Have you ever attended a sporting event or theatrical performance?
Most of us have.
At some time have you been sitting there when someone else starts applauding or gets up to give a standing ovation? Ever noticed what happens when people do this?
The people around them start to join in.
Often reluctantly at first, unsure whether they will look foolish or out of place. One person gets up, then nearby another joins in, then another a few rows away, then another further around. The people in front hear the commotion, turn around and then they start to join in. The people further back see what’s happening ahead of them and they join in.
Then as more and more people join in everyone gets greater confidence, more people join in and the cheering and applause gets louder and louder. Before too long everyone is on their feet, clapping and cheering and the noise reaches an amazing crescendo.
Recently I experienced this at a sporting event, as part of a crowd of 88,000 people. The sound of 88,000 people clapping and cheering was amazing.
Yet the sound of just one person would have been barely heard in an arena capable of holding nearly 100,000 fans. Similarly, if you asked anyone in that crowd if they felt that they could influence the behavior of the rest of the crowd I am sure that most people would say ‘No’.
But all it takes is one or two individuals to stand up and start the applause.
Those one or two individuals don’t influence the entire crowd; they just influence a few people around them. When those people join in they influence a few more people around them.
No one actually inspires the whole crowd to stand up and applaud. Each individual or small group is actually just influencing the people around them – perhaps the people that can see and hear them. Often it is people that know they should be applauding but hadn’t started because they didn’t want to stand out. Or perhaps they hadn’t noticed whatever started the applause.
It is undeniable, however, that the actions of one person can and will influence the actions of those around them. The extent to which this influence extends is sometimes referred to as the sphere of influence.
Now imagine that you are looking to change something in your workplace, to improve some practices or processes to deliver a better outcome.
Just as they feel that they cannot influence a large crowd at the theater or a sporting event, most people would say that they cannot influence their organization to adopt new practices or change the way they operate. Most people say ‘That’s the boss’ job’. This thinking ignores the influence of the individual.
The people around you do look at the way you operate and the way you behave. Maybe not directly, just as we don’t look to the person in the row in front of us to tell us when to clap and cheer.
But if that person gets up and we understand why then we are likely to join in. It is the same at your workplace. No matter who you are or where you are, you have the ability to influence those around you. You have the ability to start change and implement new practices, the ability to influence the outcomes of the organization.
Think for a moment about the people you meet or work with, the people you interact with, the people that read your reports, the people that do something with your output, your peers that may seek your advice or input, the customers and suppliers that you meet, the people that report to you directly.
All of this is your sphere of influence – use it wisely.
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