By now, you have probably bought into the idea that influencing is a key part of any middle to senior role in large (or small) organisations. You are also likely to be keenly aware that if this applies to you, it also applies to your team members. Perhaps you think it is so important that you have even hired someone like me to come and train them on the critical skills of influence.
So, how do you tell if your team have taken this on board? How do you know if they are taking their work as an influencer seriously?
Naturally, your first clue will be the results they are getting and the feedback you get about them from your peers and colleagues. Yet, good feedback is not always good enough. Sometimes it depends on the judgment of the person giving the feedback — they may not know what good performance/influence looks like. Additionally, your team member may not be really stretching themselves.
To alleviate these problems, to put your people under some constructive pressure, and okay, to have a bit of fun too, here are five questions which I believe all active and capable influencers should have ready answers to.
What is your influencing goal?
A quick answer to this question suggests that they are focused on what they need to change to achieve their work-related goals. It is easy and normal to be able to reply to this question with the deliverables and project milestones. An influencer will respond with the influence they need to achieve in order to attain those deliverables.
A reasonable response would be getting the steering committee to buy in to the new project strategy. However, an influencer who is really flying will have stretched their vision, ambition and time horizon into the strategic realm and will be attempting to influence attitude. For example, “All senior management proactively demonstrate wholehearted support of change management practices”.
Which leads nicely to the next question…
How will you know when you’ve achieved it?
Often, it takes too long to formulate a nice, neat and tightly defined goal, particularly when the influencer is stretching into the attitude shifting work. The practical way forward is to state the goal and then qualify it with evidence and measures. This step is essential so that the influencer knows exactly what they are seeking to create in behavioural terms and, therefore, can easily judge if they are moving towards their goal, or that they need to adjust their influencing approach.
In the change management example above, the sort of evidence you may notice when senior management are really bought in include…
- 80% of senior management have requested change management resource within the last six months.
- Change management is on the agenda of all executive meetings.
- The Head of Change Management is consulted before any formal project plans are finalised (or proactively consulted).
- Senior managers formally recognise change management successes within their teams.
- Change management team do not have to find their own ways to add value because senior management are seeking them out.
- Change management staff are regularly offered senior positions within the business.
With just these two questions, you will quickly start to see the amount of clear thinking which your team member is putting into their job as an influencer. If they are struggling to communicate their thoughts, it’s probably because they have never thought them before!
Assuming you are making good progress, the next question is…
Can you talk me through your stakeholder map?
The only people who can get away without a stakeholder map are those whose influencing ability you would never deign to question. For everyone else, a physical stakeholder map is an essential tool. It helps to think through the goal, the support and opposition, and ultimately, arrive at a strategy to achieve the goal. The stakeholder map is central to the work of an influencer, yet many pretend influencers have excuses readily available…
- “I do this naturally in my head“. Which really means they have to rethink it each time or, more likely, never do it in anything more than a vague way.
- “I don’t need to do it as this goal is pretty straightforward“. Okay, but should they be aiming so low? It begs the question that they are not really serious about becoming an influencer and you should be stretching their capability more.
- “I haven’t got to that stage yet“. Really, why? You don’t have to spend much time figuring out your goal before you can begin to plot the runners and riders. Come on, get a move on!
- “I cannot plot anyone yet because I don’t know them and they don’t know me”. Again, why the delay? Also, plotting unknowns in the centre is a painful exercise which forces them to face up to what they need to move quickly on. Who are the priorities to get to know?
- “I didn’t bring it with me“. This is almost as lame as the old homework excuse that “The dog ate it, Sir”. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss their goals so they should have brought it along. More likely is that they did it once and have now lost it.
Because of the centrality of the stakeholder map to the work of an influencer, they should be in use regularly, being drawn, redrawn, discussed and reviewed. The stakeholder map is the main tool of the strategic influencer so it should be actively used for all goals that are worth striving for.
The next two questions are likely to be unnecessary since they naturally fall from the discussion above, but are still worth including and can perhaps be used as a means to summarise the foregoing discussion.
What is your influencing strategy?
Here you are looking for the headlines. Who are the key people, or groups, that need to be repositioned? What are the main moves which need to be accomplished, and is there a logical order or flow? Sometimes it is sensible to hold back until other things in the organisation have been completed or announced. You know all this and so really this question serves as a method of making sure that your team member knows it too, has a clear grasp of the politics and, if not, it is a great moment to help them learn more.
What is your plan?
You know what you’re looking for here.
These five questions, or rather the answers you get, will quickly tell you who in your team are really getting to grips with their work as an influencer, and those who are falling well short. Repeatedly asking these questions over time will turn their default focus and attention towards influence, and everyone in the team will begin to become more influential. To begin to get your team moving on this, send them a link to Five Questions to Shape Your Influence, and tell them you expect each to present their answers at your next team meeting!
This is the way to build highly influential teams in any organisation, and teams that really perform.
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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Colin Gautrey on Influential Leadership
Colin Gautrey has now joined an elite group of experts on influence featured in the Skillsoft range of corporate training videos. These experts include Dr. Robert Cialdini (Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion), Dr. Jeffrey Pfeffer (Managing with Power) and Dr. Allan R. Cohen (Influence without Authority).
The short video below contains highlights of Colin talking about Influential Leadership.