Contributed By, Aviad Goz
Influence in organizations has never been so complex. People from different generations work side by side. People who come from different cultures with different set of values work together. Matrix organizations have dramatically changed the way people work with one another, often with no direct authority and from a remote location. For example, the Purchasing Department employee operating from New Jersey has to influence the head of Food and Beverage in Shanghai regarding which lunch ingredients to purchase for employees in a factory in India.
Within this complexity, I believe there are three major elements that can increase the influence of a manager in an organization today:
1. Character. Before all else comes the very basic aspect of character. Is a person trustworthy? Reliable? Cooperative? Does he or she keep agreements and promises? These character traits, amongst others, cannot be faked. The person either develops them over time or does not.
2. Network of active relationships. One obvious way to increase influence throughout an organization is to form a wide, well-developed network of relationships. These networks have to be well-maintained and kept active. The world is becoming more and more interconnected via social media. One’s “real” social network, based on face-to-face interactions or direct communication, must expand as well. It will be much easier for the person in New Jersey to influence the person in Shanghai if they have an active, ongoing relationship.
3. Sophisticated influence mindsets and skill-sets. In most cases, the mindsets and skill sets are clearly a competency area that people develop through trial and error, not at school. Fortunately, Barnes & Conti’s Exercising Influence model offers a hands-on influence education. Most participants find it challenging to become aware of their existing range of Influence Tactics and learn new ones.
In facilitating this program, I’ve found that the great majority of managers are heavily biased towards the Expressive Influence Tactics (the ones by which you send your ideas to the other) and have much less experience with the Receptive Influence Tactics (the tactics where you draw out and take in information or ideas). This is especially the case with participants who have an engineering or technical background; these participants may have had little opportunity or encouragement to develop the “Receptive” of their influence portfolio. There are also fields in which the opposite is true. Many managers lack balance in their influence approach and thus miss opportunities to be more effective. A wider range of influence skills and approaches allows access to different people in different situations at different times.
Abraham Maslow once said, “He who has a hammer tends to think every problem is a nail.” We can say with confidence that in an era of complexity, a person with command of a wide range of Influence Tactics, Behaviors, and Tools will have a better toolkit and thus, far greater impact on his or her organization and community.
In summary, your ability to influence others depends on all three: what kind of a person you are (character), what kind of relationships you build (network), and the breadth of the influence tactics and behaviors you develop (skills).
If you are interested in increasing your influence skills, check out the virtual Influence Celebration, happening this November.