LEADING ON MANAGEMENT: INFLUENCE MANAGEMENT
'Tis the Holiday season, and to quote the opening line of "A Christmas Carol", by Charles Dickens "Marley was dead to begin with. There is no doubt whatsoever about that". In a similar fashion, the linear, hierarchical, silo focused organization with a command and control managerial structure is also "dead to begin with".
From organizations with complicated global business unit structures, to the small boutique organization, management and professional staffs increasingly function in flat matrix type organizations where the responsibility for outcomes often rests outside of one's direct sphere of influence and defined linear reporting relationships.
Thus, the concept of "influence management" is the focus of my writing with the goal of exploring the many facets and opportunities that arise.
At one of my career stops, I was a financial executive at a global insurance organization. When I was being on-boarded into the company and was meeting with the CEO, I asked several questions about my reporting relationships and the related expectations.
Eventually, he summed it up to me succinctly by saying, "These are your reports, your peers, your managers and the narrow boundary of our expectations within that continuum. But the reality in this company is, everyone works for everyone. We are all asked to accomplish goals beyond our direct scope of responsibilities or silos. This is the business model of the future". How right he was and also quite prescient, as this was a 1998 conversation.
In business, and in both for profit and not for profit organizations, there are transcendent organizational goals that require the collaborative skills of various disciplines to formulate strategies and executable plans to ensure success. For example, such emerging issues as global competition, disruptive technologies, emerging risks, and system challenges require the input of all; they transcend the organizational silos. Such challenges cannot be solved by linear thinking and control directives. Only collaborative actions will work.
Further, it has been my experience that often one must often achieve outcomes through others who are at higher levels of responsibility or completely outside one's functional silo.
Earlier in my career I was a senior analyst charged with coordinating an insurance company's global catastrophe management process. In this Committee, there were executives and others in different operating divisions with higher titles and roles. I had no explicit authority over many of the Committee members, yet I was the responsible party within the organization to advance the project and to report outcomes to senior management. It was a role I assumed with great trepidation as I feared I was setting myself up for failure.
Early in that process, I gleaned that collaboration was necessary for success and the greatest value that I could provide to each disparate Committee member would be to understand their respective goals and concerns of the project, and to be seen as a facilitator and catalyst. Further, it was imperative that I be viewed as the guardian of the project plan; the one party who would ensure our collective forward progress and also to be the communicator of outcomes.
In other words, it was imperative for me to win the hearts and minds of the team and to build trust; by doing so, I would help them each succeed by ensuring this high profile project was moving forward. It was a highly successful project and, to be candid, I attained organizational clout and respect far beyond my title at the time as a by-product.
Some of the necessary factors to ensure success when thrust into a role requiring influence management skills are:
- Clear expectations and understanding about the goals and requirements of the task, project, or underlying issue;
- A commitment of time and effort to absolutely understand the concerns and goals those in other functional roles may have around such tasks (in other words, what's in it for me?); and
- Ensure that you communicate frequently with other affected parties, both in writing and via informal communications, to build trust and the view that you will help the project succeed.
Frankly, one of the most rewarding skills one can develop in a career is influence management. It is the "secret sauce" of managerial success.
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