Former CEO of Intel, Andy Grove, once said: “Just as you would not permit a fellow employee to steal a piece of office equipment, you shouldn’t let anyone walk away with the time of his fellow managers.”
In organisations this happens every day, and it’s made worse for a leader if their team members are unable to influence those around them. The less effective team members are in communicating, building constructive relationships and negotiating outcomes the more the leader is required to intervene, remove roadblocks and negotiate decisions. All of which consumes time, in an environment where productivity is already less than ideal.
A 2012 McKinsey Global Institute report found that the average office worker spends 61% of their working week writing emails, searching for information and communicating internally. While US data, which is easily extrapolated into the Australian context, found that professionals lose approximately 31 hours a month participating in unproductive meetings.
At the same time, leaders are expected to deliver outcomes in a faster timeframe and with less resources. The end result is a working environment which is more complex and bureaucratic. There’s endless meetings, countless stakeholders to consult and shifting goal posts – often with little progress.
This does nothing to help motivation in the workplace. A 2010 Harvard study found that a lack of progress is one of the biggest de-motivators in the workplace. People want to feel they are making progress on work that matters, and that their manager ‘has their back’. If their manager is powerless to influence outcomes, this impacts the team’s morale.
Managers can’t rely on traditional hierarchies to get things done. The organisational dynamics are different. It’s important to understand who influences whom, how decisions are made and what avenues exist to make progress and influence outcomes beyond the hierarchy. This is about understanding the influencing factors operating in the ‘organisational system’ and having the nous to find the ‘the back door’ and leverage the informal networks though which decisions are made.
An effective leader knows they can’t do it alone. They need each team member operating optimally so they can collectively make progress and affect change in the organisation. To do that, the team members have to be able to influence.
By acquiring this capability, they understand what triggers their reaction and behaviour, just as much as they understand others. They’re able to manage their behavioural responses. They’re also equipped with the skills to:
- Build awesome stakeholder relationships
- Create coalitions of support for change
- Communicate in an authentic and compelling manner
- Negotiate important decisions
If a leader wants to get more traction and make faster progress, they want their team to be able to influence – just as much as they themselves need to be able to influence.