Gaining Influence

As a functional manager it is one thing to know that you have the information and potentially the answers to some of your organizations issues, it is quite another to influence senior or corporate management’s decisions.

In the most recent issue of the Harvard Business Review researchers Anette Mikes, Assistant Professor at Harvard Business Review along with Matthew Hall, London School of Economics and Yuval Millo, University of Leicester wrote “How Experts Gain Influence” about the findings of their 5 year study on gaining influence in an organization.

They found that in order to increase their impact, functional leaders should develop four specific competencies:

1. Trailblazing: finding new opportunities to use your expertise
This particular mode of influence involves uncovering previously unidentified issues or challenges that may prevent the organization from achieving its goals or initiatives.

2. Toolmaking: developing and deploying tools that embody and spread expertise
Basically, come up with succinct but simple tools, such as reports or visual models that can be employed cross-functionally for greater visibility, understanding and ultimately consideration.

3. Teamwork: using personal interaction to take in others’ expertise and convince people of the relevance of your own
This competency draws heavily on harnessing collective intelligence across the organization and as a result creating inclusiveness and buy in.  For example, if you were creating a reporting tool (see toolmaking) great influence and support will be gained by engaging other functional managers in the design.

4. Translation: personally helping decision makers understand complex content
Keep it simple!  Use your own expertise to interpret information into a usable format and actively engage yourself in the explanation.

Although these four competences identified by Mikes, Hall and Millo may seem basic and perhaps have an air of common sense, execution is often hindered by the same barriers we see to collaboration such as ego and hidden agendas.  As such, this weeks Kingbridge Insight is to suggest that if you struggle with attaining influence as a functional ‘expert’ perhaps the solution is self reflection – are you allowing your personal behavioural barriers prevent you from demonstrating the competencies required to be influential in your organization?