Anywhere you turn you’ll find influence in action, but for all the horrible things we can be talked into, people can also use influence to achieve fantastic results in business and career.

Bad and good influence in business and career decisions

Anywhere you turn you’ll find influence in action: fast talking stockbroker persuades a couple near retirement to sink their entire life savings into a Ponzi scheme, a CEO pressures an accounting officer to falsify financial statements, a terrorist cell recruits a frustrated youth and convinces him to strap explosives to his chest, but for all the horrible things we can be talked into, people can also use influence to achieve fantastic results. So, it’s your business, your career and your life. Anything can be influenced.

Think of the firefighter who talks a depressed man out of jumping or the dynamic teacher who inspires her struggling student to stay in school. And then, there are the truly great triumphs of influence: consider the remarkable story of Nelson Mandela chronicled in numerous books and movies. How can one person use his powers of persuasion to prevent an all out civil war? Nelson Mandela showed us how. And this works for an entrepreneur, even if the quick shift of focus is forced on purpose.

In this article  and the next one we are going to look at the factors that contribute to success stories like Mandela’s. We’re going to explore how some people harness the power of influence to achieve worthwhile goals at home at work and in their social lives, but we’re also going to analyze the cautionary tales we should never forget, that influence can be used against us, that we can be swayed to buy things we don’t need and pressured to perform actions we really shouldn’t.

Are we always selling something, even if it’s just an idea?

So, in addition to developing your influence skills as an entrepreneur, one important goal of this article and the ones that will follow is to give you information that will help you resist outside influence when it’s in your best interest to do so. Because, let’s face it, influence is pervasive in our daily lives, in our business and in our career. In fact, research psychologist Kevin Dutton makes the claim that we are subjected to influence attempts somewhere near 400 times a day. 400.

Business author Daniel Pink suggests in his latest book that we are always selling something even if it’s just an idea. Now that might seem overstated, but think back over yesterday how many conversations did you have were someone suggested a course of action to you. Why don’t we eat there tonight? Or, hey, let’s remodel the master bath? Or, I’d like to get a second dog?

Then there’s the steady bombardment of advertising and marketing conducted with or without success. If you count all those pop-up ads that assail you whenever you browse the web these days than 400 influence attempts might actually seem too low.  It’s there, and it’s part of life and of many business models that you might want to use as an entrepreneur.

Not every business or career influence attempt succeeds

And what about politics? It’s not only businesses that try to influence.We have candidates trying to convince us that they are qualified to be president of the United States for what seems like two full years leading up to the primaries. Like it or not, it seems that someone is always trying to persuade us to do something. And they use career influencers for this.

Of course not every attempted influence succeeds. Some of those campaigns, for example speeches, advertisements, endorsements and rallies some of them really excite people and win votes, but others fall completely flat. It happens in business and career also. Why is that? We were going to spend a lot of time in the next articles examining the mechanisms that contribute to the success or failure of persuasion.

But first let’s take a moment to pin down what I mean by success and failure in first place. If I’m trying to convince you to do something what are the possible outcomes of my effort? Ask any business and management scholar that question and shall probably identify three possible outcomes: conflict, compliance or commitment, the three C’s.

Conflict, compliance or commitment, the three C’s of business and career influencing

If you’ve raised the child through adolescence and been told you are not the boss of me, then you have encountered conflict. Conflict is when the target of your influence resist sure ideas and even fights against you, it is in fact failure of influence. Successful business and career influence on the other hand results in one of the other two outcomes: compliance or commitment. In our day-to-day interactions we often strive for commitment, but will settle for compliance.

Commitment means that people will buy in completely and internalize what they’re being convinced to believe. With our own children I want them to clean their rooms and help with the dishes and would prefer that they commit to it, that they do so cheerfully of their own free will, but as we work toward that goal we will settle for compliance: when we ask, they do it.

Many managers we work with feel the same way about their employees when it comes to customer service, job safety and other desired work and business behaviors. Commitment is the ultimate goal for any business and career influencer, but compliance at least, means that the employees or the potential customers, to be honest, are doing what they’re proposed, when they are proposed.