Influencing laterally across the organisation
Earthlings (living beings born on Earth) know to breathe a certain way.
Earth is enriched by a great atmosphere that is conducive to breathing, as we all have experienced it.
Even if you were superman born on Krypton, you will struggle to breathe on Earth till you adapt to it.
Once the environment changes, our body & mind need to “adapt” to thrive.
One may ask, why can’t we alter the atmosphere to suit the inhabitants?
Altering the atmosphere according to the inhabitants comfort level is called ‘terraforming’ and it’s still a hypothesis in scientific circles.
I know that you are wondering what breathing has to do with influence?
"I work with stakeholders across my organisation. While I am able to get things moving within my own department/vertical, I am not able to influence outside of it. Sometimes the stakeholders outside my department are higher in hierarchy than me and this complicates the process. I wish that by some method, I could just get their buy-in for my thoughts."
I hear the versions of the above quite a bit in my coaching sessions.
Comfort zones create predicability. When we are in the company of people who are working towards the same objective (as in the same department/function at work), we are certain how thing move, how people behave, what is valued, what is frowned upon and what does success look like. It gives us predicability, certainty & safety. This is like being born on Earth and breathing in it without much strain.
When we are off this comfort zone working with people outside our function, we struggle a bit. That’s normal as our struggle to breathe on Mars that has higher proportion of CO2 Vs O2. So we need a little bit of adaptability first before we can imagine “terraforming”:-) For the outer reality to change, change has to happen within oneself.
John Maxwell in his book, “The 360 leader - developing your influence from anywhere in the organisation” talks about creating a “Leadership loop” (as seen in the adjacent figure) to influence laterally in the organisation. Influence according to him is not a one step action. It's not fast food. No shortcuts work. To influence laterally, we need to complete the leadership loop with each of the stakeholders.
While most of us want to be at steps 6 & 7 - Leading & Succeeding, what gets missed are the steps before them from 'Caring to Verbalising'.
This post is about these prerequisite steps that lead to sustained influence.
Caring & Learning
“People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care.
~ Theodore Roosevelt
We may be working with someone because of an organisational need, but influencing people starts with care.
Showing care can be summed up in three elements - observation, attention & listening.
If you want to influence someone, start by observing what brings them alive, what motivates them, what do they value, what would success mean to them? Listen to their words. Pay attention to who the person is. Find what they are good at.
This is an important step to develop empathy.
Respecting people & Contributing
Once you learn about people, you will invariably stumble upon some aspect worth respecting them for. Start with the assumption that we are all here to contribute to the organisation in ways that we uniquely can.
“What does success mean to you? How can I contribute into it?”
These are 2 questions that help build a rapport with anyone in the organisational context. Its not enough to work just for one’s success. Success is a lot sweeter when it it is shared.
Verbalising/ Affirming people:
Acknowledge what best you can see in everyone. Affirming the positives of a person increase the chances of the repetition of the same behaviour. Talk about what you observed that is good in people.
Appreciate genuinely, when you see a good job done. Look for opportunities to lift up people.
People will be more than open to be influenced by someone who sees them for all that they are than by someone who has nothing good to say about them.
Taking care of the above pre-requisites, gives us a better chance at influence.
As I had mentioned in my my post "Myths on Influence", influence cannot be built on the day of the need. However it can be built one day at a time by working on it.
While terraforming may stay a hypothesis for a long time, influencing laterally need not.
What prerequisite are you missing in trying to influence laterally?
What can you do to ensure that your influence sustains?
If you believe that you can do better at influence and would like to be coached on the same click here to book your free consultation.
My other articles on influence