Call Us: +1.603.897.1200
Follow Us:



Read our in-depth articles to gain new insights in the areas of management training, negotiation and influence. Check back periodically to see what new articles we have added.

What is Influence?

We all influence on a daily basis, be it at home or at work. Whenever you have individual objectives to meet, you have opportunities to influence those around you. It can be said that any communication that has an intended outcome can be considered an attempt to influence. In business especially, task focus and the achievement of objectives with and through others are continuous activities. As such, influence is pervasive, whether we are conscious of it or not, in both our personal and professional lives.

Effective influence results in the mutual agreement emerging from the interaction between two or more people. Influence occupies the space between people and any one person has the ability to shift the dynamics in the room. Therefore, excellent influencers are keenly aware of the need to build trust, establish connections, be authentic and emotionally intelligent, and above all, be present. This is how they fulfill their individual objectives while maintaining and strengthening important relationships. They realize that getting things done with and through others includes meeting the needs of all parties involved, while simultaneously satisfying multiple agendas.

Many people achieve their influence objectives only at the expense of important relationships by forcing their own agenda. Others habitually avoid challenging influence situations, at the expense of fulfilling their goals, by evading conflict. We have all worked with people who are difficult, and we know the negative impact they can have on our productivity and our ability to stay emotionally intelligent. Imagine what could be accomplished together if these relationship barriers did not exist! Given that, different individuals represent different influence situations. This is also true for the same individual at different times depending on the content and context of the situation. As we move from one work or personal situation to another, our influence objectives change, and the way we influence others to reach those objectives must change as well.

Influence is a focused application of a combination of skills that we employ in order to change the way things are. These behavioral skills are within our control; we are capable of making strategic decisions about how we wish to behave, and we are capable of altering our behavior through our own choices, if we have adequate alternatives – an influence “tool kit”.

In conclusion, the Positive Power and Influence® Program helps people build flexibility in using different Influence Styles, develop emotional intelligence to stand strong in any situation, and work with others to construct and achieve positive outcomes.

To find out more about how you can increase your Positive Power and Influence skills read about the
Positive Power and Influence® Program.

Emotional Intelligence and The Positive Power and Influence® Program

Situation Management Systems, Inc. (SMS) has been on the forefront of Influence training for over forty years. It’s time that we claim our place in the emotional intelligence field and explain how the Positive Power and Influence® Program teaches participants to be more emotionally intelligent in everyday and challenging influence situations.

Wayne Payne first coined “Emotional Intelligence (EI)” in 1986 in his doctoral dissertation. Mayer and Salovey published an article in 1990 that also defined the term. The definition they proffered was: EI is the ability to perceive emotion in self and others, to be able to understand these emotions, and then be able to manage emotions in self and others. What really brought the term into the public eye was Daniel Goleman’s 1995 book Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ. He had read Mayer and Salovey’s article while doing research for his book and ended up focusing his work even more on EI.

There are several tools available today that can be used to measure and assess your level of emotional intelligence. The purpose of this article is to examine how the Positive Power and Influence® Program (PPI) develops the emotional intelligence of participants.


Answering this question will assist in understanding the value of PPI and its contribution to the development of EI. The reason some people attend the program is because HR or Talent Development has determined that the ability to influence is a desirable competency, and is offering the course for developmental purposes. Others attend because they received feedback that if they want to progress in their career, then they need to do a better job of influencing. Still other individuals seek it out because they are frustrated with their inability to influence others in their organizations. Frequently, technical people want to attend because they prefer working alone to dealing with people, but have been told they need to learn how to work more effectively with others.

What many of these people have in common is a feeling of being stuck, a feeling of having tried many different ways to solve a problem or convince someone to do something, and no matter what they tried, they failed. Many people are frustrated and feel like giving up on the problem, person, or situation because they think that they have a very low probability of succeeding.

After attending PPI, 75% of participants have had success with their challenging situation and many say that the program changed their lives. How can such a dramatic shift be explained? What could possibly happen in this program that has such a tremendous impact? The simple answer is that the design of the program teaches participants how to prepare for and manage themselves and others in challenging situations, one of the attributes of EI. It raises their self-awareness and the awareness of their impact on others (another EI attribute) through many rounds of feedback from both the facilitator and peers. It demonstrates that they indeed have a choice when they felt, prior to the program, that they had no choice. This self-awareness, preparation, and ability to choose, enables them to be emotionally intelligent in everyday and challenging situations.


We have already established that the reason many people attend the program is due to frustration and inability to influence certain individuals or in particular situations. Now, let’s take a deeper look into the PPIP design to reveal its impact on EI.

The development begins prior to the program by asking participants to complete the 360 Influence Style Questionnaire (ISQ). The questionnaire instructs them to identify a productive and a less productive relationship, and to fill out two questionnaires with these two people in mind. Participants are also instructed to request feedback from their productive and less productive relationships by inviting them to fill out a questionnaire. So before the program starts, people experience varying levels of vulnerability as they are being evaluated. This heightens people’s self-awareness before they even attend the program.

During the program itself, participants go through a recorded exercise. Some experience strong emotions here, others do not, but all, in varying degrees, feel the discomfort of being recorded. After the exercise, they are given instructions and practice Giving and Receiving Feedback, which is the foundation of the program. This guides them on how to do this activity effectively, and they will repeat it multiple times during the program. Many are having their first experience of understanding the impact they have on others.

The program then presents the Situational Influence Model (SIM) as a tool for understanding not only their own behavior, but also the behavior of others. Participants learn that influence is about impact, no matter what their intent.

For example, a senior manager who is not a morning person walks into his office without saying good morning. His intent is not to be rude, but many of the people who work for him feel that his impact is negative. From the very start, the program informs and demonstrates to people that they are 50% responsible for the condition of all of their relationships. They are held accountable for their part of the impact they are having on others. However, they are also empowered with a set of invaluable tools: the Influence Styles and Tactics that make up the SIM.

They use the model to analyze the video created during the first exercise, which helps them to understand the model in a deeper way. It also shows them firsthand the impact they have on others, which again increases their self-awareness. Watching oneself on video is invaluable and is often mentioned as one of the most powerful learning experiences in the program.

Then we look at the results of the ISQ, which develops a deeper understanding of the model and the impact they are having in their own day-to-day lives. Now, the participants have feedback from peers in the workshop and from their own lives – two sets of data that enhance their self-awareness.

The next step in the PPI program is Tracks, or experimentation. The track exercises demonstrate the classic textbook way of using each of the styles based on the research that has been conducted. The participants experience their blocks to performing the style(s) or the ease with which they can do each of the styles, and gain a deeper understanding of each style. This can also get emotional if the blocks are deep seated, or if the person is dealing with stressful situations.

Following this session, they return to the ISQ to look at feedback, as the deeper understanding of the SIM enables additional insights from the gathered data. They also create goals around the styles to guide them in the next section of the program.

During Skill practice, participants select an exercise to do based on the goals they previously set. These exercises enable them to work through any blocks identified during Tracks, and to further integrate the learning into their own style. Once again, this builds their self-awareness and the sensitivity to their impact on other people.

The most important learning occurs in the last part of the program, Application Planning. In this session, participants identify a Critical Influence Situation (CIS) that is imminent and challenging, and which they are willing to share with others. They learn how to plan, choose what styles should be used, and how to manage the conversation. They get coaching from peers and then practice. Here, for many, is where a big breakthrough occurs. Many participants have strong emotions, but they realize as they are practicing that the emotions they have are oftentimes impeding their success. After the program, the feedback we get from most participants is that they had success, or ongoing success, with their CIS. They reveal that the situation was not as difficult as they anticipated, and that the conversation with their influence target was constructive and successful.

Joe is an example of how the process worked for one person. Prior to attending the program he was doubtful that he would learn anything new. He was in his 60’s and was the VP of Engineering and Operations for a midsized manufacturing company reporting directly into the President. He had seen and done it all! They manufactured equipment for other manufacturing companies and every piece of equipment was customized. He had very little advance notice from sales as to the nature of the customization requirements. The turnover time was slow as once he had the order he now had to purchase the necessary parts. In addition, Joe perceived that the President considered the VP of Sales his blue-eyed boy and Joe was the problem. He would not buy into the fact that if Joe had more advance notice, delivery times would be dramatically shortened and customers would be happier. He did not see a solution to the problem so he decided to use this as his CIS. He states:

“My Core Style Statement was to persuade our VP of Sales to provide a 90-day rolling forecast each month. I had constructed an action plan that included Attracting and Persuading; my strategy was to have a one-on- one meeting to convince him to provide the rolling forecast I needed to achieve the Company’s Profit/Loss goals for next fiscal year.

Due to unforeseen circumstances, the situation played out in a meeting with two other VPs rather than a one-on-one discussion. I followed my plan, however he resisted (strongly), citing that he didn’t have the time to generate the forecast I was requesting. Because I wasn’t making any headway, I chose to Disengage, planning to meet again in the next few days.

I actually thought it was a lost cause until the next morning when I received an e-mail from him stating that he had thought about it and decided to review the forecast on the 1st and 15th of each month, thus ensuring that a rolling forecast could be generated on a regular basis. I immediately agreed, even volunteering to help with the reports so he could focus on getting accurate information in the database.

So what did I learn from this Critical Influence Situation? First, having an action plan in place prior to the discussion was extremely helpful in giving me a sense of preparedness and readiness for unexpected twists and turns. Second, I learned that the influence can continue even after the formal discussions have ended.”


If we go back to the Mayer and Salovey definition, on a practical level, what it boils down to is being more aware of one’s emotions and their impact on others, others’ emotions and their impact on oneself, and the ability to manage one’s reactions. As was demonstrated above, PPI provides participants with the tools to manage their own emotions, as well as the emotions of others. Through increased self-awareness and conscious choice they are able to create new patterns of behavior and that, by definition, is the root of behavioral change. For the conflict averse, the Influence Tactic of Disengaging is a tool that empowers them to manage conflict in a very productive way.

Finally, the feedback gathered from many participants reveals that people who attend PPI are better prepared, take more risk, and are more confident and successful. In essence, they are more emotionally intelligent.

The Positive Use of Positional Power


Power is the potential you have to get things done or to make them happen. In your organization, your power—your potential—derives from many sources: expertise, experience, knowledge, reputation, position, perhaps sometimes your personality. Some of these power sources are personal, some are positional and many are a mix of the two. The Positive Power and Influence Program helps you identify how to use your influence skills to implement many aspects of your personal power.

However, you may also be facing influence situations where positional power issues are present and important. Handling these well requires some careful consideration of the issues involved.

Positional power is neither positive nor negative. Its impact depends on how you use it.

Whether you have positional power, or not, you can use personal influence skills to neutralize, remove, or set aside positional power issues. However, even skillful influencers sometimes find themselves in situations requiring extra effort to resolve positional problems.

These situations include:

  • Influencing others who have more positional power than you do. Some people experience insecurity or blocks when dealing with their supervisors. In influence situations, these barriers can result in low impact or outright Avoiding. Even when you overcome your personal limitations, others may limit your effectiveness by “pulling rank” and using their positional power in negative ways.
  • Influencing others who have less positional power than you do. Building constructive relationships with your direct reports is fundamental to motivating and developing them. Their productivity and high-quality performance depend on being fully committed to carrying out their jobs. If you rely too heavily on positional power your direct reports may misinterpret your influence attempts as arbitrary, seeing use of position where there is none. If these conditions exist, both sides will experience an energy loss and an erosion of the working relationship.
  • Influencing others with equal positional power. Influencing peers can lead to boundary conflicts, authority questions, and resistance over territory or turf. People may get caught up in defending their position instead of focusing on the Influence Objective. Appeals to higher authority may result, diluting both parties’ power in the situation.

Positive influence requires that neither person lose total power or perceive they are losing it. Positive power and influence involves meeting personal objectives and building or maintaining productive relationships. Both influencer and target should be as powerful—or more so—at the end of the influence attempt as they were at the beginning.

Positive influence requires a power balance by definition. The primary cause of avoiding or resistance is the actual or anticipated loss of power.

  • Influencers lose power if they fail to achieve their influence objectives.
  • Influence targets lose power if the relationship is not maintained or strengthened.
  • Both parties lose power if they fail to achieve the objective or do not maintain a positive relationship.

The total power each person has in an influence situation is the sum of their positional power and personal power.

For positive results to occur, the total power each person has must be balanced, even when their positional and personal power vary. Balancing total power can be accomplished by exercising either positional or personal power according to the situation.

Positive influence requires a power balance.

  • When you have low positional power, you can maintain or expand your total power by exercising your personal power—by exerting personal influence.
  • When you have high positional power, you can step away from your positional power in the situation by exerting personal influence and/or you can enhance the target's personal power.
  • When you and the target have equal positional power, you can maintain or expand your positional power, work to balance both parties’ personal power, and/or agree that each party step away from their positions in any specific situation.

As an influencer, how might you maintain or expand positional power, especially when it has formal limits? How can personal influence skills help you use positional power more constructively? What role does planning play in creating a power balance?

To find out more about how you can increase your Positive Power and Influence skills read about the
Positive Power and Influence® Program.

The Difference Between "Problem Solving" and "Negotiation"

Problem solving between two or more parties occurs when the parties encounter an obstacle to a jointly desired path and they jointly require a solution that will alleviate the current predicament. As the parties seek a mutually desired solution, they care-fully assess and agree on the accuracy and veracity of available data. Agreement on the data is essential because the available data points to the underlying cause of the problem. Clear problem definitions promote identification of relevant and appropriate solutions.

Sellers and buyers can problem solve if they are willing to suspend their vested differences and let their common goal—doing business together—drive their behavior. This stance allows both parties to view the gap between their positions as merely an obstacle to overcome, and to explore a range of alternative solutions for closing the gap. Some sellers would call this “win-win negotiating,” but note that this kind of behavior assumes that both buyer and seller see the situation from the same perspective. Differences in available facts, or analysis of those facts, are capable of being resolved or ignored.

Consider this example:

A representative for a manufacturer of home electronic entertainment equipment is selling to a buyer who represents a chain of retail dealers. The seller’s position on pricing is driven by the selling organization’s national analysis of the competition and the consumer market. However, the buyer’s pricing position has been determined by detailed analysis of local competition and consumer trends. The two databases differ. As part of their discussion, the seller and buyer share their divergent analyses of the market, and they recognize the legitimacy of both data sets.

The seller is persuaded that the local market data are more compelling indices for business with this buyer, and is able to make some pricing adjustments based on the data.


The buyer is persuaded that national trends will quickly overwhelm local variations, and is able to support adjusting to the seller’s pricing position.

For both parties, this is an ideal result. They end up seeing the situation the same way, no issues are disputed, and they agree on which alternative resolves the problem of how to do business together. Yet conflict between the selling role and the buying role is more the rule than the exception—and most sellers expect it. An experienced seller knows that at some point in the selling cycle some conflicts probably will arise. These conflicts typically concern price, terms, and conditions of the sale, but they may also involve issues like product specification, research and development support, delivery methods, storage capability, and so on.

To effectively deal with conflict and resolve issues in dispute, a seller should know the process of negotiation and be able to implement a positive strategic approach to conflict resolution. The seller must be able to identify those situations where conflicting interests outweigh common interests, where problem solving is difficult or impossible, and where a positive negotiation strategy is the best option for a mutually beneficial agreement.

Negotiation occurs when at least two parties who begin with vested conflicting differences arrive (if successful) at a point of agreement that bridges the differences to the satisfaction of both. In a negotiation, agreement is fostered by the use of alternative currencies of exchange.

In selling situations, conflict is natural and sometimes inevitable. One type of conflict arises when two or more parties view the same situation and arrive at results which are different and to some extent mutually exclusive. Here are some examples:

A seller has a list-price or published price for a product or service. The buyer wants to buy the same product or service for a price that is eighty percent of the seller’s published price. A price conflict exists.

A seller wants to deliver a product using standard delivery methods, but the buyer wants accelerated delivery. A delivery methods conflict exists.

A seller offers standard financial terms, but the buyer wants extended time to pay. A payment or terms conflict exists.

In all of these situations, the buyer and the seller both may be looking at the same information and data but have arrived at quite different approaches, based on their own interests and needs. One or all of these conflicting interests may exist within one selling opportunity, and they must be successfully resolved before the sale is consummated.

A second type of conflict occurs when data available to one party is contested or considered irrelevant by the other party. Differences in facts and evidence may be impossible to resolve or ignore. The seller, buyer, or both may be strongly committed to the data or the logic that underlies their positions—they are “vested”! In these cases, problem solving as a process for reaching agreement breaks down. There is no agreement on the facts, and so there is no agreement on the problem itself. If buyers and sellers do not perceive the same problem, they are unlikely to agree on appropriate alternatives. Consider again our electronics products example:

The seller uses national market trend data to support the selling organization’s pricing position. (Underlying this approach is the selling organization’s strong belief that letting local differences drive market price would destroy the market for their high-end products.) The buyer objects, arguing that local conditions are more compelling. (The dealership is under extreme competitive pressure from a local discounter who is taking advantage of a weak economy.) The seller, believing that a careful review of the evidence will persuade the buyer, responds to the buyer’s position with counter arguments about the local situation. The buyer, however, discounts the seller’s analysis of local conditions as outdated and based on an inappropriate model for the region. The seller, still pursuing a problem-solving approach, offers additional counter evidence, and the buyer begins to feel abused and upset.

Both parties are becoming frustrated, and the seller is now confused. Why is the willingness to problem solve being met with such resistance? What is the seller’s next step?

In this example, the seller should abandon problem solving as a process for trying to get the buyer to agree on a common problem with mutually accepted causes. The seller must recognize and acknowledge that his or her underlying needs are different from the buyer’s needs. Now, the rationale for their stated positions (their analyses may both be correct—or incorrect!) becomes irrelevant, and debate or argument about the parties’ views of the situation must cease. Instead, the seller must begin to identify resources—alternative currencies of exchange—that the parties might exchange that would help to bridge the gap on price. Sometimes skilled buyers may initiate this activity, but usually do not. It is up to the seller to switch to a negotiating strategy.

Negotiation may take additional time and energy. This investment will pay off in situations where the parties involved are invested in their particular positions. The negotiation will proceed when both parties believe that an agreement can be reached even though they may not share much in common. Only when sellers and buyers acknowledge conflicting vested interests can they begin to look for resources—currencies—that will help to close the gap between the different positions, if those currencies are placed on the table.

To find out more about these concepts and their application in our Negotiation Strategy and Tactics and Positive Negotiation Program.

Roi of Not Training

Training in the New (read: current) Cost Cutting Era Or, the ROI of Not Training

It is very interesting to me that there are a plethora of articles and huge amounts of energy extended on measuring the ROI of training. During economic slowdowns it is beneficial to know what to cut.

However, one thing I want to know is “Has anyone ever conducted a study that actually measures the cost of unproductive work relationships, unresolved conflict or the inability to influence or negotiate effectively?” If they have, I have been unable to find it. After all, how do you measure the costs of:

Two peers avoiding talking to each other for six months?
A manager who never conducts productive performance reviews?
Top performers who bully internal support staff?
Direct reports who consistently resist any change the company makes?
Workers who have been made scapegoats and become depressed?
People afraid of what the future holds?
Technical experts who prefer computers to people?
Project Managers who think organizational politics should just be ignored?
Answering the same question ten times? One hundred times?
Resolving the same error ten times? One hundred times?

I think you get the point. We don’t quantify many of these things because it is just too hard to measure the cost of negative behaviors. Intuitively, we know it is costing us money. We never know how much. It just costs money so we attempt to train people to be behaviorally correct in the hopes of increasing productivity.

The flip side of this is that “no one has come up with a generally accepted definition of productivity in any knowledge profession, let alone across these professions.” A majority of the work currently done in the USA is just that – knowledge work.

Why are we trying to measure the ROI of training when we can’t measure productivity or the lack thereof?

The reason is because we have to try to measure productivity. We approximate it all. We need to have some way to justify the existence of training.

Consider a small portion of the results of a change project conducted by Lockheed Martin with the design and assistance of VitalSmarts. They found significant correlations between improvement in specific behavior items and three performance metrics – Efficiency, Productivity and Quality. (Efficiency is a measure of time per unit, standardized by size of unit. Productivity reflects the percent of possible work actually accomplished. Quality is measured by amount of rework required, standardized by size of unit). For example, they found that when supervisors were slow in responding to employee needs and employees spoke in a way that got results (the improved behavioral item), there was a 53% correlation with an improvement in efficiency, 52% correlation with an improvement in productivity and a 49% correlation with an improvement in quality.

This is the closest I have found to a specific correlation between a soft behavior and an improvement in productivity or results! Perhaps I need to keep looking… But this was manufacturing – as I said we do measure what is measurable.

While thinking about how to make people more productive in the workplace (again I am assuming this is the main reason we train people) think about this statement by Cialdini: “Few of us would be surprised to learn that, as a rule, we most prefer to say yes to the requests of people we know and like. “

Okay, we just need to train everyone to be likable! While I am not a supporter of Cialdrini’s recommendations about how to influence people his statement is compelling. Irwin Rubin states:

“While at M.I.T., I was fortunate to have had Douglas McGregor, the father of the Theory X versus Theory Y of human motivation, as a colleague. During one of the skill sessions Doug held periodically with younger faculty members, he talked of a double bind he felt in his own professional career. In order to get the attention of the CEO's with whom he consulted, in order to "motivate them" to treat their people well, he would cite the many research studies he and others had conducted linking these efforts to reduced turnover, increased morale, and-under certain circumstances- increased productivity.

In other words, he [and virtually everyone else like him] relied on hard logic and extrinsic linkages to make his point: treat your people well and your organization will do well "So what's the point?" you wonder. The problem, as he admitted with considerable embarrassment and hesitancy, was that—in his heart--he believed that the real reason to treat people well was intrinsic.

In other words, the reason why you should empower your people by treating them with respect and trust [all the "soft stuff" our theories remind us about] is because they are human beings. And that is how human beings deserve to be treated. For their intrinsic, not extrinsic worth. Period. As a result of doing so, and if you had faith-an unwavering belief that you were doing the right thing-more often than not, you [the organization] will be rewarded. When the going gets tough, people who are "unconditionally cared for" in this way will put out the extra effort to care in return.”

So perhaps that is why we have training programs. So we can teach everyone to treat each other well and then productivity will be high.

Going back to Cialdini … people like to do things for people they like. It is true, we pave they way, do back flips, put in extra time, smooth the path, make connections and introductions … in short, we help. Can you imagine if we treated every single person that we worked with in this manner? Can you imagine the efficiency, quality and productivity that would result from everyone treating everyone else in this way?

Emotional intelligence has become very popular because the only way to get people to treat each other well thereby increasing productivity, would be to get everyone to like everyone else. So get your inner child off your sleeve, get beyond your dysfunctional family of origin, and find a way to like everyone in your dysfunctional organization. Simple really.

Consider what Meg Wheatley has to say about those difficult and non-productive types of relationships:

“And we need to be able to talk with those we have named “enemy.” Fear of each other also keeps us apart. Most of us have lists of people we fear. We can’t imagine talking with them, and if we did, we know it would create more anger. We can’t imagine what we would learn from them, or what might become possible if we spoke to those we most fear.

I hope we can reclaim conversation as our route back to each other, and as the path forward to a hopeful future. It only requires imagination and courage and faith. These are qualities possessed by everyone. Now is the time to exercise them to the fullest.”

The most elegant process I have seen for managing the emotional self is laid out in the book Crucial Conversations. According to the authors, one of the keys to having crucial conversations is our ability to manage our own stories. In their description, we observe something happening or have a set of facts and then we fill in the blanks with our own story. We take action based on our interpretation of the facts or our story often with negative consequences. So the real message is to manage your assumptions and the stories you make up before you have a crucial conversation.

Okay. So where are we? Training and organizational development exists because we know that happy, satisfied, rewarded people are more likely to have emotional intelligence and they go above and beyond the call of duty, which equals higher productivity.

In the mid 1970’s, David Berlew and Roger Harrison created a training program called Positive Power & Influence in response to the increase in matrixed organizations. People needed to get work done (read: productivity) through the use of their personal power as they may not have any positional power. It was one of the first programs to incorporate videotaped feedback in the training process. They believed the product would have a shelf life of ten years. It is still going strong today and has been translated into 15 languages and has been delivered to hundreds and thousands of people worldwide.

Why? The reason is because the program works on the behavioral level with people. It gives them tools to have those crucial conversations with others, which ... you have got it – increases productivity.

There is one more side to the puzzle though. If people can manage themselves emotionally, if they can apply effective influence skills then they are two thirds of the way to success. Every psychological model involves looking at self, others and also at the context of the situation. People need to be Organizationally “Street Smart” as well…. understand how to navigate the organizations within which they work.

There are two elements to being Organizationally “Street Smart”. One element involves knowing the structure, how decisions are made, how to get things done, unspoken rules, etc. The other element is the ability to have and use the power of politics. Positive politics. Many in this country see Positive Politics as an oxymoron but it does go back to the stories we tell ourselves, and treating others well.

In order for people to be successful, to be happy and committed they need to be emotionally intelligent so they know how to approach having important conversations. They need the influence skills to manage the face-to-face portion of the conversation. They also need Organizational “Street Smarts” to help them manage the context of the conversation. Very few of these things can be measured for their impact on the job. I cannot imagine setting up that research project not to mention the Hawthorn effect!

So why do we train people? In summary, training people to be behaviorally effective is important for reasons we can’t accurately measure but intuitively know – it increases productivity. We need to know that we are training the right people to build competence in the right skills. We need to know that what we are training people to do is in line with our business objectives. We need to have hardcore justification that we are not simply throwing dollars at the “flavor-of-the-month” training intervention. Today, we just cannot afford to waste money. It is important to make sure that the training is supporting the business.

The ROI of not training people is immeasurable. Right now we need to be investing in the people we have decided to keep. These last few years have been hard. Most organizations have cut costs, restructured, developed new products, and held their customers close. Diligence is key but an over-reliance on the ROI of training could end up costing us more.

There are a lot of ways that money is drained from the organization. Some ways are easy to spot. The quality movement helped us to increase productivity. Now we need to be able to talk to each other with dignity and respect while paying careful attention to what the other is saying as a way to increase productivity.

The productivity impact of every person having a constructive conversation with one person with whom he/she has a difficult relationship could erase the national debt in one year.

Prove me wrong!

Sherri Malouf, President of SMS, Inc., has been a consultant, coach and entrepreneur for almost two decades. She brings a light touch, a sense of humor, and a great deal of business experience to her work with clients helping them to look at situations from a different vantage point.

Using Influence to Maintain or Build Relationships


Positive power and influence skills can help you meet personal objectives and maintain or build positive working relationships-simultaneously. Your challenge as an influencer is to pursue your objectives while fostering the stability and growth of your working relationships. High-impact influence skills, Style flexibility, and disciplined planning will help you achieve this balance between objectives and relationships in most situations.

Achieving a balance between objectives and relationships may be difficult when you and the target have strong personal differences. Balancing task objectives with relationships is difficult enough when you and another person have competing objectives-a common occurrence. Maintaining this balance can be even more delicate when you and the other person have a history of personality clashes or deep interpersonal conflicts. Some working relationships may be so ruptured and disagreeable that no amount of influence can heal them.

Relationship problems may make you reluctant to use some influence styles. For example, if you frequently disagree with the target's logic, you may be reluctant to use persuading. You do not want to hear the target's proposals and reasons because you typically find fault with the underlying facts or data. You may not want to use asserting with a person you view as needy or controlling. A needy person may insist on more incentives than you can give and a controlling person may refuse to agree to your expectations under any circumstances. If you distrust the target, you may avoid listening or making yourself vulnerable for fear of losing control of the situation or being taken advantage of.

Relationship problems may make you reluctant to engage in any influence attempt with the target. You and the target may lack sufficient positive motive for a successful outcome to occur. The potential costs of trying to influence the target may outweigh the potential benefits. You may feel so exploited by the target that taking steps to improve the relationship may not seem worth the risk. You may have difficulty even imagining what an effective influence approach might be. On the other hand, the influence target may have trouble working with you! Your awareness of this makes you unwilling to awaken his or her anger.

Relationship problems can disrupt the climate for positive influence. If the relationship seems irreparable, you may find yourself forcing. If the target's resistance is so strong that you do not wish to challenge it, you may find yourself avoiding. Forcing or Avoiding can occur whether you are the victim of another person's grievance, the perpetrator of the problem, or a third party to a disagreement between others that affects your work.

Relationship problems make it hard to determine a clear influence objective. Such problems make it difficult to see beyond the incompatibility issue.

Often, the relationship must improve before you and the other person can take any concrete next steps. Mutual respect and acceptance is necessary to ensure genuine agreements and commitments.

The hardest part of dealing with a relationship problem can be getting the other person's commitment to resolve it. The person may have no interest in getting along with you and may even enjoy or derive power from causing you pain. Fortunately, you are not powerless in this situation. You can use positive power and influence to engage the person's interest in getting on board with you to solve the interpersonal problem. You may have no choice, if your job requires you to interact with this person! Project assignments, business priorities, or other situational factors may drive you and the target together despite your best efforts to stay away from each other. By focusing on this joint work-the task- you will increase your chances of improving the relationship.

A procedure for setting Influence Objectives by thinking through task and relationship problems:

  • Try to picture an ideal working relationship with the target. What would it look like if you and the target could align your goals, roles, and procedures? What would your boundaries be for such a relationship? Be honest with yourself. You may not want anything more than a positive functional relationship with a minimum of contact and just enough civility. On the other hand, you may wish for a thoroughly friendly and thriving collaboration with the target. While it is hard to predict what the exact outcome will be, it is useful to think about the best possible scenario for the future of the relationship.
  • Define the overall task or mission. Resist the impulse to address the interpersonal issue first. Confine the definition of task to external goals and results rather than internal, personal ones. Focus on the job you have to do together and how best to do it. Concentrate on the organizational or project-related results you wish to achieve at the end of your joint effort. These results should relate to the business or work at hand and should not be political, social, or emotional. Do not focus on what you feel about the other person or what you think are his or her problems. Having a good relationship at the end of influence attempt but is independent of completing the task successfully.
  • Translate the task into goal statements. Divide the task into incremental parts. Write out all your goals-and the goals you think the target may have. Be inclusive. Do not worry about aligning your goals at this point. If some goals conflict, note them and move on. This will require personal discipline and empathy-do not mentally argue with your target. Remember, you are not yet committing yourself to any form of action. This is only a planning step!
  • Align both sets of goals. Identify specific goals you and the target might agree on. Elaborate on these goals in sufficient detail so you can discuss them with the target at length. This material may be useful in resolving impasses caused by other conflicting goals. If some goals are seriously out of sync, consider setting them aside or gaining clarity on them from those who assigned them to you in the first place. Remember, you and the target cannot go further until you have resolved the differences between your goals.
  • Clarify or negotiate roles. When your goals-both common and conflicting- are as clear as possible, focus on roles. Consider past interactions. Is there a history of how you and the target have divided tasks? If so, has the division of labor been satisfactory to you? What would you like your role to be this time? How will the target want to define roles? Will the target's desired role conflict with yours? If so, what are you willing to do to get the role you want? Determine what the potential points of conflict might be.
  • Assess the effectiveness of current procedures. Procedural problems are often the first symptom of a breakdown in interpersonal relationships. Your work in defining goals and roles will help you to develop procedures that will support a positive working relationship. Think about what you and the target may want the procedures to be. You may have to wait to develop the specifics until after you and the target have fully aligned your goals and roles. General procedural wishes and needs may be as far as you can go at this point.
  • Review interpersonal issues. When you have finished defining goals, roles, and procedures, consider the interpersonal issue itself. By this time you may already have changed your view of the relationship problem. You may have discovered that a system problem-defects in goals, roles, or procedures- is the real cause of the behavioral problem. Write down your thoughts on this.

If the relationship problem persists even after you and the target have reached agreement on goals, roles, and procedures, then you may want to address the interpersonal issue directly. You might let the target know how his or her behavior is disrupting your work or the work of the group. This type of discussion is often enough to cause the target to stop the behavior immediately. However, make sure to address goals, roles, and procedures first before addressing the interpersonal issue, in case the real problem is with the system, not the person!

To find out more about how you can increase your Positive Power and Influence skills read about the Positive Power and Influence® Program

Using Influence to Build a Corporate Culture of Trust and Open Communication

According to recent research conducted by the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM), one of the key findings about thechallenges facing HR over the next ten years is as follows:

“More than one-half of HR professionals think that retaining and rewarding the best employees (59%) and developing the next generation of corporate leaders (52%) will be the greatest challenges. About one-third predict the challenges will be creating a corporate culture that attracts the best employees to the organization (36%), remaining competitive in the talent marketplace (34%) and finding employees with the increasingly specialized skills the organization needs (33%).”

When asked about attracting, retaining, and rewarding the best employees, the most effective tactic cited was the maintenance of a culture of trust, open communication and fairness. This is not very surprising given some recent accounts of leaders who have “misbehaved” resulting in organization-wide mistrust and a “closed door” culture. It’s not hard to imagine how this constricts creativity and impedes enthusiastic commitment to corporate vision, mission, and values.

Building a culture that fosters the core values of trust and effective communication is paramount if you want to keep your best people and develop exceptional leaders. There are many ways this can be accomplished. One of the most powerful of these is to ingrain the use of positive influence and personal power into the culture.

As we already know, effective communication, marked by honesty and respect, leads to elevated levels of trust. So the idea is to get everyone openly communicating across the organization, at every level, on a global scale. Influence is a form of communication. We all influence on a daily basis personally and most certainly at work. Wherever you have objectives to meet you have opportunities, if not mandates, to influence those around you. Any communication that has an intended outcome is considered an attempt to influence. In business, task focus and the achievement of outcomes with and through others is a continuous activity. Influence is pervasive, whether we are conscious of it or not and regardless of the label applied to it.

Excellent influencers achieve their objectives while maintaining and nurturing important relationships. That sounds simple, but in practice it can be extremely challenging. Many people achieve their influence objectives only at the expense of important relationships. Others habitually avoid challenging influence situations, sacrificing their objectives.

Different individuals present different influence situations. This is also true for the same individual at different times depending on the content and context of the work. As we move from one work or personal situation to another our influence objectives change, and the way we influence to reach those objectives should change as well. Influence is a focused application of behavioral skills that we employ in order to achieve a desired outcome. These skills are within our control. We are capable of making strategic decisions about how we wish to behave, and we are capable of choosing to alter our actions - IF we have adequate array of behavioral alternatives – an influence “tool kit”.

“Given the nature of my team’s responsibility, which is to act as an internal consultant tasked to improving our selling capabilities around the world, it is critical to customize our influencing style to each and every one of our customers. Customizing our approach to each person or region in the world significantly improved our ability to influence positive change.”
~Laurens Gerlings
Vice President, Global Customer Capabilities,
The Hershey Company.

In addition to increasing the repertoire of influence behaviors, another important aspect of influencing is the use of personal power. While positional power is derived externally and limited by organizational structure, personal power is an internal resource consisting of our knowledge, skills and abilities in face-to-face interactions which can be used at any organizational level regardless of our positional power. Some examples of personal power include:

  • reputation for being reliable and influential
  • performance capability (results orientation)
  • expertise in a specific and valued area
  • flexibility in the use of the influencing styles

At SMS we talk about power as being the available personal energy that one has to act in any situation, and influence as the application of that energy. Therefore influence is our personal power in action. It is our energy in use, energy that is visible and can be felt by others. Influence is behavioral. We can assess and measure it using the Situational Influence Model (SIM) depicted below. Through mastery of the Model, we can control and focus our influence energy for the greatest positive impact.

The SIM is straightforward, and applicable in complex situations. It is based on Influence Energy, Styles and Behaviors. In this model, the aspects of Influence Energy are defined as Push, Pull, or Moving Away. As the graphic shows, the Styles associated with Push Energy are Persuading and Asserting and the Styles associated with Pull Energy are Bridging and Attracting. Each Style then has its own associated behaviors. Lastly, Moving Away Energy is a tactic that helps you manage unproductive conversations.

The reason for these unproductive conversations is that people have their own set of beliefs about how communication should occur. What they sometimes don’t realize is that they send unintended messages. When training people on this model, a set of taped exercises is employed through which people obtain a feedback about their body language, choice of words, and tone of voice. So for example, if I am using Push Energy and the Influence Style of Persuading, I need to use Push-Persuading words, tone of voice and body language. When crafting the communication in this way, the resulting message is crystal clear and much more likely to convey what you intend.

Each one of the styles has a set of conditions which dictate its use. For example, Persuading is about logic and the use of data. When using the Persuading Style, emotion is inappropriate for this particular influence situation. Many people object and want to know why they can’t be passionate! Passion, when combined with Push Energy, is often interpreted as anger, which again, is an unintended, and usually unproductive, message.

What our research and experience show is that most people rely on very few behaviors in their day-today communications. Our training provides a 360-degree feedback component and when viewing the results, a good number are shocked to find that they deal with every situation in the same exact way. They are asked to consider both a productive and less productive relationship in assessing their influence styles. When it is revealed that they are dealing in both instances in the same manner, they experience an epiphany. Every influence attempt requires an objective and an influence plan specific to that influence situation. That’s why it’s called the Situational Influence Model.

SMS is a training organization that is underpinned by a set of core beliefs which have continued to characterize our work over several decades. These are:

  • Organizational effectiveness begins with personal effectiveness.
  • Educated analysis of a situation enables effective action.
  • Different situations require different approaches.
  • Personal effectiveness is enhanced by behavioral flexibility.
  • Effective interpersonal skills can be learned.

Ultimately, personal skill levels determine the level of effectiveness in any attempt to influence. Success depends on the ability to personally and positively influence others – to achieve one’s personal objectives while building, or at least maintaining, productive relationships. It’s a delicate balancing act that is well-worth the undertaking to master.

The Influence of Influence Training

Introducing Ruud van Ommeren and Sherri Malouf.

Ruud van Ommeren has been active as a consultant and trainer since 1970. He has been a director of Bureau Zuidema for over 25 years and is currently a member of the Supervisory Board of Bureau Zuidema.

Sherri Malouf is the CEO of Situation Management Systems in the United States. She has also been active in the field of HRD for over 25 years. Both Ruud and Sherri are driving forces behind the “Positive Power and Influence” training program.

1. The influence program has weathered the stormy procession of hypes in the HRD/HRM field, both in Europe and in the United States. What were these hypes?

Ruud: Let us have a look at all these hypes. After the Second World War something new came onto the market every two years or so. After a while this process began to accelerate, and now several theories come into fashion at the same time almost every year. I will give you an overview of these theories. (PPTs 1 and 2)

Slide 1.

Slide 2.

2. Why has the influence program managed to survive the emergence and decline of all these hypes? Can you both explain this?

Ruud: The reasons why the Positive Power and Influence program has resisted the flow of all these hypes are, first of all, that it is not a management approach or management theory as such with an immediately apparent profit motive. Secondly, the program does not depend on economic turbulence. Influence skills can be used in favorable economic times as well as in times of recession. Thirdly, the program is based on scientific research and practical evidence. Fourthly, the influence model supports many of the management approaches I have already shown you. This means that you need influence skills to establish more efficient production processes and better quality and to support more flexible and innovative strategies. Effective influence styles will even support the introduction of more sustainable enterprise.

Sherri: I invited Roger Harrison several years ago to speak with a group of trainers I was working with and he spoke at length about the development of the PPI Program. One thing that stands out in my mind is how he talked about people who attended T-Groups. He said they were softer people, people who already wanted intimacy. So he and David Berlew wanted to develop a program for the hard people – the tough people. Roger said that PPI was designed to help the soft people toughen up and the tough people to soften up and both types of people could work simultaneously in the program. This design has made the program invaluable to organizations over the years. In addition, PPI complimented other types of training being conducted. It supported and helped people implement other Leadership, Team or Management Programs. Plus, the design of PPI is such that people could make immediate changes, have greater success, take more risk and be better prepared. PPI worked then and it works now for a broad range of people.

3. Ruud, you mention scientific underpinning as one of the reasons why the program has survived the fads. Can you explain this?

Ruud: I can give you some examples of scientific research in this field. The influence model itself was developed in a long-term research project by two American psychologists, Roger Harrison and David Berlew. In this study, they discovered the difference between effective leadership behavior and non-effective leadership behavior. At Zuidema some years ago, we conducted a statistical research project on the validity and reliability of the questionnaires that participants in the influence program use to detect their dominant influence behavior. This research project was conducted in cooperation with the universities of Amsterdam and Nijmegen. Some minor changes had to be made to make this inventory perfectly reliable and valid. (PPTs 3,4,5 and 6).

Slide 3.

Slide 4.

Slide 5.

Slide 6.

Sherri: In 1990, Sheri Feinzig in the Psychology Department at SUNY also researched the reliability and found even stronger results than the BZ study as the changes had been implemented. This research was conducted on the use of the influence model in negotiation. It was also very interesting to learn how different cultures use the influence skills within their own culture. It proved that all influence styles are needed in order to achieve win-win results in any situation and in any culture.

4. Sherri, I would like to ask you a question relating to the cultural aspect. I understand that the program has been introduced in more than 25 countries around the world, and therefore in different cultures, and is even available in Japanese, Chinese, Korean and Russian. Is that not rather unusual for a program of American origin? In other words, how universal is the program?

Sherri: Indeed, as you can see, the influence program has been introduced in most parts of the world, covering all major languages and all continents. (PPT 7). Of course, we still conduct research on the usefulness of the model in different cultures, and where necessary, we introduce some minor modifications. For example, in French to literally translate “I want“ would be considered rude, so language changes need to be made. Interestingly, many people in the world struggle with being Assertive. People are good at being either aggressive or submissive but the Assertive Style tends to be challenging for many.

Slide 7.

5. Sherri, besides the cultural differences, there seem to be even greater differences between the generations. Younger generations sometimes appear to speak an entirely different language. Can the influence program bridge the generation gap too?

Sherri: That is a very interesting question, which Ruud and I discussed. The focus of the influence model is on how to get things done, of course. But it also relies on building solid working and personal relationships. While many things may change, we still need each other no matter what generation we belong to. If you look at (PPT 8), for example, how the different generations view the Builders believe in honor and respect, Boomers challenge authority, Gen X ignores authority and Gen Y believes that leaders should respect you and you choose your boss. Understanding these differences improves an individual’s ability to influence cross-generationally. Another example is the different messages that motivate the generations. For example,(PPT 9) the Builders want to know their experience is respected and valued, the Boomers want to know they are worthy, Gen X want to hear that there are not a lot of rules, and Gen Y want to know they can be heroes. Again, understanding what motivates people improves your ability to influence that person. Influence is not about you, it is about what you know about the other person, how genuine you are and the quality of the relationships you build across all types of barriers, not just generational differences. And the cause that many are behind today is sustainability – looking for a greater purpose than making money.

Slide 8.

Slide 9.

6. Will the influence program continue to be effective in the future?

Ruud: Even in this digital world, we need influence skills in real-life, person-to-person contacts, which are becoming scarcer. As long as interpersonal communication is not replaced by non-emotional robots, we need the music of influencing people and being influenced by others. This is not just a cheap trick to teach people how to manipulate others. The use of appropriate influence styles fundamentally improves communication between people. If we look at the rivalry between the candidates for the American presidency, we see that influence styles are sometimes more important than content. People love that music!

Sherri: Today, people are continually asked to do more with less. Achieve greater goals, but with fewer people, lower budgets, and less support. The ability to influence others and build solid working relationships has become even more critical. It is tough to get things done alone.

7. Sherri and Ruud, many years ago sensitivity was the order of the day, after which the emphasis was placed on assertiveness. Where does the emphasis now lie in your opinion, and what does this mean with regard to influence behavior?

Sherri: In the United States, Emotional Intelligence has gained a foothold. The ability to handle your own reactions and the strong emotions of others is seen as a necessity. Many studies have been conducted demonstrating the comparative success of people with a high EQ. Here (PPT 10) are a few examples of these studies. So you can see that people’s ability to handle their own and other people’s strong emotions is seen as a strength from a leadership standpoint. Just a quick question for the audience: How many of you do an absolutely fantastic job of influencing when you are incredibly angry? No one? Of course not! Our ability to influence effectively is impacted by our emotional strength and stability.

Slide 10.

Ruud: If we go back to the early days of personal development in corporate education, there was a considerable discrepancy between personal goals and organizational goals. Other disciplines were also involved. The personal part was the field of the psychologists, and the business development was improved by other disciplines. That was why sensitivity training and Tavistock and T-group training were introduced. Of course, some people benefited from these approaches, but sometimes these training models damaged people and there was a huge gap between what people learned and the reality of business life. Now, we just try to align organizational and personal goals better than in the past. In the influence training, for example, we have exercises that help people to bridge the gap between personal goals and organizational goals.

Slide 16.

8. Ruud, about the development in the business world over the years that you mentioned earlier, from efficiency via quality, to flexibility and innovation, and to sustainable enterprise: does this development also call for a change in management behavior?

Ruud: Yes, in the growth process of organizations we see a development in effective management behavior, and there is even a connection between macroeconomic developments and individual management behavior. It takes a long time to explain this theory, but I know that Marcia Biesheuvel has developed a very elegant model on a situational leadership framework that gives a very clear and comprehensible insight into the relation between macroeconomic developments and individual management behavior. I am very eager to see an article on this subject from her hand.

9. A question for both of you. Within the HRM/HRD field nowadays, people sometimes opt for a psychoanalytical or even spiritually based approach. What do you think about this?

Ruud: Sometimes, it is very frustrating to hear that organizations work with theories and models for which there is no scientific or practical evidence or that are based on outdated, hundred-year-old theories such as the Myers-Briggs type indicator based on Jung, when there are equivalents that are scientifically proven and more effective and efficient in their application. Can you imagine an organization still using logistic and financial systems that date back a hundred years? In my opinion, the main reason is that many HRD professionals have been educated in a learning climate inspired by psychological unproven theories, and spiritual and holistic approaches and the books of very popular writers such as Tolle, Lipton, Wilber, Chopra Almaas and other spiritual gurus. Since the increase of popularity of Bhagwan’s theories amongst trainers, I have been allergic to this form of modern priesthood, but I know that Sherri may have a different opinion on this subject.

Sherri: In the US, people in their personal lives have always searched for the next guru, the next answer, the next phenomena – the US was created for religious freedom! What seems to be gaining momentum organizationally is the idea of sustainability and a reward that is beyond a financial gain. David Burnham of Burnham Rosen Associates has been continuing with McClelland’s research and has a great deal of data that supports the shift from Stage 3 power to Stage 4 power motivation. Looking at( PPT 11), here’s what the different Stages of power motivation look like by Abigail Stewart. The grid is set up based on the source of power and the target of power. So, if the source of power is others and target of power is self, then that is Stage 1 or dependent power. If the source and target of power is self, then that is Stage 2 or independent power. If the source of power is self and the target of power is others, then that is Stage 3 or imperial or assertive power, which is split between personal and institutional. And finally, if the source and target of power is others, then that is Stage 4 or interactive power. For many years, the typical profile of a manager was Stage 3 institutional power. There has been a shift to Stage 4 and again, the issue of sustainability comes up. Looking in detail at the BRA study (PPTs 12, 13 and 14) you can see the basis of the study, 180 leaders, 4 different methods of research, 8 countries and industries, and eighteen companies. When analyzing performance and Stage of Power, over 65% of the leaders who had superior performance were Stage 4 power motivation or interactive power, 70% of average performers were Stage 3 institutional power. If you then look at the impact on the culture of the organization (PPT 15) and tie motives in with employee morale, defined as responsibility, team spirit, organizational clarity and rewards (non-financial), where there was a Power Stage 4 leader, responsibility, team spirit, and rewards were significantly higher while, interestingly, organizational clarity is the same. So the message is that when leaders are driven by something beyond their own personal gain, the positive impact can be seen in performance and in the organization’s culture.

Slide 11.

Slide 12.

Slide 13.

Slide 14.

Slide 15.

10. Last question. At the moment we see a strong interest in the relationship between brain research and learning. Do you think this has any relevance to influence behavior?

Ruud: Brain research is experiencing an explosive development and is very promising in relation to new ideas about how people learn. However, in my opinion, it is too early to say anything significant regarding influence behavior. We have to be careful that brain-based learning does not become the latest hype. At Zuidema, we are very interested in the developments in brain research, especially in the theory that gives evidence to the influence of the neurotransmitter system on the differences in personal preference for certain behavioral styles, this with regard to the use of the well-known Structogram theory.

Sherri: The more we understand about ourselves and others, the better we are able to manage ourselves and influence others. What tools like the brain model do for people is to increase understanding about why someone is thinking or feeling in a different or unexpected way. The more we can build tolerance for each other’s quirks, accept our differences as strengths, take the time to actually listen carefully to each other, the stronger we can build our relationships, and then it becomes easier to influence each other. People quite naturally like to work with and do things for people they like, which is why I flew across the ocean to be here today!

To find out more about how you can increase your Positive Power and Influence skills read about the Positive Power and Influence® Program.

Schedule your next training program with us Get in Touch

Contact Us
  • Address: 98 Spit Brook Road, Suite 201,
    Nashua, NH 03062
  • Phone: (603) 897-1200
  • Email:
  • Monday - Friday: 8:00 am - 5:00 pm
    Saturday - Sunday: Closed
Subscribe To Our Newsletter


© 2017 Situation Management Systems, Inc. All right reserved.