A Business Technology Place

How to be like a Jedi at work

Influence thinking, don’t control results.

That almost reads like a Jedi mind trick. But even the Jedi were susceptible to trying to control outcomes. The concept is something I’ve read numerous times in leadership thought articles and I’ll admit the case of proof is strong. Leaders that use influence get results that far outreach and outlast leaders that use control. Think about Dr. Martin Luther King and Jesus compared to Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin.jedi mind trick

I relate this concept to a common trap in business management; trying to control results. I see it happen with micro-management or by not delegating properly. The person that is trying to control the results or outcome may not even realize what they are doing. It’s evident to me that one of the root causes is a lack of trust in the other individuals to complete a task.

In management, I aspire to create a system that explains the vision and goals for the team. But I don’t tell them how to get there. I like to make it clear that they are the experts in their field. They have responsibility for the “how”. As with anyone else, I’m not short of opinions and I’ll certainly offer my assessment of the goal. But the magic happens when I provide influence on the outcome more than controlling the outcome.

Examples of influence.

The software development life-cycle that is used by a programming group is something the development manager and product manager need to agree to. They need to create the process flow and interactions. I tell them they need a consistent software development process that provides predictable outputs with relation to time and quality (influence not control). If this isn’t happening then I may facilitate discussions to help move the team in that direction.

Service organizations expect team members to respond to customers in a timely and professional manner. Yet in many organizations the Information Technology group has a reputation of poor customer service skills and not partnering with other departments. Why is that? My aim in this situation is to influence the results of the team by modeling customer service skills and partnership attitudes. The technology steering committee I chair has more non-IT members than IT. It’s about partnership and cooperation and I stress this in meetings with my team.  The base level of customer service in IT is the service ticket. I don’t require a specific lingo, format, or response template. But I do make sure that technicians understand the power of responses to the customer in a professional and timely manner.  They have the ability to influence a customer’s decision for repeat business!

So be a work Jedi. But this is no mind trick.

The best part is that all employees can influence others but not all employees are positioned for control. Use that thought the next time a coworker complains about not being able to control a situation because the team doesn’t report to them.

Using influence instead of control has many benefits that include:

  • Employee development – Trusted employees learn and grow their skills through experience more than someone telling them exactly what to do.
  • Diversity of thought – Despite what I may think, my way is not always the best. Engaged employees bring diversity of thought to a problem which provides more potential solutions to draw upon.
  • Employee respect – Respect employees enough to honor their skills. They were hired to do a job, let’em work!