Influence is THE buzz word of business right now.  There are lists of influencers, some of which I am honored to be included on and there are companies like KLOUT that are specifically trying to measure and reward influence.  Influence and how to build it seems to be one of the main topics I’m asked to speak about at conferences.  It’s also one of the more elusive things to truly measure because people have varying definitions of what having influence means.

My definition of influence is the ability to cause someone to think differently, to do something or take a different approach from their normal process.  It is especially helpful in change management situations because you are able to use your skills of persuasion to not only express yourself but to have others listen and react.  But being able to influence someone sometimes means you have to have some friction.

Here’s the nugget:

Sometimes you need to be rubbed the wrong way to be influenced.

Let that sink in.

If you think about human nature, we gravitate to people who are “like” us in one way or another.  That is comfortable.  By surrounding yourself with people who think or respond like you do, you will have a good chance of influencing them from time to time.  However, is that the only way?  And, can you be influential by having disagreements with the way someone thinks or the approach they take?  Absolutely!

Why does that work?  When you disagree with someone, your mind immediately begins to think about all the reasons why their opinion is not valid.  Your adrenaline is going and it changes the tone of the interaction.  It’s a time when innovative and creative ideas can come flowing out because you have some passion behind what you are thinking instead of operating in a mode of complete agreement.

What about all those people who rub you the wrong way?  Maybe they are crass or maybe   they come from a different professional background or approach.  Maybe they are from another generation and you find them cocky or insensitive.  I challenge you to add a few of those people to your inner circle in the coming year.  It will be the best move you can make in strengthening your ability to lead and innovate and will test your ability to think differently.