How to Improve the Influencing of Others

IMPORTANCE OF INFLUENCING OTHERS
This competency, which is the ability to get others to do what you would like them to do, is fundamental to many goals and activities at work: selling, enlisting support for ideas, obtaining resources, motivating subordinates, energizing teams, and building support for an organizational vision. The higher your level in an organization, the more important is this competency.
More and more organizations are moving away from hierarchical organizations, in which influence depends heavily on the use of positional power. The increasing use of teams requires Influence Skill, rather than authority, to gain support.

DEFINITION OF “INFLUENCING OTHERS”: The ability to gain others’ support for ideas, proposals, projects, and solutions.

  1. Presents arguments that address other’s most important concerns and issues and looks for win-win solutions
  2. Involves others in a process or decision, to ensure their support
  3. Offers trade-offs or exchanges, to gain commitment
  4. Identifies and proposes solutions that benefit all parties involved in a situation
  5. Enlists experts or third parties to influence others
  6. Develops other indirect strategies to influence others
  7. Knows when to escalate critical issues to own or other’s management, if own efforts to enlist support have not succeeded
  8. Structures situations (e.g., the setting, persons present, sequence of events) to create a desired impact and to maximize the chances of a favorable outcome
  9. Works to make a particular impression on others
  10. Identifies and targets influence efforts at the real decision makers and those who can influence them
  11. Seeks out and builds relationships with others who can provide information, intelligence, career support, potential business, and other forms of help
  12. Takes a personal interest in others (e.g., by asking about their concerns, interests, family, friends, hobbies), to develop relationships
  13. Accurately anticipates the implications of events or decisions for various stock holders in the organization and plans strategy accordingly.

General Considerations in Developing this Competency
As the behaviors for this competency show, there are a wide variety of ways in which this competency can be demonstrated. Most of these ways involve careful analysis of the needs, interests, concerns, and fears of the persons to be influenced. Based on this analysis, the skillful influencer considers alternative approaches and develops influence strategies. The strategies reflect thinking that is not always shown in observable behavior. Developing Influencing Others requires learning this kind of thinking.

One of the best methods to develop Influencing Others is to work closely with a skilled influencer planning influence strategies. Another method is to learn about influence strategies through courses and books. Using influence strategies effectively requires practice and feedback. Courses which involve role playing and feedback can provide this practice.

This competency builds on several other competencies, especially Interpersonal Awareness and Persuasive Communication. Developing these competencies will help develop Influencing Others. In addition, Influencing Others often requires knowing or learning about the politics of an organization: the histories and agendas of different groups and the decision makers and key influences of particular types of decisions.

Practicing this Competency

  • The next time you need to influence someone, ask that person or others what are his/her most important needs and concerns.
  • Try to think of a solution that will address the other person’s needs or concerns while meeting your own objectives.
  • Consider involving others (by asking for input, checking out possible approaches, or working with them to develop a plan) to gain their support.
  • Think about what you can offer the other person or group in exchange for what you would like from this person or group.
  • Try to think of solutions that will benefit everyone involved in a situation. The book, Getting to Yes, by Roger Fisher and William Ury, provides many useful ideas for doing this.
  • If an issue is critical and you have exhausted other approaches, consider escalating the issue to your own manager or the other person’s manager. This is a strategy which should be used only when absolutely necessary, since it often provokes negative reactions in the other person.
  • Before an important meeting, at which it is important to gain the support of another person or group, consider what you can do to structure the event (e.g., by orchestrating the setting, attendees, sequence of events, refreshments, entertainment) to achieve a desired outcome.
  • To influence a decision in your own organization or a client’s, try to learn who the decision makers are and what their concerns are likely to be. Try to talk directly to the real decision makers.
  • To build a basis for influence efforts in the future, develop and maintain relationships with others from whom you may need support. Find ways to help them. Try to learn about their interests and concerns.

Obtaining Feedback
Before implementing an influence strategy, discuss it with others and ask for their feedback and suggestions. After an interaction in which you tried to enlist the support of an individual or group, ask a colleague who was present for feedback and suggestions on your influence efforts.

Learning from Experts
Look for opportunities to work closely with skilled influences on tasks requiring the development of influence strategies e.g., planning a presentation or sales call, leading a group to achieve a particular outcome.
Observe a skilled influencer using influence skills in situations such as sales calls, speeches, meetings with subordinates, meetings to build relationships. Notice what the person says, how he/she says it, and the verbal and nonverbal reactions of the persons present.
Interview a skilled influencer about times when this person successfully influenced others. Try to get the sequence of what the person did and thought. Recognize that the person you interview may be reluctant to discuss some influence efforts, particularly those used to influence the person’s current supervisor.

Coaching Suggestions for Managers
If you are coaching someone who is trying to develop this competency, you can:

  • Involve this person in some of your own influence efforts and share your thinking about your goals, plans, and the reasons underlying them.
  • Provide assignments requiring the use of influence skills: e.g., developing a presentation to senior management; planning a meeting with another group whose cooperation is needed. Provide suggestions and feedback on the planning and implementation of influence strategies.
  • Provide opportunities for this person to work closely with skilled influences.

Sample Development Goals

  • By September 10, I will read Getting to Yes, by Fisher and Ury and use what I learn to develop a strategy for gaining the cooperation of the R&D Division.
  • By November 3, I will hold meetings to build relationships with 5 individuals from other departments, whose support I may need over the coming year.
  • Before the October 5 sales meeting with Central Information, I will call the two project managers they are inviting to that meeting to learn what they would like to gain from the meeting. I will then plan and deliver a presentation that addresses these needs and interests.
  • By December 15, I will complete a course on Influencing Others.

Resources for Developing this Competency
Books, learning programs, courses, and other resources are listed in Workitect’s Competency Development Guide, a 280-page, 8.5″ x 11″ spiral bound handbook for the development of 35 competencies. An online version, the eDeveloper, and licenses for organization-wide use are available.

Other Applications

For many organizations, the guide has been a key component of an integrated competency-based talent management system that includes job competency models built with a competency dictionary of 35 competencies, interview guides, and 360 assessments.

Also available for HR professionals: the Resource Guide for Developing Global HR Competencies, second edition of a 166-page spiral-bound book that provides a comprehensive listing of resources for developing 18 strategic and tactical HR competencies required of HR professionals working anywhere in the world, including in locations with limited access to resources.

Contact us for additional information.

Join our LinkedIn Competency-Based Talent Management Group.

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Resources For Developing Competencies

Here are some resources you can use and actions you can take in order to develop a competency:  
Observation of outstanding performers
can be useful in developing recognition and understanding of the competencies. To use this type of developmental activity, you must have someone to observe who is adept at the competency, and the competency must be, of course, one that is demonstrated through observable behavior, such as providing motivational support.

Practicing the behaviors of each competency is the most direct method of competency development and is an essential part of any competency development strategy. This method provides the skill practice that is needed for competency development. You can use this method in conjunction with any of the others (e.g., by first reading about or observing effective behaviors). If possible, try out the behaviors in relatively safe situations (e.g., off the job) before trying them in critical, high-stakes situations on the job.

Self-Study Courses
Self-study courses can provide the same advantages as readings. In addition, many self-study courses include video providing an opportunity to observe others demonstrating the competency, audio which make it possible to learn about the competency while driving your car, and a variety of exercises to increase your understanding and use of the competency. Self-study courses may also include tests, which allow you to check your understanding.

Courses
Courses provide a block of time away from the job, when you can focus on development of specific competencies or skills. Most courses provide a variety of methods (e.g., readings, videos, observation, and practice). Courses can provide opportunities to practice skills in a safe environment and to receive expert coaching. A few external courses that are offered in several geographical locations are listed. Your organization’s training staff can help you find other courses. Directories such as “The Corporate University Guide to Management Seminars” published annually by The Corporate University Press (124 Washington Avenue, Point Richard, CA 94801), provide extensive listings of courses.

Readings
Readings help provide a conceptual framework for understanding a competency.
This framework may be especially useful in developing the following competencies:

  • Establishing Focus
  • Motivating Others
  • Fostering Teamwork
  • Managing Change
  • Managing Performance
  • Strategic Thinking
  • Influencing Others

Readings can also provide ideas on how to practice or learn competencies.

Interviewing Outstanding Performers
Interviewing outstanding performers is an easier tool to use than observation, because you do not have to be present with the outstanding performer when the competency is being demonstrated. You simply ask the person to discuss how he/she demonstrates this competency and how you can go about using this competency in your situation. It is helpful to ask the outstanding performer to talk about specific times when he/she used a competency. Interviewing outstanding performers helps to develop your understanding of the competencies. In using this method, you need not be limited to people in your own organization. Consider friends, neighbors, and people you know through professional and community organizations.

Seeking Feedback
Seeking feedback from others provides you with an accurate self-assessment. Feedback is especially important when the competencies require developing and refining a high level of skill. Ask others to observe while you try to demonstrate the competency, and ask them for feedback and suggestions. Try to arrange situations where others can observe you (e.g., conducting joint sales calls or selection interviews, managing a meeting). Let the observer know in advance what behaviors you will try to demonstrate. Ask for feedback afterwards.

Another option is to utilize feedback instruments. A 360 degree feedback instrument, Soundings™ Leadership Competency Assessment, provides feedback on 159 behaviors that make up thirty-five competencies from subordinates, co-workers and managers.

Additional Resources and Developmental Actions
Workitect’s Competency Development Guide contains additional actions that can be taken to develop a competency. An example for the competency of Managing Change can be found here.

In preparing your plan to develop a competency, consider all of these types of activities. The more different types of activities you include in your plan for developing a competency, the better your chances of success. At the same time, emphasize the activities that you are most comfortable with. And there are a variety of planning forms in Workitect’s Competency Development Guide that will facilitate the entire process. This is one of them:

WHAT RESOURCES AND ACTIONS HAVE YOU FOUND MOST HELPFUL IN
DEVELOPING COMPETENCIES?

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The First Competency Model

Harvard University

Harvard University

The first competency model was developed in the early 1970’s by the eminent psychologist Dr. David McClelland and consultants from McBer and Company2. McClelland was a Harvard professor who published a paper in 1973 titled “Testing for Competence Rather Than Intelligence”. This launched the competency movement in psychology. The first test of competency assessment methods was with the U.S. Department of State. The department was concerned about the selection of junior Foreign Service Information Officers, young diplomats who represent the United States in various countries. The traditional selection criteria, tests of academic aptitude and knowledge, did not predict effectiveness as a foreign service officer and were screening out too many minority candidates.

When asked to develop alternative methods of selection, McClelland and his colleagues decided that they needed to find out what characteristics differentiated outstanding performance in the position. They first identified contrasting samples of outstanding performers and average performers, by using nominations and ratings from bosses, peers, and clients. Next, the research team developed a method called the Behavioral Event Interview, in which interviewees were asked to provide detailed accounts, in short story form, of how they approached several critical work situations, both successful and unsuccessful. The interviewer used a non-leading probing strategy to find out what the interviewee did, said, and thought at key points within each situation.

To analyze the data from the interviews, the researchers developed a sophisticated method of content analysis, to identify themes differentiating the outstanding performers from the average performers. The themes were organized into a small set of “competencies,” which the researchers hypothesized were the determinants of superior performance in the job. The competencies included non-obvious ones such as “Speed in Learning Political Networks”; the outstanding officers were able to quickly figure out who could influence key people and what each person’s political interests were.

Workitect uses the McBer methodology to build competency models.

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What about Performance Management?

Performance is the true test of survival in the marketplace. High-performing employees contribute superior performance, giving your organization its main competitive advantage. You may have a world-class system in place to create those superior performers, but it’s only as good as the management and organizational objectives behind it.

Ask yourself: Are you so focused on revenue generation or another particular aspect of the business that you forget to nurture your best ambassadors – your employees?

 A system for sustainable growth

It’s important for any organization to have systems in place to identify, recognize, reward, and retain their top performers in order to achieve sustainable growth. An effective performance management system should encourage collaboration, teamwork and communication to identify:

  • Job performance standards and measures
  • Job behaviors required in accomplishing specific job tasks and meeting job responsibilities
  • Competencies demonstrated by average and superior performers in key jobs

CirclesGraphicResults equal rewards

The results of the performance management data you collect can be used for decisions concerning rewards, bonuses and other employee incentives. For example, competency and job behavior data are typically used for decisions about development. So, if an employee is appraised as lacking group leadership skills, they might be asked to attend a course in order to further develop this skill. And… skill-based compensation systems explicitly tie rewards to skills developed. That spells ‘Motivation’!

Invest in your best

Effective performance appraisals essentially turn on the proper use of each type of data given the system objectives and what degree of control employees have over their performance. Having a solid performance management system in place is truly an investment in the people who help drive revenue for your business – and their extra effort can differentiate good organizations from great ones.

To learn more on how we can help, please visit our website.

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Secondary Data Collection Methods

six steps horizontal 3STEP 3 – DATA COLLECTION

In addition to the primary data collection methods that were described in the previous sections, there are several other data collection methods that may be useful in selected circumstances. These secondary data collection methods include:

  • Interviews with Customers
  • Interviews with Industry Experts
  • Observation of Job Holders
  • Surveys of Job Holders

Interviews with Customers

If the job-holders have external or internal customers, the customers can provide useful information about effective and less effective behavior among persons holding this job. External customers often have experience with staff in similar jobs in competitors’ organizations.

Customer interviews can be relatively short (15 to 30 minutes). Possible questions include:

  • What are the skills and behaviors that you have observed in the most effective people that you have dealt with, in this job?
  • In what ways do superior performers in this job differ from average performers and less effective persons in this job?
  • Think of someone in this job that was very effective. What were some of the things that this person did that set him/her apart from less effective persons with the same job.

Interviews with Industry Experts

If a competency model is desired for a new job, especially in an industry that is undergoing rapid change, there will be few people in the organization with much knowledge about the job, beyond the expected job responsibilities. In this case it can be helpful to interview an industry expert from outside of the company. The industry expert should be able to describe:

  • Market and technology trends in the industry
  • Companies that are key players and their relative positions within the industry
  • The challenges likely to be encountered in the new job in the context of the industry

If you understand the challenges likely to be encountered in the new job, you can draw logical inferences about the competencies that will be needed for superior performance.

Learn how our consulting services can help you build competency models >>>

 

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The Evolution of Competency Modeling

The first ten years of competency modeling were dominated by consultants trained in the McBer approach. This approach involved a rigorous research methodology, which included identification of criterion samples of superior and average performers, behavioral event interviews, thematic analysis of transcripts of half the interview sample, and cross validation through coding and statistical analysis of the other half of the interviews. During this period, competency models were most often used to guide selection and professional development. Workitect uses the same methodology to develop job competency models.

Today, 40 years after the first competency model, more than half of the Fortune 500 companies are using competency modeling. Consultants working in the McBer tradition are still building many models, but these consultants have been joined by many other consultants using different methodologies. With market pressures to build models more quickly and less expensively, there is less emphasis on methodological rigor.

Over the last two decades, organizations have begun to use competency models in new ways. Many organizations that have redesigned their work processes and restructured their jobs have developed competency models for newly designed jobs for which there are few, if any, job incumbents with experience. These new competency models, of necessity, describe emerging and anticipated skill requirements, rather than skills that have been effective in the past. Many organizations have taken a “one size fits all” approach to competency modeling, by developing one competency model, usually for leaders, and applying this model to a large set of jobs, sometimes even non-managerial ones. Other organizations have moved in the opposite direction, by simultaneously developing multiple competency models for different jobs within an organization.

Competency models are still most often used to support selection and professional development, but developmental assessment – “360 feedback,” competency assessment by self, manager, peers, direct reports, and customers – has become a significant human resources application in its own right.

In the past twenty years, there have also been changes in the workplace which affect competency model building. Because organizations are changing more rapidly, the “shelf life” of a competency model has diminished. Frequent reorganizations change job roles and make existing job descriptions and competency models obsolete. Competency models are often needed for new and critical jobs, even though there are few employees with experience in these jobs and fewer still who could be considered outstanding performers.

Staff functions, such as human resources, have become leaner, so that the remaining staff have more responsibilities and job pressures and less time for discretionary, additional activities such as investing time in competency model building. Thus, more of the model building work falls to external consultants. At the same time, human resources staff are under more pressure to produce results quickly, and this means implementing a useful human resources application, not simply developing a competency model. The budget for the development of a new competency model must therefore compete with the budget for its applications.

Organizational changes have also affected employees, who are the “end users” of competency models. The increased intensity and pace of work make it more difficult to get employees to participate in model building activities, especially resource panels and focus groups. Perhaps because of the pace of work, employees’ attention span, their tolerance for complexity, and their willingness to read have diminished. As a result, competency models need to be leaner and simpler, with high-impact language that holds the reader’s attention.

What has impacted the way you do models today? How are you doing them now?

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In Good Times & Tough Times, You Need Competent People

People.  Not money, not buildings, not tools.  Competent people are your most valuable resource.  And in tough times, you need them more than ever. You need the right ones, the dedicated ones with drive and good instincts.  You want them as your managers, your supervisors, your division heads – organizers and visionaries who keep your business in top form, efficient now and prepared for the future.  And you want competence, dedication, and drive in your people:  Men and women who routinely get the job done right and on time.

But how can you find and retain those people?  And how can you promote those qualities among your existing employees?

These are the key questions that you need answered:

  •  How can I create and keep a unified, motivated workforce?
  •  How can I retain and develop my best people?
  • How do I find and assess candidates for important positions?

Competencies, job competency models and competency-based human resource applications can provide the answers.

Competencies are the skills and knowledge top performers apply in their work are called competencies. These competencies include personal characteristics, motives, self-concepts, knowledge, and behavioral skills.  The more complex the job, the more important these competencies are.

 Creating an Integrated Human Resource System

Competencies are the key to executing your organization’s strategy and reaching your long-range goals.  But the essential first step is establishing clear short-range and long-range directions.  Organizations that skimp on clarification risk developing competency programs that emphasize the wrong skills and confuse employees.

Once you’ve clarified your strategic directions you’re ready to build a competency-based system that will strengthen and support your organization into the future.  The result of this effort will be an integrated human resource system that:

  • Assesses the competencies of current employees
  • Rewards employees who meet job goals and develop target competencies
  • Provides training and development programs to build key competencies
  • Promotes employees strong in needed competencies to fill vacant positions

The Benefits of an Integrated System

The bottom-line benefits of a competency-based system are obvious: Employee motivation leads to increased productivity and higher profits.  But the real values of an integrated human resource system are more complex–and more powerful.  Focusing on competencies will renew your organization.  You’ll uncover startling energies and synergies that can give you the responsive, competitive edge you need.

To learn more about the benefits, and how to create an integrated system, download our 6-page booklet, Competencies & Competitiveness.

http://www.workitect.com/pdf/CompetenciesCompetitiveness.pdf

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