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"Peer pressure has many redeeming qualities. It is the pressure of our peers, after all, that gives us the support to try things we otherwise wouldn't have." - Bill Treasurer

This article is Part Two of a three-part series on exerting leadership influence.

We've addressed the importance of connecting change to someone's personal values. There is another important aspect of influencing change, and that is the social sphere. Most people aren't trendsetters. They don't want to be the only one in the group doing something different or new. Instead, they look to their peers to see if they are doing it also.

But you've got to start somewhere. You need someone to step up and be a trendsetter and help impart the social aspect of influence, and you may need to rely on others to help you connect change back to the all important question, "What's in it for me?"

Harness Peer Pressure

We teach our kids to stand up to peer pressure, but how good are adults at forging our own path? Did you know that 85% of people will not embrace new practices until an opinion leader adopts it? We naturally tend to go with the flow, and when you want to influence people, you can use this inherent social nature to your advantage. Opinion leaders are well-respected and connected, and they are naturally more open to new ideas. Identify the opinion leaders you want to connect with and:

  • Spend disproportionate amounts of time with them
  • Listen to their concerns
  • Build trust with them
  • Be open to their ideas
  • Rely on them to share your ideas

By ensuring opinion leaders hear your thoughts and buy into new behaviors, practices, and processes, you have a much better chance of influencing the rest of the group.

Find Strength in Numbers

No battle was ever won by a single soldier. Success comes when you harness the power of a team. Similarly, influence is achieved when you understand there is real strength in numbers. Individuals have strengths and weaknesses. In a group, the various individual strengths can make up for other people's weaknesses. You see it on your team, and you can use this concept to help you achieve influence, as well.

It may mean calling on someone else to help. For example, you can't teach a team how to master a new software program if you've never used it yourself. So instead of trying to train the group, you rely on an expert trainer from your vendor to work with the team. Going a step further, you might solicit someone who has enacted the software to come and speak to the group about the ways in which the program has improved their jobs, their daily efficiencies, etc. Remember, change is all about showing others what's in it for them. If you need to call on others to help you make that point, don't hesitate.

The Power of Networks

We often think of our network as a means for supporting us and propelling us through our career. But your network is stronger than that. Tapping into your network can help you achieve influence on others, and connecting with opinion leaders can help you spread your message to the masses.


Larry Hart

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