The ability to influence, rather than dictate, outcomes has become increasingly important, especially when an executive or manager enjoys only positional authority. This is especially true in highly decentralized environments.
A consumer healthcare company
In decentralized organizations, work doesn’t get done so much through executives’ power as managers as through their power as people. In such an environment, the ability to influence others is a prerequisite for success. One highly decentralized consumer healthcare company is so convinced of this that for the past 10 years Guttman’s Leadership Development program, “Influencing Across Organizations,” has been one of the offerings in its internal “university.” Tailored especially for this company’s managers, the program helps them understand what we mean by having influence over others: having people listen to you, exciting others, getting them to follow your lead and embrace your ideas. These skills are especially beneficial to those who have just moved up to a new role, where they are going to have to work with a wide number of colleagues, over many of whom they will have no direct authority.
Guttman’s premise is that everyone has the ability to be an effective influencer, but for many it takes focus, belief, practice, and new ways of looking at things. There needs to be a paradigm shift, a breakthrough. They need to see themselves as capable and knowing what to do to initiate the change process. Participants examine what is currently preventing them from exercising their power and, more often than not, they realize that “the enemy is me.” Next, they identify their stakeholders: those who have the ability to help or hinder them as they strive to achieve their goals. What should they do/not do to influence these people, to make their working relationship more effective? On the second day of the program, participants engage in simulation exercises, practicing using influencing skills to ensure that their needs are met. We discuss power and the stories people hold onto about their personal power—or lack of it.
Several hundred people in the company have gone through the program, and the Guttman consultants who deliver it have received much positive feedback: participants say that they use the skills and as a result have been much better able to exert influence and build strong relationships, not only at work but at home and in their community. First-level supervisors and administrators now see themselves as powerful. They realize that, prior to attending the program, the image they projected may have kept others from following their recommendations and buying in to their ideas. Participants generally give the program the highest rating on a scale of 1 to 5.