FountainBlue’s January 20 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event was on the topic of Expanding Your Circle of Influence, With or Without Direct Authority. Below are notes from the conversation.
We were fortunate to have such inspiring and experienced speakers with a wealth of information and tips on how to influence in a corporate setting as well as in an entrepreneurial setting, how to influence with or without authority, how to do it well, and what to learn when it doesn’t go so well.
They shared their wisdom about the importance of influencing others, and how it is integral to getting business results. Whether they were currently in engineering or marketing or IT or product management, they agreed that influence is a key to successful communication and management, and consistently emphasized that the focus must be on finding a common ground, and navigating in a direction that benefits the group, the team, the organization, rather than focusing on the needs or desires or egos of specific people.
The panel agreed that influence is more about listening than about speaking. It is also about the golden rule – building relationships and treating others with respect. It is also about making commitments and delivering on those commitments, but the relationships, respect and trust are even more important than consistently delivering results. For if you delivered results but others don’t feel heard or don’t trust you, you will be less likely to get opportunities to continue delivering results.
They encouraged us to be clear in the purpose, strategic in aligning others toward that common purpose, passionate in communicating, motivating throughout the journey, persistent and resilient in the execution, despite resistance, and open-minded in considering when that purpose must shift, to best address the interests of all involved. This is not small task, but it becomes easier if we can think from the lens of influence rather than coercion through authority, and do that by building relationships and taking the time to understand the interests and motivations of those you work with and focus conversations on the data to support the shared goal as it will help make things less personal and speak to the more logical, less emotive side of others, while focusing on delivering measurable results.
The panel concurred that where there are people, there will be politics, and provided specific tips, including:
• When you encounter resistance, open-mindedly drill down into who is resisting, why she/he is resisting, and find a common ground to bring her/him in alignment, or at least make him/her feel heard.
• Having a sense of humor can help build trust, relationships and community, and help people feel better connected.
• Know your strengths and your weaknesses and delegate your areas of need to those who might have more skills, experience or passion in that area.
• Make the time commitment to maintain your network and your circle of influence, even when you don’t need something from someone right now. Keeping your own network alive and well will not only help you, it will support the overall ecosystem of relationships between quality people.
• Expanding your circle of influence involves taking measured risk for specific purposes.
• It’s not so much about gender differences, but more about communication styles, but in general, women are more intuitive and men may be more data-driven and detail-oriented and may need more detailed explanations about why plan A is better than plan B.
• Work with your company to align incentives and rewards around a corporate direction and time your communications with compensation plan updates.
• To be effective as a ‘virtual influencer’ (working with global teams), find a way to speak virtually over Skype or other video communication options where you can see a face *and* hear a voice. Also try re-stating and repeating what you heard to confirm the communication, particularly when you speak different primary languages.
It was truly inspiring when our panel suggested that we can all, as leaders, work for a larger cause, a greater good, beyond the immediate need. For example, they mentioned that if the enemy of influence is self-preservation, as a leader, we must watch to ensure that the needs of the greater group are more important than our own personal needs, and that those who approach us with requests are also putting the needs of the larger group in front of their own personal gain. Another example is when they said to make a stand not just for yourself, not just for your team, not just for your organization, but for fairness – to ensure that those who may not be around the table also get their fair share, because it’s the right thing to do.
We conclude by saying that influencing is analogous to being a rider on an elephant’s back. If you’d like to influence its direction, be clear on where you want to go, and know what motivates the elephant and how to communicate that this direction is also in her/his best interest, and motivating her/him throughout the journey, and beyond.
• Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip Heath and Dan Heath, http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/switch-chip-heath/1100203647
• Leadership is Dead: How Influence is Reviving It (5/2/2011) by Jeremie Kubicek http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/leadership-is-dead-jeremie-kubicek
• The Speed of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything (2/4/2008), by Stephen M. R. Covey http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/speed-of-trust-stephen-mr-covey/1100630815?ean=9781416549000&itm=3&usri=steven+covey
• Smart Trust book by Stephen Covery, to be published January 2012 http://www.coveylink.com/blog/smart-trust-book-to-be-published-january-2012/
We would like to thank our speakers for FountainBlue’s January 20 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event was on the topic of Expanding Your Circle of Influence, With or Without Direct Authority:
Facilitator Camille Smith, President and Founder, Work In Progress Coaching
Panelist Claudia Galvan, Lead International Program Management Group, Microsoft Corporation
Panelist Amy Love, Vice President Brand Communications, NetApp
Panelist Mary McDougall, Director, SaaS Strategy & Product Management, BMC Software
Panelist Kristi McGee, Principal Consultant with Office of the CIO and acting Director of Business Applications, Rambus Inc.
Please join us also in thanking our gracious hosts at NetApp.