Influence determines the effectiveness of work within an organisation. Because the essence of influence is to distract everyone from the fact that we influencers are not producing anything, in particular, we need to communicate a lot to sell nothing outwards. And that requires a lot of conversations, mostly with people who are being held up in the middle of their useful work because of it. During the pandemic, work efficiency increased in many organisations just by isolating influencers from their colleagues. And this is certainly a warning sign for the future!
In any number of organisational development projects we look at, we will always find an influencing or even manipulative colleague, and I can tell you that this is always one of the biggest points of conflict between the still distrustful client and the consultant. In multinational companies, in larger organisations, there can be a considerable number of influencing people, and the only reason why their numbers do not increase beyond a certain level is because they start attacking each other after a while. After all, if the influencing colleague does not use their influence on the market – and unfortunately, this is the case a majority of the time– they usually spend their working hours shaping the opinion of those around them. He or she makes a serious effort to be seen as a hero at work. They are the one who is always at work, constantly typing away on their laptop, and the more clueless colleagues eat this charade up with a spoon. In most cases, they also have serious problems with their personal lives, so they can devote a considerable amount of time to pretend work. And let’s face it, who would think that a colleague who spends 12 hours or more a day in the office is not working? Now, I could say no one, but for a good HR professional, or a true organisational developer, this should be a clear warning sign. Unless the HR colleague themself is an influencer. Because then it is obviously in your interest to make room for this theatre. But why even bother about whether or not there is an influencing colleague within the company? On the one hand, it’s not fair, because it leads to a situation where you’re leading the people in the organisation. It creates a pattern within the company that should in no way be followed. And certain personality types are in follow mode, and even if unconsciously, the expectation is that a lot of work is done without any real tangible results – because in the case of influencers, the results, and therefore obviously the control of the results, are missing – then the organisation is in serious trouble.
The influence channel
Influencing is also about human contact, about conversation, which is also about taking up other people’s time with useless communication. Whichever way you look at it, not recognising an influencer within an organisation, not managing them, clearly causes demonstrable losses for the company and can shift team performance significantly in a negative direction. The perfect proof of this, by the way, is the work efficiency figures for the home office forced by the pandemic. As much as business leaders feared what would happen if members of the organisation did their work without physical control, they were surprised by the final result. Not for everyone, of course, and interestingly it was those companies that boasted increasing efficiency figures that really shouldn’t have. After all, if the workplace conditions and the people in charge are right, then colleagues should be able to work better in office conditions. However, one of the most important factors in this area was the elimination of influence, which happened automatically because people of this type had no room for it, since they could not physically interact with their colleagues. They could not show work visibly, and they could not hold others up in the middle of their work. In most cases, it was the “isolation” of influencing colleagues that caused the growth of companies that were growing in efficiency under the home office. Of course, this also means that they were previously both unidentifiable in the organisation and unmanageable. And this is certainly a challenge to think about for the future!