Those Outside of Your Control: Impacting Those That Influence Your Outcomes

KEY POINTS:

  • Facilitative Leadership of Coaching
  • Strategic Power of Coaching
  • Leading Transformation and Change
  • Systems Coaching

Influencing to the Third Power is about expanding your capabilities to influence through relationships. Your power comes from being strategically involved with the entire system that impacts your ability to achieve your desired outcomes. Fundamentally it requires a broader awareness of the people and activities outside of your immediate network and control — the seen and unseen forces that stop you from advancing your agenda of success. Each of the key points we cover in this post are intricately related to each other, if not inseparable. I’ve delineated them as such, so that we can have a more refined understanding of the components of this important and strategic power in Active Influence.

This Third Power area of influence involves being networked externally and understanding how these networks of influence are key to your success.

Equally important is that this Third Power requires the art of taking a longer view on things. How many times have you been plowing ahead with minimal or manageable resistance, only to run into a major roadblock that stops you dead in the tracks of your progress? It takes time to think your life and business ahead. I can’t think of one leader that I have coached or currently work with that doesn’t struggle with this Third Power. Some leaders are better than others because they have built a business from scratch or found that their industry required long range planning.

For example, highly regulated industries force you to have the ability to impact people beyond your own system or sphere of control. Barriers to entry are high or there are formidable hurdles to overcome just to be able to participate in some markets or domains of business. And freedom to operate isn’t just a critical factor, it’s imperative that you have a well-articulated and executed strategy to stay in the game. In many ways this environment (which I’ve spent a large part of my career operating within) makes it easier to understand the necessity of influencing to the Third Power. It’s obvious and tangible.

Regardless of the nature of your business environment, relationships and understanding of the broader process flow are critical to influencing a future of success and maximizing possibilities. The Third Power area of influence involves being networked externally and understanding how these networks of influence are key to your success. Thinking your business ahead will morph into “influencing your business ahead” as you see the power of moving efficiently from thinking into actively influencing. Business in its broadest sense…is life, family, work, and everything else.

Facilitative Leadership of Coaching

Process, Relationship, and Results

These three aspects of facilitative leadership are fundamental to achieving desired outcomes. What do process, relationship, and results have in common? They can be measured or assessed. They are also a systems approach to coaching or leading. Coaching is supported by all three and I could just as easily say that coaching is a process, a relationship, and results. The facilitative aspect of coaching is that the “content” of what you talk about is not yours to influence.

Your role is to use sound process, effective relationship, and the appropriate focus on results. I bring facilitation into the domain of the Third Power because it is one of the best ways to be involved and engaged where you have less control. It helps you stay on others’ agendas and keep your bias in check. Discovery is the game here; if you do weigh in as a content expert be sure that it will add value and not just add to your ego. Focus is on results and gaining shared agreement.

Making sure that you don’t get into the “content” of a conversation as a default mode is hard…very hard. It’s difficult not to weigh in when you have a vested interest in an outcome or tacit knowledge in an area being discussed. Your ability to influence is enhanced by staying in the process of facilitating discovery. You could just tell everyone what they need to know, but that is less effective in building a relationship, alignment, and involvement.


“Just telling” shortcuts your opportunity to accurately comprehend what someone understands, relates to, or focuses on regarding the results needed. Using good inquiry and discovery will help you gain insight into “how” they understand and relate to the results needed. This leads to “why” it’s important. Starting with “why” is great if it is known. However, I work with lots of clients to help them find their “why.” Most times you have to start with the “what and how” first and then back into the “why” of things. You have to help people you want to influence name the “why” for themselves. The guidance and help that you provide in finding “the why” creates a lot of Third Power influence.

Your ability to influence is enhanced by staying in the process of facilitating discovery. You could just tell everyone what they need to know, but that is less effective in building a relationship, alignment, and involvement.

Strategic Power of Coaching

Supporting Possibility Thinking

Possibility Thinking (PT) needs our support! We are physically wired to register more things regarding pain or fear than positive stimulus. Everyone hates negative political ads, but they work for the very physiological reason I stated. That’s why possibilities need an ambassador, a coach that is committed to keeping some space and time where new ways of being and doing can live, breathe, and have a voice. It’s not natural for us, in general, to be positive or see the bright side. Some people are better than others at it, but you may not see how hard they have to work at seeking possibilities over things that seem impossible.

We all understand that thinking negatively can limit possibilities, but the distinction here is focused on the strategic power of coaching. I’m not wanting to confuse negative thinking or attitudes with the ability to see possibilities. Have you been around people that are quick with the phrase, “We tried it and that will never work!”? Another way individual leaders or teams express their concern for change or a different approach is, “We’ve never done anything like that before.” These statements are of course somewhat true — at face value.

Here are three examples of practical ways or tips I use to strategically support clients around finding their Possibilities Zone. Remember, I have no power to declare for my clients…influencing others as an executive or professional coach is truly Third Power work. Keep in mind that sometimes you may need to be a little weird to keep people open to possibilities. Possibilities come to existence because of our actions, and they may not be the set of possibilities we want or need.

Leading Transformation and Change

Building a Forum for Change

Here’s a general description of a forum:

”A place, meeting, or medium where ideas and views on a particular issue can be exchanged.”

This idea of creating or “building forums for change” can be a stretch for some folks depending on their business or personal situations. It’s not always a separate function or an additional meeting. Sometimes it can be making your current interactions more conducive or supportive to focus on transformation or change. I have learned that I need to have a consistent and constructive way to stay in conversation with my organization, team(s), and individuals. It should be a routine and intentional time for you to talk about more than tactical items. In organizations this can be a great place to invite outside stakeholders into conversation with your team or organization.

Your forums should be strategic and focused on development items, accountability, and effective action. You may not want to be the instigator or seen as the one leading conversation, that’s your call based on the specific situation. Until you find a way to effectively create environments for powerful conversations, it will minimize your ability to actively influence future outcomes. I was taught by some of the best and mentored in this area. The effort it takes far outweighs the benefits and the strong network you will build. A network of help that will last a lifetime and beyond for you, your family and organization.

basic systems model

Systems Coaching

Find Clarity in the “Big Picture”

I have always had an interest in systems theory. I guess it’s because process has always been a big interest to me. And I’m naturally wired to see the connectivity and dependency between people, systems, and results. We live up close to everything and life is full of tasks and daily “process.” I might even describe the experience as similar to looking at a dot picture up close and only seeing dots, but when you step back far enough a picture comes into clarity and is distinct. Influencing the bigger picture is, of course, all the little dots that must take their proper place in the forming of the picture. There is a process or two between the input and output! However, you must step back occasionally to see where the process of placing little dots is missing. If you don’t step back and gain that feedback, you end up without the final product becoming what it was intended to be. Most importantly, I want you to see this as a clear metaphor for systems coaching. As a leader of an organization or team you need to move in and out between the bigger picture and the details.


If you get caught in just one process or tactic area, you can’t coach or influence the larger system and its parts. The team and individuals will have minimal success or even worse, fail. If you learn to think in terms of systems you will begin to understand better why, when, and how to get involved. And when not to get involved.

As a leader of an organization or team you need to move in and out between the bigger picture and the details.

Should You be Engaged — or Involved?

Being engaged is different than being involved. Engagement is about understanding your current role and future role needed to actively influence. Engagement is being aware, fully present, and connected to the system and its parts. Process is so important to understand and engage with because this is often the source of breakdowns or success. Each process should have clear goals and many times they do, but quite often you will find that they are inefficient, outdated, or no longer needed. In almost every case these processes will have job tasks and careers connected to them and they become “self-preserved” on that basis rather than evaluated for effectiveness. Changing the system can be harmful to your career. Both the “changer” and the “bigger picture” may change in unforeseen ways.

Unless you are unequivocally committed to the end result needed you will be unable to move the entire system to the desired outcome/output you intended. Commitment is all you have when trying to move an entire system to a new state. Without a strong sense of clarity for the outcome needed you may tend to sub-optimize one process area thinking it will change the outcome. When that particular process was not the limiting factor in the system, you scratch your head and wonder why the system didn’t change in the way you intended. It turned out that what you focused on wasn’t a limiting factor, and it could even be that the input from the very beginning was lacking. This is why I love systems theory!

Systems are living and breathing entities. Look at your body for one example. Bad inputs (food, lack of sleep and exercise, limited water) mean your body doesn’t perform well. Systems exist within a larger environment or larger systems. (Don’t be confused between the two!) Outside forces influence them and systems don’t stay closed for very long, if ever. That’s why it’s hard to work on them with precision. Outside forces will always impact and change outcomes. Because of this impact (and the effort) it takes to stabilize things long enough to work on them, it’s just easier to work on our own “piece of the pie.” This is sub-optimization. You’ll notice it goes on a lot in business and government. Sub-optimization  creates lots of work and it can be quite alluring to optimize one single part of a system. But this doesn’t bring any more success to the end game. Systems coaching is not just complex, it’s a challenging adventure that can be quite elusive and difficult work.

The final major point in this post is about Involvement. Once you have an understanding for the system parts and processes you can choose how you need to involve yourself as a manager or leader. Sometimes that involvement is full-on in the trenches and leading the way, blazing the trail for others to follow. Sometimes it’s more as a facilitator or even mentor to the process. Full-on involvement is not always the best way to an optimal output. You could become the limiting factor if you don’t choose wisely. Remember Raiders of the Lost Ark? Choose the wrong chalice and you may end up withering away into dust!

It’s less dramatic than a movie segment, but choosing unwisely can mean all the difference in achieving the outcome you want in a timely fashion. Maximum appropriate involvement is core not just to being a good facilitator, it is core to your personal investment in actively influencing the future. That active decision you make now will set up the results you need later.

Strategic leadership is the result of becoming skillful in effective involvement. Influencing the future always happens in the present moment. What we do now actively influences our future and matters later more than we can sometimes grasp.   

To Be Continued Soon. . .

This wraps up my Influencing to the Third Power post. I hope you took away something useful from it and have grasped a bit more about the experience of Active Influence. In the past several posts, I’ve covered all three domains of power encompassed within Active Influence. My next post will take us in a level deeper. Stay with me on this journey to becoming an “active influencer” of your best future. There is much more to learn!