There has been a lot of talk lately about influence – because of the Fast Company Influence Project and a HubSpot-sponsored program with a similar name. Insights from these projects address how we influence others online and the myriad theories behind how to do it effectively. There is even a contest to see who is actually (a point of contention) the most influential person online today.
As an experienced leader and someone who had been led by others many times in the past please allow me to posit the following:
Isn’t it much more effective and personally rewarding to focus on empowering others rather than trying deliberately to influence them?
I think so. Here are 3 reasons why…
1. Influence is an expression of your power whereas empowerment invokes someone else’s power. Influence is an expression of your ability to accomplish or achieve something through someone else. Perhaps as a marketer you influence someone to buy something. As a leader you influence someone to follow your vision. The benefit of this influence is limited in time and space.
Empowering someone else invokes them to express their power. If you empower someone to become a brand advocate, or to be part of a team that develops the company vision, then the expression of that power is unlimited in time and space.
Why? Because when you genuinely empower someone you allow them to bring the full force of their brilliance and creativity to the table. The end result of this can be infinitely greater than what would have come to be if they’d simply allowed themselves to be influenced by you…
I think about my own experience with the EnVision Recycling Program that I shared with you. Our team created a program infinitely more valuable to our company because we were empowered to think big. If we had been influenced by the C-Suite to follow a particular path we would not have been nearly as successful.
2. Being empowered is an invitation to allow your passion to exude – being influenced is not. We all know we work harder and more purposefully when we’re passionate about something. What’s the impact of this?
I had the sincere honor of being invited to attend last week’s Brains On Fire FIRE Sessions down in Greenville, SC, where the topic of passion was freely discussed. (After all, FIRE and passion go together beautifully, which is one reason the Brains On Fire movement is so vastly inspiring).
As Geno Church shared - as chronicled here by Mack Collier - when teens who were passionate about stopping teen smoking realized they were empowered to do something about it through the Rage Against the Haze movement, they took ownership of the movement. Not only did this ownership provide the will to make a significant impact on the rate of teen smoking, for many of the teens this empowerment and ownership changed their life.
To put an exclamation point on this, Geno stated that when looking for teens to be part of the movement they looked for teens with passion rather than influence – because influence could be made but passion can’t.
Cultivating empowered owners of a movement – whose passion was allowed to exude and to propel them – was vastly more impactful than trying to influence with advertising or standard marketing models.
3. According to Steve Knox, CEO of Proctor and Gamble’s WOM Unit Tremor (who presented at the FIRE Sessions), they have not been able – with 10 years of research – to find any proof that influentials exist.
Rather, what they’ve found is that for those who have a seemingly higher rate of conversion (getting others to do something/buy something) the reality is that they talk to more people. These so-called “influentials” are actually “connectors” - people with wide and deep social networks. When you factor in that they talk to more people you discover that they have the very same rate of conversion as others! He termed these folks “Trend Spreaders” - rather than “Trend Setters.”
So, if you have customers that fit into this “connectors” category, wouldn’t it be more impactful to empower these people to become brand advocates rather than trying to simply influence them? After all, advocates will exude that passion discussed earlier, they will then win the hearts and minds of other customers, and as Steve said – chronicled in this post on trusted advocacy by Mack Collier…”advocates beget advocates.”
Just think of the power you’d be harnessing…!
What do you think? Do these reasons resonate with you – and are there other reasons to empower rather than influence? Let’s chat about it in the comments…
Photo is “Empowered” by Search Engine People Blog