Underestimating or overestimating an opponent influences how an athlete or team performs. Influence establishes a bar above, at or below expectations. Athletes or teams often calibrate their performance based on where it’s believed the bar exists in the areas of preparation, effort, respect for their opponent, urgency of the competition or the “talk” of coaches, supporters, media and even teammates.
Influence carries significant weight and should be used with both caution and as encouragement. It’s more than verbal persuasion, it can often shape outcomes before the event actually occurs. Leaders and followers are both needed in order for influence to have an impact – some one or thing persuades and someone becomes persuaded.
Influence and persuasion are seen as crypto-secret mind-tricks possessed by only a few people. So not true! Inaction and silence can be just as influential and persuasive as action and voice. The only difference is intent. Influence requires two sets of learning – how to influence and how to use influence. Without those two learned principles, things can turn mindless and reckless.
How should sports professionals approach the positive, encouraging and motivating side of influence? One words – cautiously! When that’s grasped, then follow this path toward responsible influence:
- Build a foundation of trust.
- Get away from ego trips.
- Show competence.
- Inspire the voice and action of others.
- Develop an identity within the program.