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Becoming A Stellar Games Industry Manager : Learning to be an Influencer
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Becoming A Stellar Games Industry Manager : Learning to be an Influencer

April 9, 2007 Article Start Page 1 of 4 Next

Part 1: Getting People to Listen

We have Dale Carnegie to thank for one of the top-selling books of the past 70 years. For under $10.00 you can pick up How to Win Friends and Influence People, a relatively slim volume that will reveal the secrets to financial success through knowledge and give you the ability to “express ideas, to assume leadership, and to arouse enthusiasm among people.”

Born in 1888 in Missouri, Carnegie achieved success the hard way – he earned it. He became one of Armour & Co.’s top salesmen by selling bacon, soap and lard, and from those humble beginnings he created what is now a national craze for self-improvement programs and franchise operations. His successful program is based on five “course drivers” – self-confidence, basic communication skills, “people” skills, leadership skills and stress-control skills – all of which should sound fairly familiar.

What is Influence?

According to, influence is “The capacity or power of persons or things to be a compelling force on or produce effects on the actions, behavior, opinions, etc., of others; the action or process of producing effects on the actions, behavior, opinions, etc., of another or others.”

Influence isn’t about forcing people to listen to you or accept your ideas. It’s about finding the right combination of words, expressed the right way, to make people do something you want them to do – and either embrace your idea enthusiastically or think that it was their idea all long. This is not actually as sinister as it sounds.

Influence is a key element in getting your ideas heard and accepted, but how much influence you have and how much you can/should use are more difficult to gauge and implement.

Wielding influence is hardly a new concept. According to Aristotle, a successful influencer speaks logically, fluently and confidently to inspire and motivate others by appealing to their hidden interests. To be truly convincing, an influencer uses logic to win over others’ minds, emotion to win their hearts and at least a veneer of confidence to be regarded as authoritative.

The great philosopher learned his lessons from his teacher Plato and passed them along to many students including Alexander. Not surprisingly, they are as relevant today as they were back in the 4th century B.C.

In a perfect world, you would be able to influence everyone around you – your team, your developer (or publisher), and management – to do things exactly your way. If this were Lemmings, you’d be able to click on a person, assign a task and know that the worker would continue on the job until it was finished (or something prevented the little guy from working…).

But we live in the real world, or a close facsimile of it, so managing a team and wielding your influence requires a bit more effort. No matter how hard you try to click on others, they will probably want to do things their own way.

Using Your Powers for Good

  • Motivate your team: Once you find out what drives each person on your team, outline the benefits for everyone involved from achieving team goals
  • Create a positive environment: People on your team will get more work done and be happier even in pressure situations when they trust you so focus on how you present yourself and your ideas
  • Be open to negotiation: Achieving positive agreements will enable you to establish positive collaborations, which is crucial on every level of game development
  • Be open to change: Sometimes the right way may not be your way. Regard your situation as an on-going opportunity for learning.
  • Build a loyal customer base: Make the effort to find out what the customer wants
  • Improve your career prospects: Build a strong team and prove that you’re a valuable and valued leader


Research shows that opinions can be swayed in many ways: how you conduct negotiations, how you present your ideas, the way you look, the way you conduct yourself in business situations and how others react to you. If you can learn to motivate others to define their personal and professional goals, you can energize team members to work toward a common goal, get support for your ideas from your colleagues, your management and your customers.

While no one expects you to be a mind reader, it’s helpful if you can learn to sense what your teammates are thinking, or at least learn to gauge their reactions by their body language. Use your imagination and your own experiences to sense clues that can give you an idea of what other people might be feeling. You shouldn’t (and legally can’t) pry into your team’s personal lives, but you can be accessible when they need to discuss a situation that might be affecting their work.

People are most likely to open up to those who act with sincerity. Often people will talk around something that’s bothering them rather than addressing it directly. You need to be aware of how team members are interacting with each other, and whether there is any factionalizing or jockeying for power behind the scenes.

If you sense problems like this, be ready to get to the bottom of the matter as directly and openly as possible. While talking to team members individually is sometimes effective, you run the risk of the first person warning, coaching or even intimidating the second person, so the responses you get may not be valid.

On the other hand, talking to each person individually may encourage them to open up and tell you what’s bothering them (and what’s really going on!). Some helpful questions include:

  • If you had control of the situation, what would you like to happen now?
  • What concerns you the most about this issue personally? On behalf of the team?
  • What do you consider to be the most important thing we need to do to resolve the situation?
  • Aside from this, are there any other issues that are worrying you about this situation?

To achieve top performance form others, it is necessary to excite their interest in your ideas. Build trusting relationships with individuals, understand their values, involve them in decision making, secure their commitment, and give the necessary support.

Article Start Page 1 of 4 Next

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