When I was a young 22-year old new Departmental Sales Manager in charge of 23 sales assistants, I learnt a very valuable lesson in the use of personal vs positional influence.

My sales team ranged in age from 19 – 60 years of age and morning duties included tidying individual sections within the department prior to the opening of the store.

Often, my most senior sales assistant would continue to do her paperwork while other assistants did their cleaning and tidying duties as required. Let’s call her ‘Anne’. 

I would approach Anne some mornings and say, “Anne you need to start your cleaning duties before we open” and, with a fairly stern tone, she would reply, “I’m really busy trying to get my orders and paperwork finished. Please ask one of the others to do my section. I have lots to get finished here.”   

This happened more than once. 

Anne was many years my senior and influentially ruled the roost within the sales department.

So, on those occasions, I would ask one of the younger sales assistants (let’s call her Christina) to help tidy Anne’s section. Christina was about my age and, seemingly, as a gesture of support for me in my new position, she would do it.

My valuable lesson came one morning when Christina asked, “Why do you always ask me to clean Anne’s section when we all have paperwork to do? You are the Departmental Sales Manager! Everyone else does their own sections and yet Anne continues to get others to clean her section.” 

Christina was right. It was time to awaken my positional influence. I had allowed Anne’s personal influence as my elder to override my responsibility to the company as well as what was best for the whole team. 

So, I went back to Anne and said “As the Department Sales Manager I have the responsibility to ensure all staff do their fair share of the work and all staff are treated equally. I will not be asking other members of our team to do your cleaning and tidying duties before the store opens. I expect that you will have your section completed like all the others.”  

She wasn’t too happy about it but, from that day forward, Anne cleaned her own section.

Thank you Christina, for such a valuable lesson so early on in my career.

In a company, a ‘position’ is a set of responsibilities to be carried out by a ‘person’. It is the character, skills and competency of the ‘person’ that determines how successfully these responsibilities get carried out. The interplay between personal and positional influence can be very tricky to navigate at times – especially within close teams or family businesses. 

In the Foundations of Successful Teams™ training system developed by Newayz Education, you gain access to in depth wisdom and strategies on effectively using personal and positional influence within your workplace to help create and maintain a mutually supportive culture. Please visit for more information and to register for your FREE personalized FST consultation. 

Thanks for reading.


(Author – Mel Clifford)