
2 – Inspire people, create events and respond to events while accepting minimal influence on them.

What’s right or wrong? None! Some combination of those two approaches. Always keep in mind that the right combination will change per group of people and per situation. Always adjust your management approach.

Management is also controlling things. I’m not touching controlling things, as this is a relatively much easier topic. Not everyone excels in controlling things, but things are expected and ordered. 

The history of organization and management is rich with examples of using fear influencing people. Nothing changed with this tactic. your boss (as kind and awesome as he is) still controls your current income (and health insurance in the state), an implicit fear system that controls most of us. Most of the working places still use an explicit fear system backed by word and tones to make sure everyone understand the risk of not complying with the control function (management). This system is successful in enabling the few to “influence” many others. But is this system helps companies to survive and thrive for years? No! To survive and thrive, organizations need people to be creative, innovative, to take initiative, to feel and act like owners. There is no way to achieve those behaviors with fear! 

You can look for other excuses and reasons all day long why a company struggle, but it won’t help. To succeed in today’s world, you need to get rid of all implicit and explicit fear. Inspiration should be a way to influence people.

Business strategies (long and short term) are the best example of trying to influence the course of events, one element of management definition.

Strategies start with defining where a company wants to be, what needs to be done to reach the desired target and creating a list of actions (projects) that, if implemented, will generate a certain course of events to the benefit of a company. Good in theory. In reality, your actions are a drop of water in the ocean of other players in the market. And don’t forget that the forces of nature have a major impact on the ocean. How few drops of water influence an ocean? It’s just an illusion!

You might influence events in a closed system where all the parts have expected behavior, such as the engine of a car. Influencing the course of events in an open system that each part of the system acts independently and unexpectedly is not an option. Good luck to the brave ones that want to prove the world that it can influence an open system. 

Even if a company will implement 100% of the roadmap, small odds that you’ll reach what you planned when you set up the roadmap 3 years ago. 60- 90% of strategies fail. There are common reasons that most people believe that cause strategies failure:

  • Starting too early
  • Including the wrong people
  • Not including the right people
  • A lack of specificity
  • A lack of honesty
  • Not taking advantage of core competencies
  • Resistance to change
  • Lack of rigor
  • Unrealistic goals
  • Lack of accountability

(The list is from this article –

Our worldview and mental model that we can control the world make us blind. You can address all the reasons in the above article, yet you’ll reach the same percentage of success. Why? We as humans have very limited ability to influence other people and no ability to influence the course of events. If 10% can do it, it calls luck.

What to do? Act, observe and continuously respond (never react). The basic principle of the agile movement. Try to generate actions you believe will create an influence on events that will serve you. Observe to see the impact of your action (if there will be an impact at all). Based on the observation results, adjust your next actions. In parallel, pay attention to other people’s events that can impact you. Monitor them and create a group of people that can respond to those events, not react to them.  

The paradox is that we can’t influence the system, but any change in the system impacts us. Therefore, expecting to change the system will end up with an event that will find us unprepared, the perfect recipe for failure. If you want to prevent this failure, I suggest focussing on being ready to respond to unplanned events rather than reacting without thinking when they are coming. 

How? Create a team that is self-managed and self-organized and train him all the time to deal with unexpected events. The self-managed team will respond asking no permission to the response will be effective, the self-managed team will work in synchronization to mediate the event, without impacting each other. Trained teams accustomed to unplanned events and therefore will respond to them and not get into panic and react.

It’s OK to have a long-term plan (I have one on how to turn Galaxies into a major player in the business world). Make sure you are using this plan a compass and act, observe and respond as the guiding principles to move forward and create an agile strategy.

Everyone knows how to create fear, few know how to inspire. To inspire someone you need to increase his energy level and excitement on a certain goal. Once people are excited about a goal (high energy and excitement), they will think and do anything that needed to reach the goal. To increase someone’s energy level, an influencer MUST have a high level of energy dedicated to the same goal.

Energy can’t create from nothing; it’s moving from one person to another. Increasing other people’s energy is a process that requires authenticity. People know very well if you are really excited about what you are talking, or you just try to manipulate. Influencing required the influencer to be authentic and have his own energy level high, very high, enough to transform part of it to others and still stay with a high level of energy. An unnecessary requirement with the fear tactic. 

Not everyone is really excited and have a high level of energy about certain areas that need some attention at work, just those that have the passion and the energy on a certain topic can influence other people. Everyone can influence other people, just on different topics. Acknowledge this and collaborate with people that have the passion and energy in areas you are missing.

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