Jim just took a big financial hit. He could take it no longer. Being powerless was more than he could bear.
Jim’s story is not unique. Many people I talk to are suffering as Jim did, though many don’t make a commitment to action.
At 47, he feels he is running out of time. An engineer by trade, he has always taken great pride in his technical skills. Innovative, intelligent, and hard-working. He also has a good heart and wants to do his very best for his employer.
A couple of years back he left his job because of a significant disagreement with a co-worker. This colleague was a game player, through and through. Taking advantage of Jim and manipulating him into a position where he fell from grace. Jim’s exit was inevitable.
The next job took some finding but eventually the perfect opportunity arose. A small company desperate for his specialist knowledge. Delighted with the opportunity, Jim rolled up his sleeves and got to work.
Analysing problems, developing solutions, his ideas were spot on. However, while the owner was delighted, his colleagues were cool and dismissive. Although admitting the ideas had some merit, they put plenty of obstacles in his way. In fact, some of the ideas were implemented as their ideas, his name was left out completely.
Unfortunately, emotions got the better of Jim at times, and he began to get a reputation as a bit of a troublemaker, maverick and not a team player. What made this worse is that it was a very polite workplace, so he stuck out like a sore thumb. The stress brought on by this started to affect his health, and his wife’s health too.
He was powerless to do anything. He’d been frozen out and was unable to influence anything. Oddly, they still wanted him, they even gave him a raise to keep him motivated. But, they were totally unwilling to allow him to have any influence.
When we started talking in August, he’d just landed a new job and was about to resign. The die was cast, but he was determined not to end up in the same place again with his new job.
During our first discussion, it became clear to me that there were several contributing factors at play:
- Jim’s extreme reliance on his technical skills to create career success.
- A high determination to apply these skills for the good of the organisation.
- Failure to build strong relationships – strategically.
- Lack of recognition of how power was working around his role.
- A blind spot around how embarrassing his ideas were to the powerful people.
Uncomfortable though it was, Jim respected my candour and decided to ask me to help him to ensure he got off to a good start in his new job. He explained that lack of influence was costing him too much.
Changing jobs is always a stressful experience, but what I was not prepared for was that Jim’s new job involved a major pay cut too – $18,000! He said he cannot afford for this situation to happen again.
To get him started fast, the first port of call was to take on board the messages in New Job: How to Quickly Become Influential. This simple article proves a new-starter checklist of the areas to learn fast. Add to this an understanding of the Seven Sources of Power and he should be able to quickly begin to learn the ropes in his new company.
Remember, much of this is about learning how the decisions get made, especially the informal ones.
Next, make clear personal choices about what impression he wants to create with his new colleagues. This needs to be more than technically competent. It’s in the relationships that many things have gone wrong for Jim in the past, so winning them over, getting them to like him, respect him, must be top priority in the first few weeks.
Jim took September off for family reasons, and has able to invest some time studying Building a Powerful Reputation. This was good preparation to get off to a flying start in October.
Last week Jim emailed me with a concern. Generally he has started well, but during a team meeting, his new boss tore into a colleague, almost ripping him limb from limb. This shocked Jim “oh no, here we go again.” I advised him to stay calm, observe, and learn more about what had happened and why. Investigate deeply with an open mind.
Today we had of first full coaching call. Just two weeks in and Jim has already made a good start. He has gained the friendship of two key team members. They like him and are offering him help and guidance. They have helped him to learn what happened to the unfortunately colleague, and this enabled Jim to jump into the firing line and have the boss delighted with what he did. Not only was the boss impressed with what he did, and the way he did it, he also held up his work as a “fine example of the way we should be doing things round here!”
As I explained to Jim, he needs to be careful about making a wrong move. Right now, he is feeling good, pleased with what he has done, and the start that he has made. And rightly so, well done Jim!
But two weeks is not enough time to be sure about the moves he needs to make to build on these early successes. He is still shooting in the dark when it comes to the agendas of the powerful. Perhaps he just got lucky this time, took a risk and it came good. He needs to rapidly reduce the risks so he can build a solid track-record and gain the respect and trust of the most powerful people around him.
So, my suggestions for his next set of priorities:
- Deepen the quality of his relationship with the two team members who like him. There is much to be gained directly, and indirectly – so making sure these are mutually beneficial is a smart way forward.
- Delve deeper into the personal/political agenda of his boss (I’ve sent him to complete the exercises in Win Over Your Boss which is excellent at ensuring you have the right relationship with the right people).
- Explore the wider political dynamics around the team. It appears his boss is the political defender, rarely seen by the team, keeping the politics at bay. If Jim is to partner with him, he needs to become his political confidant.
- Hold back a little on the reputation building. Too much too soon, before you know what will work, is ill-advised. He needs to make sure that the reputation he wants to build will be wanted/valued and sensitive to the politics of the organisation.
- “Steady as she goes Jim.” Resisting the temptation to move too fast is vital. Progress has a pace of its own and sometimes it cannot be rushed!
Really looking forward to our next call, to see how Jim has got on with his political intelligence gathering. Totally confident that Jim is going to achieve his goals, and I am also sure he will quickly start to recover financially too. At the very least, he is already feeling so much better about everything.
Serious about influence?
If you can relate to Jim’s story, you may be interested in doing something about it…
- If you’d like to coach people like Jim, and help them to turn their fortunes around, look at the Master Practitioner programme that is just starting.
- Are you suffering in a similar manner to Jim? Two options for you. If it’s not an urgent problem, consider studying to become a Master Practitioner. It can take up to a year, at an hour a week, but the benefits start immediately. Alternatively, if something needs to happen right now, get in touch about Breakthrough Influence Coaching, and we can set up a call to chat it through.
- Getting more specific, don’t forget these two great online courses – Building a Powerful Reputation and How to Win Over Your Boss.
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:
Five Suggestions Before You Resign
An interesting call last Friday, the summary of which you may find useful.
Maria has been subscribed to the Influence Blog for several years after seeing me present at Warwick Business School. She finally decided to schedule a call to discuss a challenge that has been bothering her for a while. Afterwards, she described it as “the best discussion she’d had in years. Finally, someone who really understood what she was going through.”
And, I think there are some important points that may help you if you are in a similar position to Maria.
In a moment, I’ll share with you the suggestions I gave her, which will help her to avoid resignation. First, here are the bare bones of her story:
Making an Impact at the Top Table
The easiest way to make a big impact at the top table is to have big responsibilities. Ideally, bigger than most of the other people you have to work alongside. The type of roles which grab this limelight and, to a large extent, the organisation is reliant upon. Functions such as Sales and Operations are typically those that sit in this powerful position, but the constituents are dependent on the type of organisation you work for, and also the context in which it has to succeed.
You are probably reading this because you do not have one of these roles and are struggling to make the necessary impact to be able to fulfil your own responsibilities — and deliver the results expected by your line manager. You have probably also…