You Are More Influential Than You Realize: Take An Influence Inventory

As many of you know, I’m writing a book on influence, specifically on ways we make or break our influence in other’s lives. Personal edits are almost done, and then it’s off to a professional editor. More on that soon!

Public Domain PC: Free Pixabay Images

But the truth is, many people minimize their influence, not realizing how many people or groups they influence (or have the potential to influence). It’s hard to consider ways we might be hurting or helping others if we tend to minimize our connections.

For those of us who think, “I don’t really have a lot of influence,” I’ve got an exercise for you: take an influence inventory. And for those of you who know you have more connections, taking an influence inventory is a powerful way of remembering your responsibility and growing your intentionality.

Take an Influence Inventory

Public Domain PC: Free Pixabay Images

First, start in close. Who are your primary relationships? Family, close friends, people you’ve worked with for awhile–these are the ones who come to mind first.

Move out from there. Who do you see less frequently? This could be a neighbour that you only chat with over the fence once in a while, or a person you rarely meet–but you do have connections of some kind.

Next, what groups are you part of? There’s the ones that you regularly see, such as at church or a hobby group.  These are societies or sports teams or service groups, addiction support groups and small groups of various kinds. And don’t forget your online forums, which, for some of you, are places you have significant voice.

Within those groups, consider the nature of your participation. Are you in leadership? Do you have a role within that group? Are you considered knowledgeable? Are you trusted? Are you able to be heard and to suggest changes? Are you a donor? A mover-shaker?

And then think of those who watch you from some distance. Nephews, nieces, kids of friends, community members at large, clerks at stores you frequent, servers at restaurants, customers–some of whom you may not be fully aware.

Don’t forget to include people that you’ve struggled with. A strained relationship at work or in the neighbourhood, someone you’ve not seen eye to eye with online or in conversation. You have more influence than you can imagine in those relationships because of how you can choose to go forward in your relationship with them.

Think of non-human relationships in which you have influence: the soil around your house, the air you breathe, the local watersheds, as well as the animals, birds and pollinators who live near you.

What about potentialities? Consider local initiatives you could support, artists you could encourage, youth you could mentor, events you could sponsor and people you could love.

I’m guessing that by now, you’ve got quite a list. Even those of you who thought you had little influence have probably amassed a sizeable inventory.

And what about your Heavenly Father, the one who made you and dwells in you by the Holy Spirit? For the Father is responsive to us, and has asked us to come to him, to express our concerns, to ask him for what we need. Surely, in some mysterious way, you have influence upon him?

Now step back: How big is your list? Are you stunned by the size of your inventory? Who did you miss? What surprised you? What other categories and relationships came to mind that I didn’t suggest?

Reality check: We all have influence–some more, some less, but everyone’s got it. We all have the ability to help others grow, or to hinder people from growing, either actively or passively. And the first step toward better influence is acknowledging who is within our sphere of influence.

Consider your list. I’m guessing there’s quite a few names on it. It might even be a bit overwhelming. To make it actionable, identify just a few of those relationships to give more focused attention. Make sure to include both the obvious relationships, as well as potential relationships and difficult ones, too. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you to a relationship that you have been avoiding, in which you really could have good influence. Maybe circle 3-5 relationships in which you will invest time and energy over the next months.

And then pray for how God might move you to increase your influence. It could start as simply as an email or phone call. Perhaps it will mean hanging out a little longer after church or when you drop your kids off at the bus. Maybe it will require something more intentional, like asking a youth out for a coffee or signing up to serve in a ministry or service group. Let the Spirit guide you on that, but do choose to lean into a few of these relationships with more intentionality.

For those who were already aware of their influence, and perhaps a bit overwhelmed by it, what were the relationships that surprised you as you brainstormed your inventory? I know I found a few. Someone you’ve neglected. An area you’ve not been thinking about. It could be that God is using this exercise to recall someone or something to your attention, and you can now give it more of your influence and leadership.

We all have influence. Clarifying who is getting it (and who can get more) helps us become more intentional and specific about the nature of our influence, which is the first step in our reflection on all the ways we can make, or break, the influence we have in other’s lives.

 

Your integrity is more about your direction than your perfection.

Our ability to influence others is directly proportional to the integrity of our lives.

Without personal integrity, people feel cheated and cynical, for you have said one thing, but done another. The charge of hypocrisy is then justified, from our homerooms to our boardrooms, to our families, businesses, churches, and communities, short-circuiting influence and diminishing what could have been so great.

Integrity is critical to influence.

But integrity does not mean perfection. Having integrity does not mean we never mess up, that we never fall short.  In fact, unless you are talking about something mechanical or structural (in which case I’m kind of hoping that the integrity a bridge or a jet means something close to perfection!), then integrity signals more of our direction than our perfection. When we buy the idea that integrity means perfection, we increase our chances of hurting our influence, for who among us is perfect?

Instead, personal integrity means being honest about where we are at with respect to our higher ideals or goals. We state where we are failing, where we are growing, and where we need help. Integrity means that we don’t hold up a false front suggesting we are more than we say we are, or even that we are more than we are hoping we are! No, integrity comes when we are transparent and honest, authentic with who we are and deliberate about ways we need to grow. And more than that, when we model integrity as direction and not perfection, we are able to invite others to become more honest and open about their growth and their struggles, which will help us all learn and grow together.

So how do we do this? First, by being more honest with ourselves about where we are actually at–naming our failures and reflecting on our steps, humbly and with candor. And then, in ways that are appropriate, opening up to others about how we are growing and failing, reaching but also falling back.

I believe that the more authentic we are about our own attempts to live lives worthy of God’s high call, including our losses and missteps, the more integrity we will have. And the more integrity we have, the influence we will have. And with more influence we have, the more transformation we will experience together, as we come, step by misstep, through surges forward and wanderings throughout, toward all that God has for us.

 

Are you killing your influence in 1 of these 5 ways?

Everyone wants influence.

You don’t think so? Go with me for a moment. Whether it is influence in a child’s life, influence in an organization we joined, influence over your own health, influence on an issue of grave concern, or just influence in your conversation with a customer service agent, we all want influence. We want to be able to move something from where it is to where it should be–spiritually, relationally, culturally, politically, organizationally, or physically.

And yet, we can do things that minimize or even kill our influence. Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about things we do or say, attitudes we foster, or postures we take which makes us less able to move something we deem important from where it is to where we think it should be.

We can kill our influence.

The polarizing, political conflicts of late evidence our diminishing powers of influence, but I could just as easily refer to ways we lessen our influence in the lives of our youth, the spiritual journey of our friends, and even our own personal growth.

Here are 5 ways we kill our influence.

  1. We don’t slow down to let people catch up. Sometimes we get so excited about a good idea that we fail to help people process and move along at the pace appropriate to them. How many parents have been frustrated with the slowness of a child’s development and given up trying? Patience!
  2. We are more concerned about getting our own point across than we are hearing where others are struggling. Someone is conflicted over an idea, or reacting because of the inherent personal implications, but instead of teasing out their questions, we get preachy and overbearing. Without empathy, influence wanes. Listen!
  3. We get defensive when people question our actions or ideas, becoming reactive instead of helpful. Because polarized argument has hit the mainstream in a profound way, we seem less willing to engage disagreements at the level of ideas–we feel attacked and return the favour with force. Peace!
  4. We consider certain people unworthy of our respect, reducing them to mocking derision. So much of this is happening, I don’t even know where to start. People who boldly claim to follow Jesus Christ will say the nastiest things about others, bringing shame on their Saviour (Here’s a related post on Christians behaving badly online). The lack of respect and the degrading of dignity means we’ve already lost our influence (as well as our own dignity). Battle lines get drawn, wars ensue, and nobody moves. Respect!
  5. We lack the humility needed to influence others, exuding instead an ultra-confidence (which we may not even have!) that our position or thought or perspective is the only right one possible.  Is it? Really? You’ve got it all figure out and don’t have anything left to learn from others, even those you may disagree with? Humility.

So how are you killing your influence?

We all want to move ideas and people toward something better, but we can kill our influence if we won’t wait and listen, calmly and with respect, knowing that we are also growing and learning, along with everyone else.