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  • Doing favors builds a sense of obligation so that a request from you has a greater likelihood of success.In other words, it increases your influence with that person.Scott worked in the regional office of a major agribusiness.An agronomist, he studied the effects of various chemicals on crop production.The following week Meade was flying out to Scott’s location.Although she was there on other business, she wanted to learn more about the company’s chemical suppliers, all located near Scott.Scott’s schedule for that week was brutal but he replied that he’d meet with Holly and see what he could do.After thinking about this for a while, Scott realized that this was an opportunity to educate someone at headquarters about their local suppliers.It might not directly affect his work but it might be good for Meade, and perhaps for the company.It also really would not take much of his time.With a few phone calls, Scott arranged a tour of local suppliers.When Holly arrived, Scott gave her an overview of local suppliers and then had Brittany, one of his direct reports, accompany Meade on the tour.Later Scott met Holly and Brittany for dinner and talked with them about their day.Scott’s efforts to assist Meade had not been very time consuming, but the benefits to Meade were great.Meade was very appreciative.That was the last time Scott met or talked with Meade for two years.Two years later, Scott was promoted to chief agronomist and relocated to corporate headquarters.Meade immediately recognized Scott and thanked him again for that day two years ago and told him how immensely helpful it had been.You never know when a favor will be returned.People seen as experts have more influence, usually proportional to the perceived value of their expertise.Being known for your expertise builds personal power.3 If you are recognized as having expert knowledge, skills, or abilities, then that expertise can open doors and provide opportunities.Anyone and everyone can be an expert in different ways and to different degrees.In the workplace being an expert really can be as simple as knowing your job better than anybody else does.Kayla processed medical claims.But she did more than just process the claims.She studied the forms, the procedures, the guidelines, and the software.She was naturally curious and just wanted to understand her job.As a result, Kayla’s understanding of her job was superior to that of other processors.Coworkers turned to her when there were questions.When a change in procedure was proposed from higher ups, Kayla’s supervisor always got her opinion.When Kayla’s supervisor changed jobs, Kayla was offered the supervisor position.Think about the people you know and their areas of expertise.We all have our talents, although sometimes we have yet to discover them!Who do you turn to when you have a question in the workplace?A question about a computer?People who are sought out for their opinions, people who are recognized for their expertise have influence.Some bricklayers are better than others.Some carpenters are better than others.Some accountants are better than others, as are some salespeople and some managers, and so on.My dad was a bulldozer operator.He could make that dozer dance and lay a grade right on the money.I can remember a representative of a major construction company in our modest home offering my dad great pay and other benefits to take a position and relocate, which he declined.I can remember my dad leaving in the morning at 6 a.m.He would be flown to a job site many miles away, where he’d work all day and then be flown home to sleep in his own bed.Then he would do it all again the next day.Sometimes others perceive us as having expertise that we might not have recognized ourselves.During a hot time in the Cold War, key Air Force commanders and senior officers in Europe met to resolve an immediate crisis.The conference room was full of generals and colonels who discussed the situation, what happened, how it happened, and the options to deal with the situation.At some point in the deliberations my commander invited me, a junior officer, into the room.Ballard, for your info, you’re here because I know you can write, the commander stated.The senior officials debated until early evening, hammering out their proposed recommendations for the Air Force Chief of Staff at the Pentagon.Then they adjourned.At this point my commander gave me the rough draft of the memorandum containing the recommendations.Our office is responsible for getting this in final form for the Air Staff.Ballard, I know this thing is a mess.You heard what we are trying to do.Clean this up, rewrite as you need to, and have this on my desk by 6 a.m.And I did.That experience also made other jobs a tad easier.Haven’t I seen you somewhere.Oh, yeah, that meeting.So what can I do for you today? Being seen as having some expertise builds credibility.Kanter has suggested that credibility equals competence plus power.4 People who are credible know their stuff and also know how to get results.Part of knowing your stuff is staying current on the latest information which might affect your work.People vary in the degree to which they seek information.People who have information or know how to find information build power.How well do you stay up to date on trends in your business?Are you a member of professional associations?The more a person sees things they have in common with another person, the more that person is likely to help the other.We are more likely to help or respond to a request from someone with whom we share interests and experiences.5 If you like people and find them interesting, the fostering or finding similarities probably comes naturally to you.If you are not terribly interested in others, then finding commonalities might be more difficult.You could find that you enjoy others who obviously share your interests, but you might easily dismiss others who on the surface do not appear to share your interests.With a little effort you might find commonalities with most people.We need other people.Few of us could retreat into the mountains and live as a hermit.In our deepest core we want to be accepted by others, liked by others.Abraham Maslow suggested that we all have a need to love and be loved.We want to be accepted but we do not want to risk rejection.We each find different ways to play out this scenario in our lives.Some people take the risks, others build facades.Some people simply avoid interactions as much as possible.In the workplace we cannot avoid interactions.Because it is in these brief social interactions that we find and foster similarities with coworkers.As we interact with others in different situations, we use behavioral, social, and verbal scripts that we have learned along the way.Think about what we do when meeting a person for the first time.Dustin and Corey worked on the same floor in the same company.Dustin had been in his position only a few months and he and Corey did not interact except on business.Dustin sometimes had to coordinate contracts with Corey.Corey had to look over the contracts and be sure everything was consistent with budgetary guidance.Realizing that Corey was fairly new to his job, Dustin explained the need for a faster review, but it did not make any difference.Corey’s reviews were starting to become a bottleneck and a problem for Dustin.He decided that, if things did not improve very soon, he would have to take the matter to Corey’s boss.But luck intervened.It was a Saturday afternoon.Dustin volunteered as an assistant scoutmaster in a local Boy Scout troop.This was the weekend of the big camporee when all the local Boy Scout troops camped together and competed in tent raising, rope tying, fire starting, and other scouting activities.As Dustin watched members of his scout troop struggling to start a fire without matches, he heard a familiar voice.Dustin, good to see you.I didn’t know you were in scouting.There beside him stood Corey, also in an assistant scoutmaster uniform.Corey and Dustin exchanged the scouting handshake and then shared tales and stories of their scouting experiences and adventures.They had very much in common.The next week Dustin took Corey a contract for review.Dustin, great to see you.I’ll review this later today and have it for you first thing tomorrow.In this scenario, the only difference from one week to the next was Corey had discovered his similarities with Dustin.Dustin never again had a problem with Corey.In fact, they became good friends and together were able to work issues to the benefit of the company and their careers.In this case, there was no deliberate effort on Dustin’s part to foster similarities but similarities were discovered.Once discovered, Dustin’s requests were seen in a different light and received a higher likelihood of compliance.In this case, much higher.Be open to finding commonalities with others.Sometimes this means just being more aware.I am cursed with being naturally curious about so many things, including others.I just like getting to know people.Regardless, the effect is the same.Whether we do so intentionally or not, finding similarities inherently increases our influence with others and vice versa.John Kotter writes about how effective managers make other people feel dependent on them.6 People perceive, accurately or inaccurately, that the manager can help or hinder, reward or punish.The more strongly people perceive the manager to be instrumental to some end, the more power the manager has.The same holds true regardless of whether you are a manager.If people perceive you as being able to help them or hinder them, make their lives easier or more difficult, then you will have more influence with those people.Every job depends on other people.Why are secretaries or administrative assistants potentially so powerful?It’s because much of the coordination of the business of the workplace depends on them.To decode the workplace, we need to understand who depends on whom.Sometimes we forget or fail to recognize the inherent interdependencies of the workplace.We make decisions without considering all of the people who will be affected.We make decisions without getting information from people whose input would improve the quality of those decisions.We make decisions without being aware that a successful outcome for our decision depends upon someone else.In the workplace, what contributes to others’ perceptions of being dependent on you?What decisions do you make?What resources do you control?What information can you provide?How does your work affect the work of others?You might have more power than you realize.Regardless, you might wish to examine your job.Are there ways to make your work more important to more people?Can you acquire more resources?Do you have information that more people could use in addition to those who receive it now?Quality guru Philip Crosby told a story, from early in his career, of how he got the attention of senior management in the company where he worked as a quality engineer.7 No one paid much attention to quality.No quality metrics were reported at meetings of senior management.Crosby was invited to one of those meetings to say a few words about quality.He took only one minute.He simply reported the cost associated with the company’s failure to ensure product quality.Quality metrics became part of the metrics reported to and monitored by the senior management team.By stating the impact of his work in terms of costs and profit, Crosby and his staff became more important to the company.Sometimes a perception is created in which a person is seen as potentially instrumental to others but in reality is not.

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