What is “Influence Influenza” and What is the Cure?

What is “Influence Influenza” and What is the Cure? 150 150 Wally Hauck, PhD, CSP

Influenza is a series infection. It causes fever, aching, and is often debilitating and even deadly if the immune system is weak.  Managers suffer from “influence influenza” because they are often debilitated by the need to have difficult performance conversations.  There is an epidemic of an unwillingness and/or inability to influence employees to change their inappropriate behaviors and/or poor performance.  What are the root causes of this epidemic and what is the cure?

It is managers who suffer from this affliction because leaders understand how to give feedback.  Leaders understand the difference between control and influence and leaders know how to create followers.  Leaders know how to influence.

Root Causes

We are taught control techniques. We use performance appraisals and pay for performance carrots and stick to create change in behaviors.  Control means people are forced to do certain behaviors.  Influence means they want to do those behaviors. At a recent training conference for a major automobile manufacturer, my colleagues and I learned that the owners of dealerships were threatened with a fine if they didn’t attend the training. This is a perfect example of carrots and sticks control. This type of control technique damages motivation, engagement and cooperation.  It can even create anger.

Wells Fargo was fined millions for issuing fake credit card accounts and overcharging customers to lock them into new deals. (Prentice, 2016)  They not only provided monetary incentives for the employees to “sell” these deals, they also threatened employees with loss of employment if they failed to meet the goals.  This is an example of the standard form of control techniques.  Employees had to behave in a certain way. Customers were manipulated.

Managers are fearful to use influence because it requires effort, courage, and critical thinking. The carrot and stick approach is so much easier.  It is easy for a manager to set up an incentive program and/or make threats to get the behavior they want and then, if it doesn’t work, the manager can always blame and punish the employees.  This is exactly what Wells Fargo did. (Egan, 2016)  5,300 employees were fired.

A lack of trust prevents communication.  When trust is low, a manager is often off balance.  The lack of balance can create a lack of confidence, hesitation and/or procrastination.  According to the International Association of Business Communicators, trust can be created by treating others with integrity, respect, accomplishing tasks and agreeing on shared objectives.[1] When one or more of these elements are missing, a manager is off balance.  These elements can be managed if the manager is willing to make the effort and if they have the skills.

The Cure

Influence requires a deep appreciation of why behaviors must change. Instead of using carrots and sticks, people need and want a “Big Why” to change.  Managers who want to become leaders and who want to use influence must begin to communicate and reinforce the “Big Why” for employees.  They must be able to articulate the benefits the change will create and the consequences if it fails.

Finally, managers can learn to use the Socratic Method.  Asking powerful and useful questions is the best way to influence others.  This sounds simple and it is not easy. It requires critical thinking skills, patience, and an appreciation that employees might have habits that need to be changed.  A change in habit is difficult.  Managers who learn to ask great questions, with the proper tone, and with the helpful (even loving) intentions will begin to become a leader who knows how to influence others.

Managers who hesitate to address poor or unhelpful behaviors of employees likely have “influence influenza”.  It’s time for a cure. If we want our organizations to be optimally successful we must become leaders who influence and stop just being managers to try to control.


Check out the interview on C-Suite Best Seller TV to learn more about how to stop leadership malpractice and replace the typical performance review: https://www.c-suitetv.com/video/best-seller-tv-wally-hauck-stop-the-leadership-malpractice/

Wally Hauck, PhD has a cure for the “deadly disease” known as the typical performance appraisal.  Wally holds a doctorate in organizational leadership from Warren National University, a Master of Business Administration in finance from Iona College, and a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from the University of Pennsylvania.   Wally is a Certified Speaking Professional or CSP.  Wally has a passion for helping leaders let go of the old and embrace new thinking to improve leadership skills, employee engagement, and performance.

For more, read on: https://c-suitenetwork.com/advisors/advisor/wally-hauck/


Egan, M. (2016, September 9). 5,300 Wells Fargo Employees Fired Over 2 Million Phony Accounts. Retrieved from cnn.com: http://money.cnn.com/2016/09/08/investing/wells-fargo-created-phony-accounts-bank-fees/index.html

Prentice, R. (2016, September 19). Wells Fargo Goes Far to Cheat Customers, and It Was Predictable. Retrieved from utexas.edu: https://news.utexas.edu/2016/09/19/it-was-predictable-that-wells-fargo-cheated-customers

[1] The International Association of Business Communicators definition of trust

Share This