A key element in any managerial
role is to understand how to use influence to get things accomplished. Used effectively, influence helps shape the destiny
of organizational unit, the perceptions of the manager as a leader, and the performance of subordinates. In fact, leadership
often means working with subordinates to help them perform effectively through the use of effective coaching techniques.
Influence v. Power
Power has a negative emotional
connotation that may make some people uncomfortable. To have power, in the minds of some, may mean manipulation or ruthless
Machiavellian tactics. On the contrary, power in an organization sense, is value free. It simply means acquiring the potential
to get things done. In this neutral use of the word, people with power are able to have an impact on their environment, whereas
psychologists note, powerless people are often at the mercy of their environment. Power is differentiated from influence because
the latter implies the tactics people use to transform the power they have into influence conveyed to others. As Warren Bennis
and his colleague Bert Nanus note, it is difficult to imagine how leaders could help subordinates achieve difficult tasks
without influential clout (Bennis & Nanus, 1985).
Types of Influence
The major types of influence
strategies are coercion, reciprocity, and appealing to logic. As the name implies, coercion is the application of force or
intimidation to achieve results. Despite creating resentment, this method of influence has the advantage of being effective
when quick decisions are needed, such as genuine emergency or crisis settings. Reciprocity is best described by the Latin
expression, quid pro quo. If you do this, I will agree to do that. In effect, reciprocity uses valued enticements to elicit
cooperation, support, or compliance from others. While reciprocity may be an effective influence tactic, it may also invite
charges of favoritism or manipulation. Appealing to logic uses fact, appeal to shared values, or altruism to influence others.
Although logic appeals to the common sense side of human nature, it is based on assumptions that the person is trustworthy
and that he or she does, in fact, sharing one’s own values.
Coaching subordinates is
one of the most essential aspects of the managerial role. Perhaps because it can be difficult, managers often neglect it.
Coaching has two components central to achieving organizational or unit effectiveness. It can help a subordinate understand
what shortcomings exist in performance, their causes, and specific steps the person can take to improve. Rather than rely
on retribution tactics, for example, effective managers can think of coaching as helping the subordinate improve performance.
Frequently, managers can coach a subordinate not only about what to do, but also
help the person understand how to approach a task. Just as importantly, coaching
presents an opportunity for managers to reinforce good performance and even to mentor high potential employees. Coaching sessions
can also encourage subordinates to reach higher goals, in addition to providing insights into career pathways to success.
Coaching is, in other words, at the heart of the managerial role as a developer of people. It is central to the manager’s
own success because his or her fate is usually linked to high levels of performance of subordinates within the work group.
How well a person acquires and uses influence in an organization often
plays a key role in determining the individual’s success. Having a power base in an organization and knowing how which
influence strategies to employ, frequently determine which projects fail and which succeed. At an individual level, coaching
plays a pivotal role in helping people remedy performance shortcomings. For managers who aspire to leadership positions, it
is important to realize that coaching is fundamentally helping behavior that links the interests of the employee with the
Bennis, W., & Nanus, B. (1985). Leaders. New York: Harper & Row.