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Influencing the Change

This is the first in a series of blog posts that will address Leadership and Change.  It is an overview providing background information.  

When I think back on the people who have had an impact on my life and my decisions, there is a pattern that emerges.  More often than not, they are not people that had or have authority over me or maybe it is better to say they didn’t have an impact because they had authority.  They had an impact, they influenced me because of the example they set and the relationship they built--two seemingly simple concepts that can be so hard to implement.

Why are they hard to implement? Because you can’t do either for a long time unless you are sincere. Leadership isn’t an act or a behavior you take off and on.Leadership qualities aren’t always something you are born with rather it is something that develops over time.    Leadership is something that finds it roots in your beliefs, values, and passions. How do we feel when someone in a leadership role tells us how important professional development is, but never attends training? Or maybe the coach that talks about the importance of listening to your students, but doesn’t listen to what you have to say?

Take a few minutes and reflect—a practice that isn’t used enough-we react, but we don’t reflect, but that is a topic for another post—about who has influenced you in your life, how they influenced you and why. Then reflect whether or not you are following their example in your daily interactions with people.

Why use Influence?

Okay, so a fair question would be, “Why should I bother to try and influence people? I can just tell them what to do and they will fall so in love with the results they will just change.”  This probably won’t happen.  Lasting change doesn’t occur because we are TOLD something. Lasting change happens because we EXPERIENCE something.

The Influencer gets better results and helps others do the same by changing human habits.  There is an adage that says keep doing the same thing; you keep getting the same results. The leaders who understand influence understand this adage.  Systems are made up of people. Want to change the system, focus on changing people’s behaviors/habits.

The Influencer also accepts that you can’t change all of people’s habits, nor do you need to or want to. While we can’t force people to change we can influence the choices they make.  The Sphere of Influence Model below illustrates that we can control very few things in our lives, and most of things we can control have to do with ourselves, not others.  We have a greater ability to influence others.  The greater our understanding of how we can influence and who we want to influence increases not only our ability to do so, but ultimately increases the number of people we influence.




How Can We Influence?

We need to identify the behaviors and habits that are essential to sustaining the change we need.  This, again, calls for reflection and discussion.  For example, if you were trying to increase student achievement and had chosen a good, research-based curriculum, a behavior you would want to reinforce and monitor is fidelity to the program. It is important to pick behaviors that are going to give you the biggest bang for your buck and behaviors that will lead people to the next logical level of growth (behaviors should build upon each other).

For example, Hatties’ Visible Learning identifies key areas “that had greatest effects in student outcomes:”

  • Promoting and participating  in teacher learning and development (d= .91)
  • Planning, coordinating, and evaluating teaching and the curriculum (d= .74)
  • Strategic resourcing (d= .60)
  • Establishing goals and expectations  (d= .54)
  • Ensuring an orderly and supportive environment (.49)
  • “Any model of school improvement that is going to be useful to schools must focus explicitly on results, evidence of student learning, and student achievement.”

Quick lesson: d= standard deviation or effect size.  Layman terms, the closer the number is to 1.0 the greater the impact on what is being focused. If the effect size is greater than .4 it’s worth looking at.

Key Factors of Influence:

Relationships, Relationships, Relationships—Michael Fullan, one of my favorite authors, tells us, “You can’t get anywhere without relationships.” When positive relationships are created, people are more likely to listen, to trust and to try.  You can’t influence people who don’t trust you or respect you. Sure, if you have authority you can “bully” them into DOING what you want, but not believing in what they are doing. And it is belief that is one of the pillars that support change.

What is it you want to achieve? If people don’t know what you are trying to do or what you expect of them they can’t follow. Leaders that want to influence need to clear and specific. They need to draw picture or a road map that contains not only a clear idea of the final destination, but milestones along the way.

Monitoring and Measuring are your friends:  If you are not monitoring it, then it probably won’t succeed.  Monitoring provides not only valuable information that can guide people along the way, but also opportunities for celebration when you reach those milestones. 


At the end of the day it is leaders who know how to be influencers who promote challenging goals, and then create environments that are safe enough for people to provide criticism ask question and share information that has an effect on student goals. 

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