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The Power of Influence

By Greg Kozera - | Oct 5, 2021

This week’s leadership lesson with my high school soccer players is influence. We have taught leadership to our boys for over 20 years. The Captains get additional training. Since we began teaching leadership our teams have won 16 Regional and 5 State Championships. Most important is success our players achieve in life after soccer. My wife’s heart doctor is a former player and part of the first team to get leadership lessons.

In high school soccer, 2- 40-minute halves are played. The are no time outs or stoppages except for injury. The field is wider and slightly longer than a football field. The coach has limited ability to send in plays or instructions. Because of the speed of play, the players must make decisions. The team captains are essential. If something happens, they can get the team refocused and make corrections. Our captains start the season as boys. It is exciting to watch them become young men and strong confident leaders.

The leadership expert John Maxwell defines leadership as the ability to influence and develop people regardless of an individual’s title or position. We manage things. We lead people. Over the years in corporate America I worked for many effective managers who could handle processes, equipment and other “things”, but few leaders. Working with people was a challenge for many. They resorted to commanding, being “the boss” or using management by memo instead of looking people in the eye and helping them change their behavior. Influence is about affecting the development or behavior of someone.

When I was promoted to an assist manager, my predecessor was promoted and being transferred. He closed the office door and said, “Here is one of your most important tools as a manager.” He produced a small black book with each employee’s name on a page. “When you catch or hear about someone doing something wrong like late to work, not wearing their PPE or any number of other offences you write it down in the book.” I questioned, “Then you talk to them about it?” The man was horrified. “No, you never talk to them! They don’t know about this book or what is in it.” I learned after he left, everyone knew about the book and was paranoid about what might be in it about them. Getting rid of the “black book” was one of my first management decisions. The second was showing the employees it was gone.

I chose to work with people face to face and develop them. As I learned to influence people rather than command or scare them into compliance our results improved in all areas. Moral was higher. So were profits. People made better choices. Wearing PPE was a choice made to come home safely to their families. Not because of a rule. Our facility began to win safety awards. Influence is powerful.

How can we become influential leaders rather than managers or commanders? Here are some thoughts to consider. They can be applied in business, sports and to world problems;

∫ Have a big dream. Have a vision of the future. Tell your people. People want to be part of success. They are attracted to successful leaders with a dream.

∫ Have the skills, develop the skills and find people who can help you achieve your dream. Build an effective team. Become an effective communicator.

∫ Be a person of integrity. Be someone who is honest and can be trusted to do what is right. Be someone who does what you say you will do.

∫ Treat everyone with dignity and respect. Care about people. Use the words please and thank you frequently. Appreciation is powerful.

∫ Criticize sparingly. Praise frequently. For praise to be effective it must be sincere, specific and for an action people have control over. People repeat praised actions.

∫ Smile. Keep a positive attitude. Believe in your people and believe you can achieve your dreams.

∫ Lead by example. Show people the way. Don’t just tell them. People are more influenced by what you do rather than what you say. Be a person of action.

∫ Have passion for your dreams and the success of your people.

∫ Think win/win. If we expect to win and succeed we must first help others to win and succeed.

∫ You will make mistakes. Admit them. Apologize and move forward.

∫ Be courageous. Take calculated risks. Make the tough decisions. Overcome fear with action. Remember your people are always watching you.

Could the lack of success on the global issue of climate change be due to a lack of influential leadership? In proposed solutions do we hear about people or things? Do people in leadership positions do what they ask others to do? Do they fly to conferences in private jets built and fueled by fossil fuels? Do they have multiple homes with large carbon footprints? Do they rely on the weather dependent energy sources they promote? Will energy rationing impact them?

At a virtual conference, European countries were focused on reducing carbon footprint from farms. They failed to look at the impact on food availability and prices. They never thought about it until I asked a question. The effect on people needs to be part of every proposed climate solution. In Virginia public documents show the cost of an offshore wind project will add over $800 annually to people’s electric bills. The public including my adult grandson in Virginia have no idea. Why the “black book” type secrecy? This shows a lack of courage, integrity and leadership.

Influential leaders understand the importance of considering the impact of people in their decision making. Like in business or my soccer team, influential leadership can solve the climate issue. People can have affordable dependable energy and a clean environment with creative, collaborative, modern solutions, instead of “bosses” imposing old failed ideas. In Shale Crescent USA, success happens because influential leaders work together focused on a common goal. It is time for solutions that work and consider the impact on people. All things are possible.