Collaboration is a vital aspect of positive human interaction and is the foundation of accomplishing more together than we can on our own. We all know this is important, but we struggle as teams sometimes to find that alignment we need to really succeed like we want to. There are multiple aspects of collaboration, but in this article, I want us to consider the impact that influence has on successful team collaboration. What do I mean by successful collaboration?
It’s important to recognize that successful collaboration includes many relationship-driven attributes such as trust, respect, tolerance, and influence. So, in a very real way, successful collaboration implies a positive experience that produces the collective outcomes we want to achieve. Some may think it odd that I included influence as part of the relationship-driven attributes of successful collaboration, but influence really can be a significant factor in defining success for a team if that influence is honest and has the best outcomes in mind for the team. Let’s dig into that more.
Influence by nature can be intentional or unintentional
To begin, let’s settle on a definition of influence. Influence refers to the ability to have an impact or effect on the beliefs, attitudes, behaviors, and decisions of others. Influence can sway opinions, change minds, and motivate others to take action. In a collaborative setting, influence can play a critical role in shaping the direction of a project, impacting decision-making, and in many ways, affecting the success or failure of a project. Influence is a relationship-driven attribute that can be positive or negative, so this means that as human beings, we need to think intentionally about the type of influence we want to have. Here’s what I mean.
Influence by nature can be intentional or unintentional. We can set our minds and skills in a direction that positively affects the work we do with others (intentional), or we can allow influence to naturally occur (unintentional) based on our personality, biases, and preferences. In team collaboration where influence is unintentional, you can have a variety of outcomes. You can certainly have a successful project with a team that is well-aligned, but you can also experience negative outcomes when teams are misaligned. Unintentional influence usually expresses itself with more dominant team members influencing decisions and the direction of the project and less dominant team members not heard or in the worst case, not valued. When we think of driving successful collaboration, this requires each team member and leader to be intentional about the influence they want to have with the team. This comes with a good dose of understanding and awareness.
Intentional or unintentional - what’s the difference?
When I said that influence refers to the ability to have an impact or effect on the beliefs, attitudes, behaviors, and decisions of others, it's important to recognize that this can play out in a variety of ways. Positive intentional influence is knowledge with humility that seeks to persuade positive outcomes that benefit the whole team. When unintentional influence becomes negative, it can assume the form of coercion based on personal preferences or in extreme cases even manipulation. Certainly, unintentional influence can be positive where individuals on a team are naturally humble and respectful of other ideas, but if we want successful collaboration as a goal, it requires us to take initiative regarding how we engage and build positive influence.
For example, a team member or decision-maker may exert influence to set the direction and tone of a project based on their personality and their position on the team. This may be a natural outcome of their personality, and if the collaboration is successful, we can call this positive unintentional influence. Some people are gifted with the ability to naturally influence positive outcomes that benefit everyone. This would look like a team member or leader that is good at listening and providing space for everyone on the team to be heard and have input into the direction and decisions of the project. This is awesome when it appears, and it could be any role on the project, the downside to this is we can be leaving successful collaboration up to the rare talents of others when that isn’t necessary. The point here is positive unintentional influence can happen, but if we want to drive team collaboration that is more consistently successful, we have to understand and be intentional about our influence. Said another way, we need to learn the knowledge and skills to practice positive intentional influence.
Positive intentional influence is a practice
The best way to understand what positive intentional influence is and how it looks in practice is to go back to the fact that this type of influence is a relationship-driven attribute of successful collaboration. Why do I keep making the point that influence is a relationship-driven attribute? Because influence involves the ability to persuade, motivate, or inspire others in a way that strengthens the connections between people, and if practiced in a positive intentional way, is often based on trust, respect, and a deep value for others. All are key components of successful relationships. This is vitally important to understand because influence has a significant impact on decision-making. Whether we want to admit it or not, there is a power dynamic within team relationships and this dynamic tends to drive decision-making and shape the direction of projects. The ideal situation is for all members of the team to understand and practice positive intentional influence so that this power dynamic is shared across the team. This is the essence of successful collaboration.
So, how do you start your journey of awareness to practice positive intentional influence? It’s important to understand that this is a practice. Any practice involves gaining knowledge and skills and putting them to work, which means we have to be intentional about it. There is a lot that could be said and many factors that can go into building your practice of positive intentional influence, but to start you down that path, let’s consider what we’ve already talked about. Positive intentional influence is expressed through trust, respect, and having a deep value for others. Building high-value relationships with team members and decision-makers is vitally important to positive intentional influence. Others will be more willing to listen to your ideas and truly consider them if they trust you. This trust is built by being intentional about how you respect others by truly listening to them and allowing them to challenge your ideas and biases. It also includes being aware of your own preferences compared to others. You combine all of this with an honest appreciation for the deep value others have. You also have much to contribute, but it's also the genuine recognition that others do as well.
Successful outcomes are happier outcomes
I think the best way we can summarize this is to look at this in reverse order. Because others know that you deeply value them as people and respect their thoughts and opinions, you will build high-trust relationships that lead to positive intentional influence. The effect of influence on successful collaboration is a significant factor in decision-making so we want how influence is practiced to be positive across the team. I encourage you to take a personal inventory of your own influence on projects and decide how you should build your own practice of positive influence. The worst that could happen is you inspire others to do the same and you’re happier with the outcomes of your good work.
Originally posted on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/impact-influence-successful-collaboration-orbitalacademy