A leader who needs to ‘get things done’ requires strong influencing skills within his or her organisation. Having strong and refined influencing skills in this VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) environment can help a leader improve the success of project execution. How? By understanding how people and organisations work, acquire more resources as required (people and money), and improve morale by advancing careers. Being able to influence effectively is vital to quick access to information and resources.
Influence is truly a skill. Let’s explore five specific things you can do to increase your chances of success as an influencer.
Understanding Your Organisation
The more you can understand how your organisation works and how internal and external forces can affect project execution, the more you can see what part you have to play and how you might mitigate or intercept where possible. Societal, Technological, Economical, Political, Environmental and Legal shifts can all affect the organisation’s strategy (and are outside of our control), but to be continuously aware of how our competitive landscape is changing can allow us to speak with authority and keep issues top of mind when looking at strategy and alignment of strategic projects.
When trying to execute or get work done, if you consider the SELF model below, leaders are the hub between the domains of work, strategy and people and as such need to have the ability to influence across all of these areas to ensure successful execution. In this complex business environment these three domains must be navigated and adjusted simultaneously in real time, so it’s imperative that you are well versed in your organisation’s strategy, how work gets done and what your people are doing to support that so that you have the credibility when it’s time to influence.
Perhaps consider creating a ‘heat map’ of your organisation to identify where it operates well and where there are areas for improvement. There are tools that can help with this such as the Strategic Execution Framework. It takes you through 6 key domains; Ideation, Nature, Vision, Engagement, Synthesis, Transition. This doesn’t just help with diagnosing strategic execution, it also helps explore and get to know these vital aspects of your organisation.
Understanding your organisation might just help achieve the goal of completing your objectives and executing your project.
Developing Your Networks
‘36% of businesses report working with double or more partners than they were two years ago’ – Accenture Technology Vision 2018
Accenture explains that ‘gaining an advantage over the competition means forging strong and plentiful partnerships’ to get ahead. Strength in numbers, through networks. Networking is the exchange of information or services among individuals, groups, or institutions for purposes of the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business. Networks also happen to be the way work really gets done- networks are the real organisation chart of the adaptive organisation. By developing a strong (not necessarily large) network you create an opportunity to overcome your own bias, enhance the breadth and depth of knowledge and increase the speed and the innovation required in this fast moving business context we are now in.
It’s worth exploring your influence in these three networks: Operational, Personal and Strategic.
Operational: your influence can help get work done more efficiently and maintain group capacities. Here you would look to deepen your working relationships
Personal: use your influence to enhance your professional development and broaden your contact base so that you can make and get referrals as required
Strategic: if you can leverage your relationships where you have created inside-outside links it may help you to influence strategy and to figure out future priorities and gain stakeholder support to move things forward.
Be mindful of who you are working with now, and in the future. Assess who can help get things done (formal power vs influential/respected) and involve key groups such as clients, advisors, suppliers and vendors. Exchange information, link across the organisation, generate support and assistance, and solicit advice and perspective. All of this helps you to build your networks so that when you need to move things forward on your projects, you have the right players in place to influence!
(Linda Hill talks more about types of networks in Being the Boss, the chapter on networks.)
Building your Credibility
To be influential you need to be credible. And two elements can determine your credibility:
CONFIDENCE + COMPETENCE = CREDIBILITY
Confidence means people have trust in your ability to look after them and their work. Competence means you have the technical knowledge and people skills to succeed as a leader. But how can you build your own credibility so that you are seen as highly competent and trustworthy? Consider these 13 behaviors from Stephen Covey and Rebecca Merrill: The Speed of Trust, Simon & Schuster, 2006
You will have much more influence as a leader and achieve project success if your teams believe they can count on you to do the right thing.
Do you find yourself saying ‘I don’t want to get involved in all that politics’? Well, as management professor and consultant Kathleen Reardon explains in her new book, It’s All Politics, “talent and hard work alone will not get you to the top… the most talented and accomplished employees often take a backseat to their politically adept coworkers because they’ve failed to manage the important relationships with the people who can best reward their creativity and intelligence. “
“The only way to avoid “politics” is to avoid people (which isn’t realistic OR advisable); politics can be positively characterised as the art of influence, and more specifically, the art of organizational influence, so once you reach a certain level of technical competence, success is all about this type of politics.
Organisational politics can be defined as:
- Positioning your ideas in the most favorable light
- Knowing what to say, and how, when, and to whom to say it
Increase your influence and consider politics as your friend. ‘Positive Politics’. Politics is about positioning your ideas in a favorable light. By paying attention to your own values, such as compassion, justice, prudence, you can avoid being “political” in the bad sense.
Being able to influence successfully really helps us in times where we often have no formal authority over team members. Our projects/programs may be temporary centers of commitment. Others often set agendas, time frames, crucial resources (money, people, technology, information) or we may work with people who may have competing demands on their time (multiple projects)or disagree about the importance of the work we are doing. Working on the 5 areas discussed gives you a great starting point to be the influencer you need to be in the context of which we work today.
For more on Influencing Without Authority… Strategy Execution and Duke Corporate Education have partnered to create and deliver the Adaptive Strategic Execution Program. Strategy Execution’s proven expertise and business techniques combined with Duke Corporate Education’s cutting-edge university research and learning methodologies infuse the program with a unique combination of modern theory, practical frameworks and hands-on practice leaders need. Research shows that great innovation rarely comes from single eureka ideas, but rather from combining existing ideas in novel ways. This partnership has done just that. Together, we’ve combined the capabilities of two successful companies in a new way that provides innovative solutions for our clients.
The program is available for group delivery on site at company locations as well as on-campus enrollment at Duke University or on-line for individuals. The program enables leaders to take their individual and team performances to the next level increasing the odds of project success. Learn more about the Adaptive Strategic Execution Program and get started today.
- Blog: Five Steps to Influence Your Project Forward
- Webinar: How to Grow Your Influence in a Complex and Networked World