“We had to match our competitors’ discounts. That’s why we’re behind on margin.”

“Our Director of Operations left. That’s why productivity is down.”

“The economy has tanked. That’s why sales are off.”

We have lots of ready-made explanations for why we’re not getting or can’t get the results we want. After all, there are many things we can’t control. Including competitors’ pricing, the loss of a key employee, and the economy.

It’s not about control. It’s about influence. There are many situations over which you have no control. But you may have great capacity to influence. More than you think.

Download Model


1.     When faced with a challenging situation, first ask, “What can I control?” If taking action based on what you can control will produce the desired result, then, great, make it happen.

2.     Often, that won’t be enough. Now, it becomes a game of influence. Brainstorm – preferably with those who have a stake in the situation – ways in which you can influence the desired outcome. Brainstorm ways to expand your (collective) influence. Typically, we underestimate the extent to which we can influence a situation.

“The economy is down. Can we take share from our competitors? Can we offer favorable payment terms? Are their counter-cyclical market segments we can exploit? Can we offer ‘light’ versions of our products and services?”

3.     Evaluate the brainstormed ideas against criteria:

How much influence would this idea have on the desired outcome?

What is the cost of implementing the idea?

How much time would it take to implement?

How long would it take to see the effects?

How much disruption would implementing it cause?

How likely is it the idea will have the desired effect?

4.     Select the best idea or ideas to influence your desired outcome.

All of us are faced with challenges. Many of them we can’t control. Does that mean we raise the white flag and surrender? Or do we get creative and challenge ourselves to expand our influence?

The difference between good leaders and great leaders? Good leaders limit themselves to what they can control. Great leaders continually look for ways to influence.

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