We normally view organisations as being split into formal groups such as marketing, operations, sales, etc. To this formal structure we can add cross-functional project teams created for specific purposes. This represents the way formal power assets are divided within the organisation.
However, underlying this is an informal structure — groups of people with something in common. They could share common sporting interests, educational background, or even the fact they all smoke. These informal groups can have a massive impact on the decision-making processes, yet this is an often neglected part of influence. If you can harness the power of informal groups, you can make significant strides in developing your success.
To spot an informal group, you need to look for people who have things in common. Yet having something in common does not make them powerful, or useful as you seek to gain more influence. To be beneficial to your cause:
- They firstly need to recognise that they have something in common with each other. Things that are hidden from them prevent them from becoming a group. However, if you spot that a load of people have something in common and can bring it to their attention… Well you could soon be in a very influential position within that group.
- Assuming they are aware of the common link between them, they also need to meet up and begin acting like a group. As they do this, they will start to pull together their sense of identify and belonging.
- From this point on, they start to act like a group. As such, they have power (i.e. the aggregation of all their individual assets). The next phase of usefulness is mobilisation.
- Once they realise they have an issue with the outside world, they will begin to strategist about how best to respond (as a group and as individuals) to protect their collective interests. And this is when they begin to exert influence.
By way of example, I once noticed an informal group of managers who all had an MBA. They had begun to meet (down the pub) once a month to share experiences, support each other etc. During a company merger they spotted an opportunity to advance their group position. They managed to influence the re-appointment criteria for all the top jobs. To be eligible, you had to hold an MBA! With this in place, it put their group members in a more favourable position to land all the top jobs.
The whole point of this is to stimulate your thinking about the potential and existence of these groups. If you can get engaged with them, influence their thinking and opinions, you could have a whole team of willing influencers moving things in the direct you want things to go.
Colin Gautrey is an author, coach, and trainer who specialises in the practical use of power and influence in large organisations. He has 25 years’ experience helping middle/senior professionals to survive, thrive and enjoy their work.
If you are ready to develop your influencing capability, become a member of Breakthrough Influence. If you are serious about becoming highly influential, fast, engage with Colin and he will help you get there in the most effective way possible.
Other articles by Colin:
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