How to Achieve More Ethical Influence, More Power, More Success

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ethical influence

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Having more ethical influence in the workplace sounds like a lofty goal and if you would ask a business leader about whether they exercise ethical influence, they no doubt would say SURE.

But yet one in four employees report witnessing unethical behavior in their workplace and my next guest says it’s time to examine the influences on our teams if we really want them to excel.

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Best Moments

What You’ll Discover About Ethical Influence (highlights & transcript):

Individual Advantages

* What is ethical influence [01:43]

* Most important activity impacting ethical influence [02:49]

* Self-defeating behaviors that under cut ethical influence [04:25]

* Steps business leaders can take to encourage more ethical influence [10:09]

* How employees can exert ethical influence [13:20]

* The business culture that supports ethical influence [14:43]

* How ethical influence is taken for granted [16:27]

* How influence is why and how you matter [20:36]

* And MUCH more.

Hanna Hasl-Kelchner: [00:00:00] Having more ethical influence in the workplace sounds like a lofty goal, and if you would ask a business leader whether they exercise ethical influence, they’d no doubt say, “yeah, sure.” But yet one in four employees report witnessing unethical behavior in their workplace. And my next guest says it’s time to reexamine the influences on our teams if we really want them to excel.

Announcer: [00:00:25] This is Business Confidential Now with Hanna Hasl-Kelchner helping you see business issues hiding in plain view that matter to your bottom line.

Hanna: [00:00:36] Welcome to Business Confidential Now, I’m your host, Hanna Hasl-Kelchner and today’s guest, Dr. Brian Smith has helped over 18,000 executives, managers and entrepreneurs from companies of all sizes define their personal influence to be their best selves so they could make more informed decisions that enable both personal and organizational growth.

Hanna: [00:01:00] Brian has a Ph.D. in Organizational Psychology, a master’s degree in management information systems, a bachelor’s in accounting and is a certified Six Sigma Master Black Belt consultant. So don’t mess with him. He founded a think tank to develop, customized yet affordable management solutions, driven by his focus on people process and technology.

Hanna: [00:01:25] And that’s not all. He’s also the author of Individual Advantages Find the I in Team. It’s a two-book series about the role of influence in business culture, which is what we’re going to be talking about today. So welcome to Business Confidential Now, Brian.

Dr. Brian Smith: [00:01:42] Thank you, Hanna, for having me.


Hanna: [00:01:43] Well, I’m really interested in learning more about the role of influence. Tell us more about how to understand and constructively have more ethical influence.

Brian: [00:01:55] Influence is something that is thrown about quite loosely. Nowadays, we hear the term influencer or influencers, or all these different variations and it is our opinion that individual influence is our biggest responsibility as humans, and that responsibility starts early on in our life and it goes on until even after we passed.

Brian: [00:02:26] So everything that we do has influence. So ethical influence would be understanding how our actions can affect things in the now, the present moment or later have that ripple effect or the after effect of decisions, actions or anything that we do as a human.


Hanna: [00:02:49] Well, that’s a really broad range of activity. Are there any types of activity that are more important than others when it comes to developing influence or exerting influence, having ethical influence?

Brian: [00:03:04] Well, I think the most important activity is communication today. The world is driven by communication the way that technology supports us as humans. It allows us to communicate much more rapidly with a lot less vetting. We see the polarization of humans and the differences that we have from politics to media to — I mean, just about all aspects of our life.

Brian: [00:03:34] And so communication really is the first place to start and communication is more than just speaking. It can be written word, it can be body language, it can be a combination of those things. And as humans, we’re judged by not only the words we say, but how credible those words might be. And oftentimes we say things, but we show or act a different way, or we act one way and we don’t consistently follow through on what we say.

Brian: [00:04:07] So it all starts with communication and using communication in the most positive and effective way we can for not just the betterment of self, but for all individuals. And that’s really where our belief is comes from.


Hanna: [00:04:25] Well, I would imagine that there are a lot of people listening who believe that they are communicating in a positive way, certainly in the workplace where a lot of it counts, especially if they’re in a leadership position that have people relying on them. But in your experience, what are some of the most self-defeating behaviors you’ve seen that undercut ethical influence?

Brian: [00:04:50] Yeah, I think greed is one of the things that really hurts high level business people. They’ll want to make a deal and they’re looking out for, let’s say, the shareholders or for an operating unit, or for a department. And they don’t really think about the overreaching influence that decisions might have. So they make decisions that appear and might have a large financial gain or a large promotion or you get more notoriety or something.

Brian: [00:05:29] And then we find out later that those decisions have a ripple effect that they take. And somewhere else or they damage a part of our company, or a part of our credibility because we make decisions and we communicated those decisions without due diligence, and then it’s all done under the guise or under the feeling that we have good business acumen.

Brian: [00:05:56] You know, it’s good business acumen to make these decisions because it makes money. And oftentimes those decisions are those business deals, are too good for everybody that they influence. They’re only good for a small part of those people. And that small part isn’t really the important part. It’s if you — or even it might be many, but a smaller percentage of the whole,

Hanna: [00:06:23] Could you give me an example?

Brian: [00:06:25] Sure. We’re involved in a company that deals with regulation when it comes to containment of grease and this sounds like a weird topic. But restaurants produce grease and there are regulations that have been put in place that are there to remediate that grease or to make sure that that grease doesn’t reach the public waterways and the storm water systems. People make decisions not to buy the equipment that’s needed to use that or to remediate that issue because they think it’s too expensive and or because it’s a regulation.

Brian: [00:07:07] They don’t want to follow it when that happens. It’s really a small issue, let’s say a thousand-dollar issue. Yet every single restaurant that doesn’t follow that regulation is polluting our public waterways. And then you have the AHJs who are there to remediate that and to manage those regulations. And they don’t want to do it because it adds a burden either to themselves or to the restaurant itself.

Brian: [00:07:40] But 85% of these restaurants don’t follow that regulation because, well, it’s not good for the bottom line, but it’s really a small issue and it’s an ethical issue that is being remediated globally and also locally. But it’s still something where you have individual people making ethical decisions on very small things and ignoring things. It’s having a dramatic influence on us as a people and as a society.

Hanna: [00:08:16] Okay, I see the influence it has on the public good. But what about the influence for a particular restaurant or organization’s culture?

Brian: [00:08:25] Well, imagine working in a culture that doesn’t choose to do this. You’re working in a culture that’s unsafe, that produces or causes harm, potentially to not only your local community, but communities that might be downstream from you. It creates a slipping hazards any time somebody has to get on a rooftop and be around these areas where grease is produced.

Brian: [00:08:52] And if you’ve been in restaurants, grease is produce throughout the kitchen environment, from the immediate kitchen all the way to the rooftop where the fan systems are meant to extract that culture is affected because people, well, ask people that work in the kitchen. They feel like they work in a dirty environment here.

Brian: [00:09:13] I remember being a teenager working in fast food and one of the things I disliked was the grease that I felt greasy after I left and then moved next to the group of people who are influenced, who clean these systems and they’re looked at as grease cleaners or they’re looked at as bottom of the barrel type of tradesmen. When the people who remediate this grease and who clean this grease and who control it for us are actually performing a really important task for society.

Brian: [00:09:49] Yet they’re looked down on and not really understood or appreciated. So there’s a culture issue there also in how this particular section of business is just not really appreciated like it should be and understood like it should be to what it does for us as an entire society.


Hanna: [00:10:09] All right. So there’s a real ripple effect, if I understand you correctly, to these decisions and how they influence other people within the organization, within the business, but also the larger community. What steps can business leaders take to encourage more ethical influence?

Brian: [00:10:28] Well, I think one is understanding what influence you have as an organization, knowing what your influence is within your local community, knowing what your influence is with your employees, knowing what your influence is with your vendors and your customers and your influence changes, that sounds like it’s a lot to know and understand. But the reality is as business owners, we live and think about those very individual influences on a regular basis.

Brian: [00:11:03] We’re constantly thinking about what our employees are doing and how we’re affecting our employees. We’re constantly thinking about what our customers like or dislike or what we can do to service them. We’re constantly thinking about what our vendors can do to support us and how their product or services support us and our mission as a company.

Brian: [00:11:23] We oftentimes are constantly thinking about what can I do for my community or maybe we’re not, but all of those questions can lead us to a better understanding of the influence we have. It can also help us to understand if we are having negative influence and part of employing to our employees, listening to our customers, our vendors, listening to our community.

Brian: [00:11:50] And we’re seeing that more with reviews and the Yelp and the Google reviews and all of the different review platforms that are out there. We’re actually seeing these things cause a change in how business owners and business employees are treating not only the customers but also treating their communities.


Hanna: [00:12:16] So it sounds like these reviews are a form of accountability.

Brian: [00:12:21] In a sense they are. I don’t think they were really originally identified to be that, but what’s happened is that they have turned into a form of public accountability. And granted, some of them are emotional. Somebody has a one-time issue and exaggerates that.

Brian: [00:12:41] Which, by the way, is sometimes an unethical use of influence when we go too far in those reviews or make them too personal. Not about what the problem was, but maybe about a person or something like that. But the fact is, is that overall, through all of society and commerce, the review business that’s come to light and this ability for us to communicate our pleasure or displeasure with people that we do business with or interact with has changed the dynamics of influence and how we’re held accountable for our actions and our words.


Hanna: [00:13:20] Well, it sounds also like you’ve been talking mostly about business leaders in this process of influence. What about just rank and file employees? What kind of influence can they exert?

Brian: [00:13:34] Sure. Well, that’s really where the influence starts. Every time that one of our employees communicates or takes action in their job, they’re exerting influence. And if an employee works positively for whatever his particular mission is, if it’s a salesperson and he sells a product, he is influencing somebody to buy that product, which then influences for that product to be manufactured, serviced, delivered.

Brian: [00:13:34] Everything that goes around that if they sell a service, they’re creating influence for the people that perform those services. So each person in an organization has influence and has responsibility for that influence, and that influence in a business environment can be managed by policy and procedure and a positive culture that lays the foundation for then positive use of your product or service, and positive feedback and growth for everybody.


Hanna: [00:14:43] Well, let’s dive a little further into this positive culture. What kind of elements go into a positive culture?

Brian: [00:14:50] Well, one is just a foundational support of the business infrastructure and giving the people who work within an organization a solid foundation where they feel secure. Maslow’s theory, applying that when you are the leader of an organization and understanding the needs of your employees and your team and making sure that they’re taken care of and giving them a foundation to work from that is positive. Where they come to work, they feel good about coming there.

Brian: [00:15:26] They feel good about the products that they serve or that they sell or that they service or whatever it is that they do. And that it’s like a domino effect. It’s like when you walk by somebody and you get a smile. Very few people would be smiled at and say, well, that’s a negative thing. It’s catching, it’s contagious.

Brian: [00:15:48] And when people start from a positive place, they move through that with positive structure or positive process. In a positive environment, you can’t help but have a positive culture. It feeds on itself even when negativity happens in those cultures. If there is a positive way of dealing with negative issues, issues are de-escalated quickly. The issue itself is handled, not the emotion. And we move past the issue and back to that positive position of that positive influence we tried to start from.


Hanna: [00:16:27] Do you feel that ethical influence is sometimes overlooked on leadership agendas?

Brian: [00:16:32] Yeah, I think it’s taken for granted. I think all of us like to feel like we’re ethical and to a certain extent, I think ethics can be relative to people and what one company thinks is ethical. Another might not. That could be from ignorance. It could be from poor training. It could be from how you were raised, where you came from.

Brian: [00:17:00] What’s ethical to us as Americans might be something different. Maybe in another country. Even so, I mean, I think everybody wants to be ethical. I think leaders want to be ethical. I think oftentimes we get lost in whatever business we’re in or whatever environment we work in and that we don’t think deeper about that as often as would be hoped for, especially in small and medium sized business.

Brian: [00:17:32] I think the larger public companies think about it all the time, but I think small businessmen and in women oftentimes don’t really think twice about it.

Hanna: [00:17:42] Well, like you said, they probably take it for granted because everyone likes to think that they’re a good person. They’re not doing something corrupt or that they believe is illegal. But what’s illegal and what’s not ethical are two different things. There’s a finer filter for that. We only have a few minutes left that I’d really like to talk briefly about your book series: Individual Advantages: Find the I in Team. What inspired you to write that?


Brian: [00:18:11] What really inspired me was my work and seeing how individuals struggle with change, Find the I in Team and Be the I in Team, which are the first two parts of our book series. The first was you can’t really understand your influence and the influence you have until you understand yourself.

Brian: [00:18:31] So what really inspired me was looking at my own self, looking in the mirror and trying to understand what made me, what influenced me to be the person I am, what influences me to have these passions, what influences me to choose which side of the political spectrum I’m on, what influences me to want to raise a family or build a company.

Brian: [00:18:57] The first book is about understanding where that came from and how you came to be the person you are in this moment. The second one is during that process; you’ve determined the kind of person you want to be and once you understand that and can accept it. How do you be better at that? We all fail at something as a human. We can all look in the mirror and say, I wish this was better. I wish I did this better.

Brian: [00:19:25] Well, what drives that? Well, when we go through the find process, we think people will find an understanding of that and Be the I in Team is about how to apply that better and how to be more positive and how to be more true to who you actually thought you were or who you found you are, and then how to be a positive influence for others.

Hanna: [00:19:46] Those are great objectives. What would you want a reader to take away from either of those two books? What would be the major takeaway?

Brian: [00:19:54] Yeah. The major takeaway for us is that that individual who’s reading the book is important and has influence. Regardless if you’re the CEO of a company or the janitor of a company, you have an amazingly important role to play in the life you have that you are relied on and that you have meaning.

Brian: [00:20:17] And really, ultimately, that’s what the book is about and the book series is about is that every human has a place, every human has influence and that influence is important within each of their own environments and where they are at this point in their life.


Hanna: [00:20:36] So would it be fair to say that the influence they have is exactly why they matter?

Brian: [00:20:42] Exactly. It is. The influence they have is exactly why they matter and why they are important.

Hanna: [00:20:48] Wonderful because I think we get so many negative messages during the day. You should be more this. You should be more that. Everybody shooting on you. It gets to be pretty frustrating. After a while, it’s like, “No, I’m enough. I am good. Can I improve?” Absolutely. There’s room for improvement, but I can make a difference. I do make a difference. So I thank you for writing this book series. It sounds like there’s going to be another one in the series. Is that correct?


Brian: [00:21:17] That’s correct. We are in the process now of writing the third book in the series, which is titled Build the I in Team and it’s about how to build your team. And that could be build a company team, build a family, build a friendship. It’s how to build your influence and how to build that group around you and help you to fulfill whatever goals you have as an individual.

Hanna: [00:21:43] That sounds wonderful because absolutely having more influence is what gives you more power and more success to be able to move forward and advance, which is again going back to your Maslow’s hierarchy, what we all want to aspire to the next level. So thank you, Brian. I appreciate your work in the area of ethical influence in the workplace and how to improve business cultures and help us individually just be better at making a difference that we’re already making to make it more of a difference.

Hanna: [00:22:13] So if you’re listening and you’d like more information about Brian’s work or his book series Individual Advantages, one and two are available. Three is in the pipeline. That information can be found in the show notes at And if you know someone who’s interested in influencing more people increasing their profile in the workplace, tell them about Brian and this podcast episode. Share the link.

Hanna: [00:22:39] Leave a positive review so others can find out about his amazing tips as well. You can do it on your podcast app or come on over to BusinessConfidential because this is Business Confidential with Hanna Hasl-Kelchner, and I thank you for listening. Have a great day and an even better tomorrow.

The Most Important Every Day Activity to Impact Ethical Influence

Steps Business Leaders Can Take to Encourage More Ethical Influence

How Employees Can Exert Ethical Influence at Work

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Guest: Dr. Brian Smith

Dr. Brian Smith

Since 1988, Dr. Brian Smith has helped over 18,000 business owners and managers on all seven continents (yes, Antarctica, too). Coming from companies of all sizes, he has helped them make decisions to enable both personal and organizational growth. Smith has a PhD in organizational psychology, a master’s degree in management information systems, a bachelor’s degree in accounting, and is a certified Six Sigma master black belt consultant.

Dr. Smith began his career as an accountant but did not enjoy public accounting. After a short term at a big 6 accounting firm, he started Business Accounting Solutions in 1988, which he later sold to Cornerstone Consulting Group.

Recognizing the need many small businesses had for sound management advice, Brian went on to start Individual Advantages, LLC, which was later rebranded DBA IA Business Advisors in 2015, as a think tank to develop customized, yet affordable, management solutions driven by our focus on people, process, and technology.

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